July 31, 2007

Nevada Elections: For Sale, $200K Or Best Offer?

Nevada anti-tax activists are taking another swing at an effort to impose a California-style property tax cap in the Silver State. Their goal is to get a ballot initiative on the November 2008 ballot which would cap property tax rates at 1 percent of a home's value and restrict the annual growth of property taxes to 2 percent a year.

The initiative process has been bad-mouthed for the ease with which rich out-of-staters can bankroll the process, turning what's supposed to be a triumph of the little man into a tool for corporations and the wealthy to get their way. So far, the new Nevada tax cap effort sure makes it seem that the bad-mouthers are right:
[S]upporters are flush with a $200,000 contribution to help ensure a measure qualifies for the November 2008 ballot. The $200,000 from a thus-far anonymous contributor, which is already in the bank gathering interest, will allow the group to hire professional signature gatherers rather than rely solely on volunteers, she said.
But the cost estimate to get the necessary signatures is about $400,000, which is why a serious solicitation effort is now under way to match the $200,000... Two previous efforts to qualify a measure for the ballot failed when an insufficient number of valid signatures of registered voters were collected. The efforts were both done primarily with volunteers.
Could there be any more stark way of displaying the anti-democratic tendencies of the modern ballot initiative than this? One guy--one guy-- is buying a spot on the November 2008 ballot.

Of course, even if these folks are able to purchase space on the 2008 ballot for their property tax cap initiative, they'll still have to convince the public that it's a good idea. And the good news is that if proponents' rhetoric stays as dumb as it currently is, they'll be facing an uphill battle:
Las Vegas resident Gerry Lock, a self-described escapee from the San Diego area, said he supports the proposal and has donated $100. The Locks benefited from Proposition 13, which took effect in 1978.
"There were people at the time who were being priced out of their homes," Lock said.
So (a) if Prop 13 was so hot, why did this guy have to "escape" from California, and (b) the real question proponents of a prop-13 clone have to answer is, why is a 1% property tax cap the best approach to keeping people from losing their homes?

Voters have come a long way on this issue since the late 1970s, as the failure of Prop 13 clones in other states has shown. If the Nevada anti-tax movement's Daddy Warbucks is able to get his misguided tax cap on the ballot, it will be fun to see if advocates of the Prop 13 clone can come up with some actual principled arguments in favor of their plan.

My money (considerably less than $200K) says they can't.


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