EDITORIAL: Democrats are tax dodgers on Question 3

Nevada’s most important campaign is not an elected office. It’s a statewide tax question that requires a yes or no vote. And Democratic candidates up and down November’s ballot aren’t stating their position.

Some of the very people who’ve lamented a lack of courage and leadership throughout the state are running away from Question 3, also known as The Education Initiative, as if ducking questions about its potential economic impact will make it disappear from the ballot.

They’re mum on a measure that will make entire companies disappear from the state, just as Nevada is starting to regain jobs lost to the Great Recession.

Now that’s leadership.

Question 3 would impose a 2 percent margins tax on businesses with at least $1 million in revenues. The Nevada State Education Association, a key part of the Democratic Party’s base, collected signatures two years ago to force consideration of the issue. The initiative first went before the 2013 Legislature, which had Democratic majorities in both houses — majorities that called for higher taxes. But instead of voting on the petition or forwarding a competing tax question to the 2014 ballot, legislative leaders decided to ignore the initiative altogether.

By and large, Democrats are still ignoring the margins tax today. They don’t want to cross the public school teachers and far-left partisans who support grabbing some $750 million per year from employers to boost K-12 funding. But they don’t want to alienate the moderate, nonpartisan voters who will determine several swing legislative races, including three that could return the state Senate to Republican control.

One Democratic dodge, deployed by Las Vegas Assemblyman Andy Eisen, is declaring that no position will be taken at all. “I don’t think it’s my place” to push voters one way or another, he told the Review-Journal’s editorial board. If you’re running for an office that votes on state tax policy, you’d better believe it’s your place to take a position on Question 3.

The far worse response, however, is one put forward by Las Vegas Assemblyman James Healy, Assembly District 4 candidate Jeff Hinton, Assembly District 9 candidate Steve Yeager, Assembly District 37 candidate Gerald Mackin and others: I’m undecided. How much time do lawmakers and candidates need to take a position? The initiative’s language has been in the public domain for two years. It was before the Legislature last year. Multiple studies have been performed by nonpartisan analysts.

The consensus is clear: Question 3, if approved, will cost thousands of Nevadans their jobs because it taxes business revenue, not profits. That means even money-losing companies will be subject to the tax.

If voters approve, Question 3, it cannot be tinkered with. Because it’s an initiative, lawmakers would not be able to amend it for three years. Nevada would be stuck with every last one of its warts until 2018 at the earliest.

Every Democrat who claims to be undecided should sit down with Controller Kim Wallin, the Democratic candidate for state treasurer, or Las Vegas Assemblyman Andrew Martin, the Democratic candidate to replace Ms. Wallin as controller. They’re both certified public accountants. They know first-hand what Question 3 will do to every company’s books, especially companies with small profit margins. It will hurt them terribly. That’s why they’re opposed to Question 3.

So what’s it going to be, Democrats? Yes or no on Question 3? Because “undecided” is as good as “yes.”