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EDITORIAL: Raising the sales tax for schools or the Culinary union?

Confusion, maneuvering and chicanery traditionally mark the conclusion of each biennial legislative session in Carson City. This year was no exception as lawmakers adjourned last week. Consider the hijacking of Assembly Bill 309.

Self-described public education and social justice advocates lauded the passage of AB309 because it authorizes the Clark County Commission to increase the sales tax by 0.25 of a percentage point to raise more money for schools and homelessness. The law allows the tax hike — which could generate $108 million a year — to be imposed through either a two-thirds vote of the commission itself or via a ballot measure put to Southern Nevada voters.

At least one member of the County Commission — currently comprised of seven Democrats — feels all warm and fuzzy at the mere thought of getting his mitts on more taxpayer loot. “It’s a dream come true for me,” Tick Segerblom said. Other commissioners took a less giddy approach — and rightfully so. Clark County’s sales tax of 8.25 percent is already among the highest in the nation. The residents forced to pay this ever-increasing levy should have the ultimate veto. Let proponents make their case to the voters.

At any rate, AB309 originally mandated that any additional tax revenue generated by the sales tax boost be funneled only to programs advancing “adult education” or “early childhood education,” creating “incentives for the recruitment or retention” of teachers, reducing school “truancy,” tackling “homelessness” or developing “affordable housing.” But amid the session’s last-minute arm twisting and the frenzy to determine which measures survived, another provision was magically tucked inside AB309, which passed with Democratic support largely along party lines.

Not only may the proceeds from any sales tax hike be directed toward education, homelessness or affordable housing, the funds wrested from taxpayers may also go toward “one or more joint labor-management programs of workforce training in the hospitality industry.”

Translation: The Culinary union secured its tribute.

Surprise, surprise, it turns out the late amendment was the handiwork of state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, a Las Vegas progressive who for six years served as the Culinary’s leading political operative. Her capacity for shamelessness appears unrestrained.

No, this doesn’t rise to the level of corruption. But the word “shady” sure comes to mind. Why should local taxpayers be forced to finance the job training efforts of a private labor organization and its hospitality employers? They shouldn’t.

AB309 has been befouled by a rancid stench emanating from within. That will be something for voters to consider if they’re asked — as they should be — to sanction yet another sales tax increase.

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