Republican's Tax Vote Decision Divisive

Nevada Legislature 2003
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Out here in cowboy country, folks aren't supposed to utter a discouraging word about anybody, let alone a native son such as Republican Assemblyman John Marvel.

But when you switch your vote and allow an $836 million tax increase to be passed, some of your friends and neighbors will say anything.

"I am disgusted with John Marvel," warehouse owner Randy Clark said last week as he and his buddies swapped stories outside a hardware store. "He flip-flopped. The taxes are going to hurt everyone, especially in a struggling area like Battle Mountain."

Marvel cast the deciding vote July 21 to break the seven-week impasse in the Legislature over taxes and public school funding.

The Assembly passed the bill 28-14 moments after the Senate approved it 17-2, maintaining the constitutional requirement that taxes receive two-thirds support in both houses.

Hardware store owner Steve Seldin said Marvel has been a regular customer for years. The tax increases will force Seldin to think twice before hiring new employees.

"Business is way down," he said. "The taxes will push us over the edge."

Of the 20 people interviewed last week by the Las Vegas Review-Journal outside Battle Mountain's stores, the Little League baseball field and community pool, 14 objected to Marvel's vote.

Another 10 said they were not aware of what happened in the Legislature.

Men were near unanimous in their objections. But there was some support for Marvel, a 76-year-old lifelong rancher.

Women, mostly mothers and grandmothers, backed Marvel, contending higher taxes are necessary to pay for schools and hire teachers.

"I am happy with John," said retired teacher Virginia Hinton, drying off after a dip in the pool. "We have been losing good teachers. I don't think taxes are too high."

Hinton and others said Battle Mountain schools lost four experienced teachers over the summer because the public schools budget remained in jeopardy until the tax increases were approved.

Marvel is the patriarch of the Assembly, first taking his seat in 1979. Over the years, he often has won re-election without opposition, or faced token third party candidates. He is contemplating running again next year.

Marvel, who owns a condominium in Carson City with his wife, said he plans on returning to Battle Mountain and explaining to his constituents why he supported the tax increase.

Unless he voted for the increase, Marvel said, Democratic leaders in the Assembly were ready to revive and pass a Senate-approved bill to increase taxes by $873 million. That bill contained a 1 percent tax on payrolls, a 1 percent room tax and a 3 percent tax on bank profits.

The bill he supported imposes a 0.7 percent tax on payrolls but has no income tax on banks and no room tax.

"Everyone thinks I caved, but I didn't cave," Marvel said. "We negotiated all day, and it wasn't getting any better. Nobody was going to give. There was a lot of viciousness there. I don't mind taking the heat."

Marvel figured he was in a better position politically to withstand voter backlash over a tax increase than a Republican freshman.

"I thought I was helping some of the freshmen out," he said. "I can still sleep at night. Nobody likes criticism, but it is part of the game when you are in politics."

Marvel said his vote ensured rural schools, as well as schools across Nevada, will open on time this month and have money to hire teachers.

"I have received a lot of calls from the business community, from banks," he said. "They say they can live with the tax bill. It doesn't have a gross receipts tax, an income tax, or a franchise tax. It was the best tax bill we could get."

Retired Battle Mountain maintenance worker Max Rogers understands that view. As he walked with his grandson to watch a youth baseball game, Rogers declared Marvel still has his vote.

"I'm a Democrat and I vote for the best man," said the father of 15. "I have always voted for John. You can't always get what you want. He does what he thinks is right."