Sales tax holidays

This month will bring a little good economic news and tax relief to struggling American families: sales tax holidays are coming to rescue retailers and back-to-school shoppers in more than a dozen states.

The bad news: Nevada isn’t among them.

When the economy was rolling along and the jobless rate was at a generational low, state lawmakers weren’t concerned with giving citizens an incentive to buy household necessities.

With fortunes now reversed, businesses sacrificing to keep their doors open and families stretching to keep their finances afloat, governments can’t be concerned solely with the flow of tax revenues into their coffers — public-sector budgets will be in far worse shape if more companies close, more jobs are lost and economic activity doesn’t increase.

Ten states are waiving sales taxes to varying degrees this weekend. Among them:

— Iowa and Oklahoma will charge no tax on clothing and shoes that cost less than $100 per item.

— Missouri’s sales tax holiday applies to clothing items under $100, and to school supplies costing less than $50 total and computers under $3,500.

— Louisiana’s holiday applies to “all consumer purchases of tangible personal property for non-business use.”

Vermont, meanwhile, will have a sales tax holiday Aug. 22 on any item costing less than $2,000.

Georgia and West Virginia are taking a strictly “green” approach to their sales tax holidays. Relief will be granted this fall only for energy- and water-efficient home products and appliances.

Unfortunately, Nevadans who want to outfit and supply their children for school will not enjoy tax relief this month. In fact, they’ll have to deal with a sales tax increase — the 2009 Legislature increased the total sales tax rate in Clark County to 8.1 percent.

Such is the nature of Carson City. The Capitol is almost exclusively focused on the needs of the state bureaucracy, rather than the ability of the private sector to sustain it. Bills to create a Nevada sales tax holiday received limited consideration in 2005 and 2007. In 2009, there was no interest whatsoever.

It’s telling that Nevada lawmakers often are eager to copy the laws of other states when they empower government — a la proposals to toughen seat belt laws and install red-light cameras — but reluctant to follow trends when they benefit taxpayers.

Nevada should be on the list of states that are taking steps to jump-start their retail sales. Voters should ask 2010 legislative candidates for their position on the issue — and office seekers should be eager to take up the cause.

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