Monday, January 14, 2008

Money, Money, Money - Its A Rich Man's World

Votes "Fore" Sale?

Nevada is having problems making ends meet. Join the club. Governor Terminator of the Earthquake State next door has it even worse and has proposed drastic budget cuts. Ditto our own Guv who first said that K-12 education would avoid the 8% tax cuts of higher education system, prisons, social programs, and nearly every other state agency. Then he told the little kiddies, "Not!" and said millions had to be slashed from the peanut gallery budget. No exemptions. No excuses. Nobody gets to avoid the slashes.

"Twenty lashes," responded the teacher's union. "Not only is the Guv a liar, liar, pants on fire, the gaming industry isn't paying their fair share. We need money to educate the kids and since some states tax their gaming at a rate several times higher than Nevada, how about tacking on a few percentage points for reading, writing, and 'Rithmatic?"

"Blasphemy!" cried the gaming industry, "It will kill tourism. People will go elsewhere to dispose of their disposable income." And so it goes, from entity to entity. Everybody wants what taxes bring but each entity feels the tax burden on them is unfair, should not be increased, and if anything, should be lowered.

Then there are the golf courses. Some clever lobbyists in the year two thousand and "fore" crafted a provision and quietly slipped it into an assessor's bill that was sent it to the legislature. The provision would revalue the golf course property and lower taxes a little. How little? Assessed values changed from $ 25,000 per acre to less than $3,000 per acre. Remember, it was during a time that property values in Nevada were climbing like skyrockets in flight - a real afternoon delight.

And the taxes that were due on the golf courses? Quicker than you can say, "Meet me at the 19th hole for a drink," taxes on one of the parcels on a private hotel golf course dropped from more than $ 5,000 to $ 13 and change. Another parcel at a different private golf course got its taxes out of the sand trap - $ 134,000 in 2004 to $ 72,000 for the current year. The rates contributed to a huge budget divot of the state's $ 450 million shortfall.

The provision, it seems was, was drafted by Senator N. O'Tme and Assemblyman I. Dunno since nobody can remember who sponsored it. But the 60 or so golf courses in the Valley of the Dollars and double that number statewide have benefited by not having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes compared to previous years. Lobbyists for the golf industry claim the tax breaks are necessary or the golfers will flee to Arizona and Florida to seek their par. That's like saying gasoline is cheaper in another state so that's the place to buy it.

Then there is the "obsolescence factor," a complicated formula that is designed for golf courses that shut down in winter months to only pay taxes on the equivalent of the months they are open. Even though the calculation is designed specifically for winter weather courses, the loophole can be applied to all courses allowing them to further eschew their tax burden. Hole in one? Sounds like some legislators had a hole in the head when they voted for this one.

A little blogging music Maestro... "18 Holes" by Gus Van Sant.

Dr. Forgot

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