Saturday, February 08, 2003

Let the debate begin: Left-liberal political consultant and union activist Andrew Barbano squares off against Lorenzo Fertitta of Station Casinos and the Nevada Resort Association in this pro/con we published yesterday, asking whether the state should close its budget deficit by simply raising the gross gaming tax by 4 percentage points, or roughly two-thirds, and abandon other tax increases. Fertitta's argument is pretty much boilerplate (though it does cover the gamers' talking points), and the Barbano piece is fairly breathless, but it's a useful and digestible summary of each side's views.

There are dozens of reasons to oppose the current tax-and-spend orgy now under way in Carson City, but two in particular stick in my craw: 1) The complete absence of any attempt to impose accountability on state agences, public employees, or anyone else who cashes the taxpayers' checks (mentioned in the WSJ citation below); and 2) The gamers' consistent refusal to make a principled stand against high taxes and instead attempt to shove the burden onto others. The tax-and-spend scheme was concocted by a handful of insiders, led by the gamers' point man, Mandalay Resorts Vice President and longtime Democratic political fixer Mike Sloan (who was the most visible member of Guinn's tax force), and as long as the deal is constructed so that casinos don't have to pay most of the bills for this statist bacchanalia, these guys could care less who has to clean up afterward.

I'm not quite ready to concede and make a clumsy Bob Knight analogy -- if tax increases are inevitable, let's make sure the bad guys get hurt most -- but it's tempting.

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