CARSON CITY – Former state Sen. Sheila Leslie called on the governor and Legislature Wednesday to increase taxes on the rich and mining industry so state government can fund improvements in public education and mental health services and rebuild a state devastated by a recession.
“Instead of policies that promote the greater good and shared prosperity, our tax system has created a Donner Party mentality of primitive survival, even if it means sacrificing our children,” Leslie said in a speech delivered over the Internet on behalf of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.
Leslie is a longtime Democrat who lost the state Senate District 15 race in Washoe County to Republican Greg Brower by 266 votes in November. She was one of the most liberal lawmakers during her 14-year legislative career.
PLAN, an umbrella advocacy organization that represents more than 40 liberal-leaning groups in Nevada, presented Leslie’s speech as its own state of the state address. It comes a week before Gov. Brian Sandoval delivers his State of the State address Wednesday. The Legislature opens Feb. 4.
While her short speech did not recommend specific tax increases, Leslie said Nevada is one of the wealthiest states in the United States and yet it hardly taxes the rich or mining.
“Our world-class gold mining industry pays an effective mining tax rate of 1 percent into the state general fund,” Leslie said. “What if we taxed mining as much as Wyoming, at 20 percent?”
She noted Nevada is one of three states without a corporate profits tax. And even with the recession, its per capital income ranks among the top 20 states.
The poor in the state pay 10 percent of their income in taxes, while the rich pay 1.5 percent, according to Leslie.
“Given this abundance, Nevada should be an economic paradise,” she said. “Instead we have dreadfully neglected neighborhoods, a demoralized education system and a gap between rich and poor that’s wider than at any time since the Gilded Age.”
But Leslie’s hope to redistribute wealth in Nevada faces huge odds. Sandoval has vowed to veto any tax increases, other than continuing $620 million in business and sales taxes that otherwise would expire in July. Even if every Democrat in the Legislature voted for tax increases on the wealthy and gold mining, they still would need four Republican votes to override the governor’s veto.
If taxes were increased nominally on the rich and corporations, Leslie said, Nevada could build a “first-class education system” and create “greater economic abundance for all who live here.”
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.