Paul Johnson guest col: P.K. O’Neill turned back on Carson GOP

The term “ideologue” gets thrown around a lot these days, usually intended as a pejorative as Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill used it in his ad in the Sunday Nevada Appeal. He was upset because the Carson City Republican Party is threatening to remove him from the party membership because of his vote last year in favor of the “Commerce Tax.” An ideologue is simply someone who adheres to a certain set of principles. Watching the national presidential campaigns this year, it’s clear there are ideologues in all political parties, which is normal. Adhering to consistent principles is what holds a political party together and gives it strength.

P.K. writes to try to defend his vote in the last legislative session in favor of the Commerce Tax enacted by Bill SB 483. In doing so, Mr. O’Neill alleges the Carson City Republican Party is full of ideologues who don’t care about Nevada state employees, Nevada veterans, or Nevada school students. Nothing could be further from the truth.

SB 483 was passed by a vote of 30 to 10 with the support of O’Neill and several other Republicans. Even though a large majority of Nevada voters had turned down the similar “Margins Tax” in November 2014, Gov. Brian Sandoval and his supporters introduced and pushed through the largest tax increase in Nevada’s history with the argument more money was needed for Nevada schools and it was “for the children.” They called it a “commerce tax” and it was supposed to apply to only those businesses that had gross sales in excess of $4,000,000. This tax program is bad for Nevada and bad for our children.

Even though many small businesses may not have a tax liability now, there’s no question that future legislators are going to have the desire and the ability to gradually reduce the threshold of liability.

There’s no limit on the amount of money that the state could potentially collect in the future. In the meantime, businesses are subjected to the requirements of filing a form to the state to show all of their business income just to prove that they do not have to pay a tax. All of this, of course, requires more state employees, more regulations and more paperwork just to administer the new tax program. In effect, we have created a Nevada IRS. All in the name of helping “the children.”

Nevada schools have many problems, but money isn’t one of them. Critics cite a low graduation rate for Nevada students and poor reading and math skills, among other measurements. Nevada’s poor performing schools perform poorly because a large percentage of their students have limited English language skills and are living in low income, single parent households. No amount of money can fix those two problems. Throwing more money into K-12 education will not magically improve student test scores or help more students earn a high school diploma. Research has consistently shown the largest factor that influences student success in school is parental involvement.

This tax and the defunct “Margins Tax” are characterized as business taxes. In truth, there’s no such thing as a “business tax.” Businesses don’t pay taxes. All taxes paid by businesses, including corporate income taxes, are passed through to consumers in the form of higher prices. Taxes are a business expense just like salaries, utilities, and materials. A corporation may collect taxes, but all money collected for the Nevada treasury is collected from us, the citizens of Nevada.

His Commerce Tax vote was bad enough, but another large issue many Republicans have with O’Neill is trust. When Mr. O’Neill appeared before the Carson City Republican Party in 2014 seeking its endorsement he indicated he believed in the platform and principles of the Nevada Republican party and he wasn’t in favor of increased taxes.

The Carson City Republican Party is quite naturally upset Mr. O’Neill has been dishonest and misleading. The Democratic Party would have the same reaction if a Democratic legislator had campaigned in favor of higher taxes and then voted against the Commerce Tax. Party members are expected to abide by the common principles of their party. Most Republicans believe Mr. O’Neill misled them and was not honest and forthright. That alone is reason enough to disassociate Mr. O’Neill from the Republican Party.

Paul Johnson is a Carson City resident and small business owner.


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