Democrats running for state office don’t like to talk about it, but they want to raise your taxes. That includes hiking property taxes.
Start with Democrat gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak.
“The property tax caps that were introduced and implemented over a decade ago are not working,” said Sisolak in February.
Those caps limit increases in residential property taxes to 3 percent a year, while commercial property taxes can jump by no more than 8 percent annually. Sisolak supports a technical change that would prevent a secondary calculation from keeping property tax growth below the caps.
That change, however, would bring in almost no additional revenue going forward. That’s why legislative Democrats have gone further. Last session, every Democratic lawmaker voted to increase property taxes via a constitutional amendment. The Legislature has to approve constitutional amendments twice before they go to a vote of the people.
This proposal would reset a property’s taxable value upon sale. Along with property tax caps, Nevada depreciates a property’s value based on age. Say a house is worth $250,000, but thanks to property tax caps and depreciation, the owner is paying taxes as if it were worth $150,000. Currently, the new owner inherits the property’s previous tax valuation. This plan would change that. The purchaser would pay taxes based on the home’s current value and as if it were a brand-new home.
Supporters of the proposal imply that current homeowners would’t be hurt, but that’s not necessarily true. If higher property taxes increase a mortgage payment by $200 a month, you’ve made it more difficult for buyers, which would have ramifications throughout the market.
Even if imposed indirectly, property tax hikes are still politically toxic. Have you seen any Democrats in competitive seats touting their vote to raise taxes? If Republican candidates are smart, they’ll make sure voters know that Democrat incumbents want to dramatically increase property taxes.
These proposals are long-term revenue plays. If voters approve it, the constitutional amendment wouldn’t go into effect until the end of 2020. If Sisolak is elected, he’s going to need to pass higher taxes during the 2019 session to fulfill even a portion of his campaign promises.
“People say education isn’t a money issue, but education is a money issue,” said Sisolak on Nevada Newsmakers. “If we want to recruit and retain the best teachers, we have to pay more money.”
An interim legislative committee has been working on how much money the education establishment wants this time. The authors haven’t released a final total yet, but Review-Journal calculations put the cost of just partially implementing the plan at $1.7 billion a year.
Education, state worker pay and Medicaid make up the vast majority of state general fund spending. Sisolak could increase general fund spending by 50 percent and not satisfy every government agency. What taxes does he want to raise to get this kind of money?
He won’t say, but don’t let that fool you. To fund spending proposals like this, tax hikes are inevitable.
Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 9 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at email@example.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.