EDITORIAL: Commission should again vote down More Cops tax

Another proposal to increase the sales tax rate and boost the budgets of Southern Nevada police departments will go before the Clark County Commission on Tuesday. It’s as unworthy of approval as its predecessors.

In the spring, the Legislature and Gov. Brian Sandoval gave the all-Democrat commission the authority to raise the county’s sales tax rate by up to 0.15 percentage points, but the statute required a supermajority — five out of seven commissioners — instead of a simple majority for passage. Months of study, debate and confrontation preceded an Oct. 1 vote, and Commissioner Susan Brager, the potential fifth vote in favor, announced she wouldn’t support the full increase. Instead, she backed a 0.075 percentage-point increase, which gave the commission the option of approving an additional 0.075 percentage-point increase at some point in the future.

But Commissioner Tom Collins wanted the whole 0.15 at once, so much so that he made a motion to first vote on Ms. Brager’s proposal — and he cast the decisive vote against it. Then the 0.15 percentage-point measure was knocked down.

Less than a week later, Mr. Collins put forward largely the same 0.15 plan that won just three commission votes. Instead of going for the whole 0.15, his proposal calls for phasing the tax in — over just three months. The sales tax would go up by 0.10 percentage points on April 1, then increase an additional 0.05 points on July 1.

Mr. Collins’ new plan is even worse than the 0.15 proposal voted down last month. County businesses will have to take the necessary measures to change the rate and begin collecting it on April 1, then take those same steps all over again in the course of just 90 days to collect the final rate. That’s a waste of time. And so is scheduling yet another vote on this proposal so soon after its rejection.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department doesn’t even need additional taxes to boost funding. There’s some dispute over the exact amount of money in the department’s reserve fund, but it’s well over $100 million and may be as high as $140 million. The department’s current budget hole is about $30 million. The police department does not have a funding crisis.

Rather, taxpayers in the Las Vegas Valley are the ones in crisis. The county has many pressing needs amid a weak economic recovery and high joblessness, but residents and businesses can’t afford to raise every single tax to meet every government entity’s wants. A county fuel tax hike that will add about 10 cents per gallon over the next three years will sting, but it was needed to address increasing highway and surface-street congestion.

The best argument against the “More Cops” tax, however, is that it won’t result in more cops. Way back in 2004, county voters approved an advisory question to raise the sales tax to hire more officers. But this hike won’t create police jobs. It’s a bailout to cover rising personnel costs and pay raises. That’s not what residents voted for. The commission should reject the tax.

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