Retailers take poll to help retailers

I have seen many, many tendentious polls in my life. But the one released Monday by the Retail Association of Nevada is one of the worst.

Before I get into specifics, consider the timing: The poll was made public two weeks before the end of the session and clearly designed to influence lawmakers to vote against tax plans the retailers don't like -- that is, any that have a gross receipts component, which RAN always has opposed. Why conduct and release a poll just days after a compromise plan has been announced that has half of its revenue from a gross receipts component?

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure this out? Hell, you don't even have to be a political pundit.

The poll was taken May 13-14, as the governor's new plan was unveiled, by GOP pollster Bob Moore. It is of 401 voters -- a relatively small sample for a statewide survey -- and has a margin of error of 5 percent. The demographics -- 39-34, Democrats; 16 percent Hispanic; 54-46, female -- look failry reasonable. But the phraising of some questions ranges from loaded to ludicrous.

To wit:

The Governor's proposed budget includes a number of proposed education reforms that will require the legislature to increase taxes by a record $1.2 billion dollars. Thinking about the 2016 election, would you be more likely or less likely to vote for a state legislator who supported the Governor’s proposed budget increase for education? IF MORE/LESS LIKELY: Is that much more/less likely or somewhat more/less likely? If supporting the Governor’s tax increase has no impact on your vote, just say so.

First, a question such as this, with no details, is just silly and designed to elicit a visceral reaction. Second, why the use of the word "record" or the false figure of $1.2 billion -- the actual education funding increase proposed by the governor is less than half of that?

And even with the question loaded up like that, by a 35-31 margin voters are more likely to vote for a legislator who supports the plan.

When it comes to funding education reforms that will improve schools in Nevada, (ROTATE STATEMENTS) Some (other) people say that we need to set up a whole new tax system and a new state government bureaucracy to assess and collect additional taxes from business to fund education improvements. Other people (some) say we should just use our existing business tax system and increase existing taxes to fund education improvements and there will be no need for a new state bureaucracy. Which statement is closer to your views? 

Seriously, retailers?

Not sure I have ever seen a more leading question (until we get lower in the poll, perhaps). Shockingly, by 48-34, voters prefer the existing system rather than a NEW BUREAUCRACY.

Coincidentally, the retailers prefer the payroll tax (MBT), which is not a NEW SYSTEM.

Currently, the top tax rate in Nevada on gross gaming revenue is 6.75%, the lowest gaming tax rate in the nation. Would you favor or oppose increasing the top rate so that large casinos would pay a higher tax rate in Nevada, in order to improve education in Nevada? 

Why ask this question when no increase in the gross gaming tax is on the table but the casinos and retailers are at odds over whether to focus on the payroll tax or not? Whoops: I think the answer is in my question.

Yes, 79 percent want to increase taxes on gaming, espcially after learning Nevada casinos pay THE LOWEST GAMING TAX RATE IN THE NATION.

Retailers, subtlety ain't your forte.

Currently, all businesses in Nevada pay a $200 dollar business license fee. One proposal to raise funds would establish a sliding business license fee that would be based on a company's type of business and gross revenues, not profits. This fee would range from $400 dollars for smaller businesses to $4 million dollars for the largest businesses. Would you favor or oppose establishing such a business license fee system in order to improve education in Nevada? 

This is not as egregious as the others, but why the insertion of the "not profits" phrase? I can't imagine.

Still, the governor's original plan, no longer viable anyhow, got 44 percent of the vote to 51 percent against.

Would you favor or oppose increasing the modified business tax rate, which is a payroll tax paid by Nevada's largest employers, in order to improve education in Nevada? 

Oh, the MBT is only paid by the state's LARGEST EMPLOYERS? I see. And I thought it was paid by businesses with payrolls of $85,000 or more in a quarter. (Question clearly designed to imply casinos pay this.) But if you put it that way, you might get a 51-40 in favor result, which is the plan the retailers support (the so-called Armstrong-Anderson plan).

I am shocked.

Did you vote in the election last November? The 2014 ballot included Question 3, called the Margin Tax or Education Initiative, imposing a gross receipts tax on businesses that would have been based on the business's gross revenue, not the business's profits. Did you vote yes to support or no to oppose the Margin Tax/Education Initiative?

This is my favorite question in the entire poll. It is utterly pointless except to remind people the ballot proposition defeated 4-to-1 was a GROSS RECEIPTS TAX. And it is NOT ON THE BUSINESS'S PROFITS.

For the record, 39 percent said they voted no, 31 percent said they voted yes and 21 percent didn't know or refused to answer. That's all so credible.

This is one of the more shameless and ham-handed attempts I have ever seen by a special interest to try to influence a tax debate at the eleventh hour of a session. I'm not sure how many lawmakers will fall for it, but if they do, they either already had their minds made up to oppose the governor or are susceptible to nonsense.

Alas, that may be a great many of them.

(To be fair, the poll also asked about taxing "big box" retailers (not regular retailers of Nevada), and by a 58-37 margin, voters like that idea. And the RAN poll also found Sandoval is still very popular despite all the tax talk -- 61-21 job approval; that both parties want a primary instead of a caucus (65-24) and that folks think money from legal pot is a great way to fund education -- 52-41.)