Just a week after polls closed in Nevada’s primary election, a group affiliated with the national Republican Governors Association is launching a $2 million television and radio ad campaign skewering Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak on economic issues.
The ad campaign, which begins Tuesday, links Nevada’s high gas prices and national news reports on rising inflation with tax and economic actions taken by Sisolak during his first term as governor. It’s one of the first major third-party ad barrages against Sisolak, who faces a tough re-election campaign against Republican Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo this November.
The ads are paid for by Get Families Back to Work, a 501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofit organization that contributed $2 million to help boost Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican as well as running ads attacking Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat. The nonprofit lists RGA-employed individuals as officers, and shares an address with the organization.
Citing national news reports on rising consumer prices and a KNPR report from April on how inflation is “hammering” Nevadans, the ad notes that Nevada has the second-highest unemployment rate among all states (4.9 percent in May, behind only New Mexico, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report) before attacking Sisolak three times for raising taxes.
The ad claims he “pushed for job-killing taxes on small businesses,” citing a 2019 Las Vegas Review-Journal article on Sisolak signing legislation that permanently extended and avoided a scheduled decrease in the state’s payroll tax rate (also called the Modified Business Tax). Legislative Republicans sued, saying the bill was passed without a required two-thirds majority for tax increases, and won the case that went all the way to the Nevada Supreme Court (excess tax dollars collected, to the tune of more than $83 million, were refunded to taxpayers by the state).
Another two pieces of legislation signed by Sisolak in 2019 are mentioned in the ad, described as the incumbent governor “supporting higher fuel taxes” and “making it easier to raise sales taxes.”
The reference to fuel taxes is to a 2019 bill that authorized rural county commissions to implement (by a two-thirds vote, or question on the ballot) a 5-cent surcharge on gallons of diesel tax sold in their county. The bill passed on largely party lines, with a handful of Republicans in support in both legislative chambers.
Supporters of the bill (including several rural counties) said the funds would address a “taxpayer inequity” where tax proceeds from normal gasoline sales helped pay for road maintenance and construction, but diesel vehicle drivers did not. According to a chart compiled by the Nevada DMV, 8 of 17 counties in the state have implemented the 5-cent diesel fuel surcharge.
As for the ad’s argument that Sisolak is “making it easier to raise sales taxes,” that’s a reference to a bill that in part allowed local governments to raise the state sales tax by up to a quarter of a percent, with the dollars earmarked for social services, including services for the homeless, affordable housing and education.
Clark County was the only county to use that bill to raise its sales tax, opting to increase the tax rate by an eighth of a percent (0.125 percent) in 2019. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported last year that Clark County commissioners planned to keep the tax rate in place going forward.
The RGA reported spending about $8.9 million — largely on ad campaigns — in Nevada’s 2018 gubernatorial race.