ANOTHER anti-tax study?


The last time we checked in with the anti-Education Initiative crowd, they were touting studies that predicted Las Vegas would look pretty much as it did in Resident Evil: Apocalypse if voters OK’d the measure.

So what have they been up to lately? It appears there’s yet another study that predicts Resident Evil-style consequences. This time, the folks at The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University — engaged by the Nevada Policy Research Institute — say the state will lose 3,610 jobs, $240 million annually in personal disposable income and $7.1 million per year in business investment if the tax passes.

Oh, that job-loss figure drops to 1,640 when you add back all the public-sector jobs that will be filled with employees hired by revenues from The Education Initiative.

The study posits several conclusory statements made without citations to authority. “Standard economic theory holds that households and firms change their investment and consumption behavior in response to taxation,” the report says. But later, we learn that one of the principles of taxation that “sound policy requires” is that “an economic agent’s decision to buy or sell a certain product or service should not be determined by the tax code.”

Now, if “standard economic theory” holds people change their behavior as a result of taxes, but “sound policy” says we should not impose taxes that would influence an economic agent’s decision to buy or sell, where does that leave us? In a land without any taxes at all? Or just striving for taxes that are so minimal, nobody really minds paying them?

This is not to suggest NPRI’s study is an outlier: A study by the respected Jeremy Aguero at Applied Analysis found the potential for lost jobs and economic impact, too. (The nice folks over at the Coalition to Defeat the Margin Tax Initiative are fond of touting Aguero’s worst-case scenario, but that’s probably because his more likely middle-of-the-road predictions are far less scary.)

You want a standard economic theory? You want a sound policy prescription? Try this: You get what you pay for. And while NPRI says Nevada spends more (per student) than some of our neighbors, we know that Nevada spends far less than the national average on its schools.

And what’s the result? This headline, which ran the very same week NPRI’s study was featured in the Review-Journal: “Nevada education ranked last in nation.” The thinkers in the tank over at NPRI would have us believe that education policy and other factors account for the ranking, not money. But just last week, we learned that so-called zoom schools (which got extra money, smaller class sizes and a longer school year) showed remarkable gains. It’s too early to tell if those numbers are just outliers, of course, but the initial results are encouraging.

Oh, NPRI has its own ideas, all of which wouldn’t cost any more money. In a separate recent study, they floated 33 of those ideas, many of which could be classified under the single heading “bust the teachers union,” a longtime cause of the institute.

What’s not in the NPRI study, or in anybody’s study, is a viable alternative. While NPRI doesn’t think we need more money for schools, many others do, including people who oppose The Education Initiative. (Republican state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson said so recently, echoing MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren, and Gov. Brian Sandoval touts his increases to English-language training and class-size reduction budgets.) But how? We never quite get there amidst the hyper-inflated rhetoric.

Here’s one idea: The Education Initiative. Flawed though it may be, it’s an actual plan, and one that could produce real revenue for schools. And since we know that the no-tax crowd would fund studies attacking any tax that had been proposed by any group frustrated by years of official inaction and tinkering at the margins, voters should give The Education Initiative some serious consideration in November. They may not get another chance any time soon.

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.