The economic downturn hit Nevada harder than any other state, and as a result, the state’s infamously lean and mean budget has been cut four times since 2007. Nevada is the 49th least-taxed state in the country. We don’t have a spending problem; we have a revenue crisis. There’s money to invest in education, infrastructure and to sew up the gaping holes in our safety net. But the 2/3rd requirement to raise taxes hampers legislators’ ability to make highly profitable mega-corporations pay their fair share.

Due to the direct hit of the foreclosure crisis on Nevada, PLAN has taken an active role empowering and advocating for groups impacted by fraudulent banking schemes, predatory lending practices and other Wall Street crimes. We also revved up our work to broaden the state’s tax base by creating a corporate profits tax and by making the gold mines pay their fair share of taxes.

America’s economy and middle class were the envy of the world during the 1950’s and 1960’s- when the highest marginal tax rates ranged from 70-92 percent. Instead of closing libraries and crumbling bridges, we built a world-class education system, the interstate highway system, and put a man on the moon. President Clinton made millionaires and big corporations pay their fair share, and the result was one of the most impressive economic turnarounds in modern history. Unfortunately for the middle class, Bush bestowed hundreds of billions of dollars in “trickle down” tax giveaways for the richest few. This caused the deficit to explode and created the slowest job growth since World War II.

Today, approximately 55,000 millionaires and billionaires are paying lower taxes than millions of middle-class Americans. In fact, 1,500 millionaires managed to pay no federal income taxes in 2009. The average tax rate paid by the richest of the richest few — the wealthiest 0.1% — is at nearly the lowest rate in over 50 years.

PLAN is working to build state and an America where everyone pays their fair share, not where millionaires and mining corporations pay lower taxes than the rest of us.

Tax Fairness

Taxes are about “paying it forward”, like giving kids educational resources so they can give back to the next generation. Wise tax decisions ensure our future by putting our money into maintaining our people, infrastructure and communities. In other words, the process of budgeting and paying taxes is how we create the future we want for Nevada

Nevada is one of three states with no corporate profits tax. The state Constitution bans both an income tax and a gross mining tax. The state budget has been cut five times since 2007. If Nevada were a country, it would be the 5th-largest gold producer in the world. Four out of five of the largest mines in Nevada are foreign owned. Under the 1872 mining law, mining corporations pay no royalties on minerals taken from public lands. Because of tax loopholes, mining effectively pays about 1% of its gross proceeds under the mining tax to the state general fund (and pays no corporate profits tax).

PLAN has been waging a corporate accountability campaign on the mining industry since 2009 that included a nearly-missed ballot initiative that raised public awareness about mining’s sweetheart tax loopholes and mining’s special status under the Mining Act of 1872. Components of this campaign include an earned and social media strategy, one-on-one meetings with key legislators, forums and debates, editorial board visits, speaking to civic and community organizations, research, and publication of reports, op-eds, letters-to-the-editor, and highlighting the influence of money in politics.

As a result, the 2011 Legislature passed historic mining tax reform to begin removing mining’s tax protections in the Nevada Constitution that have existed since statehood.  In addition, the Legislature voted, for the first time, to close certain tax loopholes by removing some tax deductions for the mining industry and created a special mining oversight commission.

PLAN and ProgressNow Nevada created broad participation on a “Nevada Values” campaign to advocate for a progressive vision of government for the 2011 Session, which organized a three-day “Sandoville” Tent City at the Legislature, where students were empowered through direct actions, sit-ins, press events, and meetings with their representatives.

PLAN has been working tirelessly to build a plan for taxing the most profitable mega-corporations in Nevada in order to lift our state’s worst-in-the-nation rankings on a variety of indicators, from education to health care to hunger. We and other allies can build a movement to demand investment in our state’s public infrastructure.

Specifically, we are advocating passage of the Education Initiative, which would bring in almost $1 billion to build schools, educate our kids and rebuild our state. And we are pushing in the 2013 session for passage of SJR 15 as the first step in forcing the mining industry to pay its fair share.

The stakes are high:

•  Nevada is 49th on the Tax Foundation’s 2009 rankings of state and local tax loads. There is no corporate income tax and no personal income tax (banned by the state constitution).  There is also a constitutional limitation on mining industry taxes, which allows the industry to pay less than 1% of its gross in mining taxes to the state general fund.

•  The lowest gambling taxes anywhere in the world are in Nevada.

•  Nevada ranks 51st in per capita public employees and 50th in per capita public expenditures.

•  Nevada’s state budget has been cut four times since 2007. The Governor recommended the largest education cuts in Nevada history, including a 29% cut to higher education. The state ranks 50th in high school graduation and 51st in readiness for children entering the education system, with no funding for preschool or all-day kindergarten.

•  Nevada’s safety net has gaping holes, ranking 51st in Medicaid expenditures, and 53rd in both reduced/free school lunch and breakfast programs.

We provide materials and resources to help build a collaborative space and joint campaigns. We also help conduct workshops on issues we work on, including state budget/tax fairness, health care, food stamps, education and racial equity.

Banking Accountability

Over the last decade, the major financial institutions of the world have engaged in irresponsible banking and investment practices, crashing the global economy and breaking several laws in the process. From pushing families into risky and unaffordable mortgages, to lying about the quality of investments, to foreclosing without the required documentation, to fixing interest rates, faith in the banking and real estate system has been shaken and Nevadans are suffering as a result. According to Realty Trac, Las Vegas held the nation’s top metropolitan foreclosure rate in 2011, with 1 in 14 of its housing units going foreclosure during the year. Reno had the eighth highest rate. No state in the country is as deeply affected by banking irresponsibility and foreclosure fraud than Nevada. Due to its rising political power, battleground status, and foreclosure saturation, Nevada is a key national media target on foreclosure issues.

In order to provide relief for Nevada families and to restore a measure of stability to the financial system, the banks and individuals who participated in these practices must be held accountable and protections must be put into place to prevent a crisis of this magnitude from happening in the future. Specifically, individuals who broke the law should face criminal indictments; in return for taxpayer bailouts and in light of their debt to society, banks should face mandatory loan modifications for homeowners, including principal reduction. And financial regulations like Dodd-Frank need to be implemented and strengthened to prevent another housing bubble and financial catastrophe in the future.

Since 2010, PLAN has been working with a variety of community allies to raise awareness about foreclosure fraud and push for just solutions to the Nevada housing crisis. We convened a coalition including lawyers who represent homeowners in default, credit counseling agencies, social justice organizations, and elected officials to collaborate our activities around this issue. In 2011, we joined with the AFL-CIO and the Culinary Union 226 (UNITE HERE) to form the Las Vegas Foreclosure Task Force, where we published a report on the acquisition of and neglect of property by the Germany-based Deutsche Bank. We also pushed for a county ordinance to make banks maintain abandoned properties in the foreclosure pipeline. Finally, we worked with the Campaign for a Fair Settlement to organize underwater homeowners and generate earned media to support the push by several Attorneys General, including Nevada’s Catherine Cortez-Masto, to obtain a fair 50-state settlement on robo-signing.