Nevada voters have a chance this year to expand background checks on gun purchases, legalize recreational marijuana, and deregulate the electricity market
Almost lost amid those hot-button issues is Question 4 — a tax break on the sales of oxygen tanks, wheelchairs, and other home medical equipment.
Its main supporter has bought no TV or radio time, only printed a few yard signs and fliers, and rarely visits vote-rich Clark County.
After no one volunteered, a former state senator had to be enlisted to draft the opposing advisory language to help guide voters when they go to the polls.
Doug Bennett, who owns a Reno-based medical equipment business, funded the petition drive that got Question 4 on the ballot and is campaigning for its passage.
“The voters say we don’t want to pay sales tax and we don’t want sick, injured and dying people paying sales tax on home medical equipment that their physician has ordered, is medically necessary, and they have no option,” Bennett told KNPR's State of Nevada.
His Alliance to Stop Taxes on the Sick and Dying wants to change the Nevada Constitution to exempt in-home medical equipment from sales and use taxes.
Those opposed to the idea don't support it because it changes the state's Constitution, which can make it more difficult to adjust in the future.
The former state senator who wrote the opposing view for the sample ballot also said the language in the ballot question is too vague, and she said there was no way for voters to know that it will be limited to just necessary equipment.
If approved, Question 4 would require the Legislature to develop the list of products that would be tax exempt if they are bought on doctors’ orders. Until a final list of exempt products is developed, state officials are unable to estimate the lost tax revenue.
However, Bennett said the amount the tax is contributing to the state now is a tiny fraction of the state's overall budget.
Nevada already exempts food, prescription medicine, firewood, newspapers, farm equipment and scores of other products from the sales tax.
Bennett argues that while the tax is technically paid by the insurance company it is passed on to some of the most vulnerable people through higher insurance premiums and higher deductibles.
To change the state Constitution, voters must pass a measure twice; however, Bennett said he has assurances from a lawmaker that if the ballot measure is passed he will introduce a bill with the same language in the 2017 legislative session.
That means the changes to taxes on medical equipment could come as soon as next year, if the voters pass Question 4. If lawmakers fail to pass the legislation, the ballot questions will go back to voters to pass it again.
Doug Bennett, Question 4 proponent
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