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Who loves taxes? In 2013, the answer may surprise you


Democrats love taxes. We all know that.

Or do they?

A look back at the top stories of 2013 yielded a surprising insight: Democrats mostly cowering in fear before the very idea of taxes, and Republicans flat-out embracing them. It’s a world gone crazy.

It began early in the year, as the 2013 Legislature was about to get underway. Do Democrats support raising taxes, asked the Las Vegas Sun?

“My bottom-line goal on the revenue portion is to have a full discussion about it,” said Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, the state Senate’s majority leader.

Bold!

“There’s no easy answer,” said Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, the Assembly speaker. “There’s no yes-or-no answer to that question.”

Sure there is.

During the session, things didn’t improve much. The 2 percent margins tax proposed by the Nevada State Education Association’s initiative sat undebated for the first 40 days of the session, which means it automatically goes to the 2014 ballot. A proposal for a separate business tax by the now-late Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce got about as much attention, neglected by majority Democrats in the lower house.

Instead, Kirkpatrick suggested in the Sun she’d be open to expanding the sales tax to services, such as haircuts, dry cleaning, car repairs, legal representation and the like. That idea went nowhere, but that’s all right, since the sales tax is the most regressive tax we have in the state.

Then, there was Kirkpatrick’s idea to expand the tax base by expanding the admissions tax to include such things as gym memberships, movie theater tickets, concerts, and the like. The plan came under criticism as the “family fun tax,” but Kirkpatrick bravely stood by it until the bitter end.

Over in the Senate, the promise of a unique tax plan finally was revealed to be a plan to increase the existing payroll tax, literally a tax on hiring. Denis withdrew the idea almost immediately after it was suggested, in the wake of harsh Republican criticism.

Then again, the Republicans really had no room to talk in 2013. They were raising taxes — or talking about raising taxes — all over the place.

It began way back in 2012, when Gov. Brian Sandoval told lawmakers he was going to extend — again! — a package of supposedly temporary taxes in his budget, a decision that most Republicans supported.

Then state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, crusaded to pass for the second time a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove the cap on net proceeds of minerals (the mining tax) from the state constitution. Previously the work of liberal state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, the mining tax cap repeal would have died had Roberson not come to its defense. Now voters will get a chance to decide it on next year’s ballot.

And Roberson also proposed a mining tax for the 2014 ballot, a competitor to what he called the “job-killing” 2 percent margins tax. “Yes, we want to kill the margins tax,” Roberson said in the Sun. “We also want to fix this anomaly in this state where one industry is treated differently from any other industry.”

In the end, majority Democrats declined to accept his offer.

By year’s end, just a handful of Democratic lawmakers had said they would definitely vote for the margins tax next year, and nobody in leadership had embraced it, despite the fact that it could boost Democratic turnout, help keep majorities in both houses and — as an added bonus — supply the money to make the kind of school improvements Democrats always say they favor.

What about it, Democratic leaders were asked? Crickets.

So complain about Democrats if you must, but maybe it’s time to stop accusing them of loving taxes so much. Because there were plenty of taxes to embrace in 2013, and most of them were sadly ignored by nearly all elected Democrats.

Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.