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Assembly Republicans Fail to Shoot Down Elk Tax

AB78 would increase the fee for a “tag” to hunt elk in Nevada by $5.  The money would be used to mitigate property damage done by elk and, so I’ve been told by one legislator, elk hunters support this tax hike.

Call me skeptical, so I did a little checking.  Here’s what I found…

  • The number of elk tag applications issued each year is around 34,000
  • Therefore, AB78’s proposed fee hike of $5 per tag will generate approximately $170,000
  • The NDOW proposed budget is in the neighborhood of $43 million per year

Which raise two important questions for fiscal conservatives…

  • Why can’t the Republican-controlled Legislature cut $170,000 from somewhere else in the NDOW budget (or even elsewhere in the general fund budget) if this elk mitigation program is so important, instead of hiking  fees?
  • If the elk hunters, as has been asserted, really want to pay this fee hike, why not make paying the fee hike OPTIONAL?

The answer to the second question…

Because, according to an actual hunter in the know who wishes not to be identified, this $5/tag tax/fee hike is NOT popular with hunters.  To the contrary, I’m told “it is VERY unpopular with hunters” who believe “the State nickels and dimes hunters to death.”

So one of the primary arguments in favor of this tax hike turns out to be completely and totally untrue.  I’m shocked, shocked.

And look, *IF* this damage “mitigation” program is such an essential high priority (it’s not, or at least shouldn’t be), then Republicans who ran as fiscal conservatives need to find a way to fund it without raising taxes.

For example, I see that the department has requested $55,000 for “Spanish Outreach and Marketing.”  Is that really an “essential” expenditure?  And is it more important than the elk damage mitigation program?  If not, tax it.  Next?

And no, contrary to another argument in favor of this tax hike, it is NOT a “user fee” any more than a mandatory marriage license fee or mandatory business license fee is a “user fee.”

The entrance fee to the Minden public swimming pool is a user fee, because there are private sector swimming pools you can go to instead.  The rental fee charged to use a public park for your kid’s birthday party is a user fee because you have the private sector option of renting a room at Chuck E. Cheese instead.

A mandatory hunting “tag” fee is not a “user” fee because there is no private sector option.  It’s a mandatory government tax by another name.  And a tax by any other name stinks just as bad.


I was reading “The Magic of Thinking Big” by David Schwartz before turning in last night and think this blurb is instructive for elected legislative Republicans who ran last year as fiscal conservatives (meaning all of them)…

“The how-to-do-it always comes to the person who believes he can do it. … Belief, STRONG BELIEF, triggers the mind to figure ways and means and how-to. … Those who believe they can move mountains, do.  Those who believe they can’t, cannot.  Believe, really believe, you can succeed, and you will.”

If GOP legislators gave it some effort and put their minds to it, they could resolve this issue of the elk damage mitigation problem without raising taxes.  As Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform puts it…

“Raising taxes is what lazy politicians do instead of the hard work needed to reform government.”

Unfortunately, most Republicans in the Assembly took the easy way out and voted for the tax hike last week rather than reform government and set spending priorities.  In fact, only two Republicans voted against AB78 last week…

Assemblyman John Moore

Assemblywoman Shelly Shelton

Assemblywoman Michele Fiore was absent for the vote but assures me she would have voted “No,” as well.

Surprisingly, three Democrats also voted against the tax hike…

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson

Assemblyman Richard Carrillo

Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton


Disappointingly, seven Taxpayer Protection Pledge signers voted for AB78 and broke their promise to their constituents and the people of Nevada (including elk hunters!) to “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.”  They were…

Assemblyman John Hambrick (second violation of the week)

Assemblyman Jim Wheeler

Assemblywoman Victoria Seaman (second violation of the week)

Assemblywoman Robin Titus

Assemblywoman Jill Dickman

Assemblyman Brent Jones

Assemblywoman Vicki Dooling

Seriously. What part of “any and all” is so confusing?

The Pledge doesn’t say “any and all efforts to increase taxes, unless it’s $5 or less.”

And it doesn’t say, “any and all efforts to increase taxes, unless it’s deceptively and inaccurately called a ‘user fee.’”

And it doesn’t say, “any and all efforts to increase taxes, unless the elk hunters’ lobbyists falsely claim elk hunters support it.”

How do these Republicans consistently find these loopholes in the Tax Pledge that those of us who speak and understand plain English don’t see?

And if these Republicans can’t even say “no” to a teeny-tiny tax hike, or do the light lifting of finding $170,000 to cut somewhere else in a $43 million budget, how in the world are they going to find $1 billion to cut from Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed $7.3 billion budget so that taxes aren’t raised?

Anyway, AB78 now moves to the state Senate.  Will any GOP senators stand up and vote “No” on the elk tax?

Don’t bet the farm on it.  We’ll be lucky if the only Tax Pledge signer in the Senate, Sen. Don Gustavson, votes against it.

And the tax hike train chugs merrily down the tracks…