State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas and a candidate for the Clark County Commission next year, said he wants to enact a 1 percent sales tax increase in Clark County to bring in $400 million annually to the Clark County School District.
He said on “Nevada Newsmakers” that he’s got a legislative plan to do it by cutting out Northern Nevada’s “don’t-tax-me” Republicans from the process.
“We just need to cut ourselves loose from Northern Nevada and their ‘don't-tax-me, don’t-tax-me’ mentality and deal with reality,” Segerblom said. “We have huge problems that need huge solutions, and we have people who are willing to pay to fix it.”
Segerblom said his plan would first need approval from the Nevada Legislature and would bypass the two-thirds vote requirement in both houses for any tax increase.
Segerblom’s bill could pass by a simple majority if the bill does not raise taxes but allows the Clark County Commission to do so, he said.
A similar bill was passed in 2013, allowing the Washoe County Commission to decide on a proposed Washoe-County-only tax increase to help with school construction and maintenance.
“I’ve gotten an opinion from LCB (Legislative Counsel Bureau) Legal that says the Legislature, by majority vote, can approve or authorize the Clark County Commission to impose a sales tax,” Segerblom said. “And then the Clark County Commission, by a majority vote, can enact a sales tax. And that is the only way, in my opinion, that we are ever going to get a bit of money. It would stay here in Clark County and it would go to our needs.”
Since Clark County lawmakers make up more than 70 percent of all state Senate and Assembly members, Northern Nevada legislators would not be needed pass the tax bill.
“The fact is that the biggest problem I see in Nevada in terms of the Legislature and my life in politics, is that we have this new two-thirds requirement which means that basically, Northern Nevada has a stranglehold for anything we do to raise taxes,” Segerblom said.
When “Nevada Newsmakers” host Sam Shad countered that Northern Nevada is not anti-tax if there is a specific need for a new tax, Segerblom replied:
“You go down to Carson City and you find me one Republican senator or an assemblyperson (from Northern Nevada) who will vote for a tax increase,” Segerblom said.
“They (Northern Nevada Republicans) all have been on your program. And you can ask every one: ‘Do you support raising taxes for schools? Would you support raising property taxes? Will you support business taxes? Do you support any other tax?’
“And the answer — other than 2015 when Republicans were going crazy — is no,” Segerblom said. “We just can't live with that.”
The 2015 Legislature, with GOP majorities in both houses, passed the largest tax increase in Nevada history — about $1.4 billion — after urging, deal-making and arm-twisting by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.
“The great thing is that Clark County has the majority of the legislators,” Segerblom said. “So with a majority vote and the governor’s signature, of course, we can enact a tax so we can start that process."
Segerblom praised the education students get in Clark County, noting that he and his children attended Clark County School District schools.
“My mother was a school teacher (in Clark County),” Segerblom said. “My kids are a product of the school system.”
Yet the Clark County system is stacked against students in poverty, he said.
“If you go to the really poor areas, especially in Clark County, you will find that the newest teachers teach there, they have the biggest classrooms and they have the least resources,” Segerblom said. “And they teach the people with the most needs because a lot of them are English-language-learners. Some have all kinds of family issues.”
Ray Hagar is a retired political journalist from the Reno Gazette-Journal and current reporter/columnist for the Nevada Newsmakers podcast and website, nevadanewsmakers.com. Follow Ray on Twitter at @RayHagarNV.