A group of anti-tax protesters led by Chuck Muth on Monday filed their petition to force the tax package — lawmakers and Gov. Brian Sandoval passed to balance the state budget — before the voters next year.

money-greedy1A group of anti-tax protesters led by Chuck Muth on Monday filed their petition to force the tax package — lawmakers and Gov. Brian Sandoval passed to balance the state budget — before the voters next year.

The petition contains the entire text of Senate Bill 483, the omnibus bill that imposed a series of tax changes and increases including the controversial commerce tax on business. It seeks to have the voters repeal the entire measure.

“During the 2014 election campaign, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval never proposed raising over a billion dollars worth of taxes on the people, businesses and tourists of Nevada,” the cover letter attached to the petition states.

The letter, complains that the commerce tax is nothing more than a revamped version of the “margins tax” that voters defeated in the 2014 election and that, in addition, lawmakers and Sandoval increased a laundry list of other taxes in the 108-page bill.

Calling themselves the “we decide coalition,” the proponents charge that the voters of Nevada should have the right to approve or disapprove the tax package.

Officials at the Secretary of State’s office say opponents have until Aug. 31 to file challenges to the petition. The most likely challenge would be that it violates the requirement that initiative and referendum petitions deal with a single subject. The legislation in question contains numerous tax changes.

It imposes a “commerce tax” on gross revenue of any Nevada business that exceeds $4 million with that rate set according to each entity’s business classification.

It also raises the Modified Business Tax the cigarette tax, extends or eliminates sunsets on increased the Local School Support Tax and other levies. Altogether, the law balances the governor’s $7.29 billion General Fund budget by generating nearly $1.3 billion.

If the referendum survives the expected court battles, organizers of the effort will have until next June to raise the necessary signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

They will need 55,234 valid signatures including at least 13,809 in each of Nevada’s four petition districts — the congressional districts in the state.

Assembly passes Sandoval’s $1.1 billion tax scam

money blackholeCARSON CITY  (AP) — Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $1.1 billion tax plan cleared a massive hurdle Sunday night after passing the Assembly, putting it one step away from a governor who’s expected to sign into law the state’s largest one-time tax increase and fund ambitious initiatives to improve K-12 education.

Assembly members voted 30-10 to approve an amended version of SB483 with less than two days left in the legislative session. The bill combines expanded business taxes with a cigarette tax hike and permanently extended several expiring “sunset” taxes.

“It’s time that we put the status quo in the rearview mirror,” said Republican Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson, one of the architects of the plan.brian-sandoval-bong

Senators are expected to vote Monday morning to give the bill final approval, which would send the measure to the governor’s desk.

The vote is a major victory for the Republican governor, who needed to convince two-thirds of the Republican-dominated Assembly to back a plan that funds a significant chunk of his proposed $7.4 billion, two-year budget.

“I am incredibly proud of the men and women of the Assembly who today affirmed that Nevada is ready to lead,” Sandoval said in a statement. “This vote moves us one step closer to cementing the legacy of improving public education by both raising accountability as well as increasing investment in order to suit the needs of generations to come.”

The taxes are part of Sandoval’s effort to put millions of dollars into education initiatives targeting English language learners, children in poverty and other at-risk groups. Lawmakers have already approved a large percentage of the state’s budget, including a massive expansion of K-12 education programs that Sandoval touts as necessary to improving the state’s consistently low education rankings.

The plan faced resistance from a vocal bloc of anti-tax conservatives, concerned that voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot question seeking to create a similar business tax.

“Eighty percent of the voters said no,” said Republican Assemblyman Ira Hansen, “and we’re going to sit here and we’re going to say we’re smarter than you, we’re going to reject what you did in that election cycle, we’re going to ramrod down your throats this new, so-called commerce tax? This is disgraceful.”

But heavy-hitting business groups lined up behind the plan, and several Republicans who were on the fence announced their support shortly before the vote.

“I was uninformed. I made a mistake. I sat and spouted the party line: ‘No new taxes, no matter what,'” Assemblyman Erv Nelson said in a floor speech, explaining his change of heart and ultimate support. “I’ve thought about this, I’ve fasted. I’ve prayed, and I think this is the right thing to do.”

Elements of the plan include:

—A hike in the business license fee. The fee for corporations would rise from the existing $200 a year to $500, while the fee for the rest of the business entities would remain at $200.

—A hike in the payroll tax. Sandoval’s plan raises the state’s existing modified business tax from 1.17 percent to 1.475 percent of wages beyond the first $200,000 a company pays out each year, and 2 percent of those wages for the mining industry and financial institutions. Companies would still get to deduct health care premiums for employees from the calculation.

—A “Commerce Tax” on gross revenue. Industry-specific tax rates will apply to businesses with more than $4 million in Nevada revenue each year. Businesses can count 50 percent of their commerce tax bill as a credit against their modified business tax bill — a provision that’s intended as a perk to those who employ people. The commerce tax aims to capture more money from capital-intensive businesses such as mines and those that do business in Nevada but aren’t based here.

— A flexible payroll tax rate. The plan allows the state to lower the modified business tax rate if revenues from the new commerce tax and MBT rate bring in more revenue than projected.

— An extension of “sunset taxes.” About $600 million of the plan comes from making a set of expiring payroll and sales taxes permanent. It also raises a tax on cigarette packs by $1.

Not only is Fiore extremely unimpressed with Sandoval’s plan to raise business license fees by several hundred million in support of Nevada’s foundering public schools, but she continues to question his Republican credentials in the run-up to the 2015 session of the Legislature.

I respect my doormat, but I still wipe my feet on it.

That’s the impression I was left with Thursday morning after listening to firebrand conservative Republican Assemblywoman Michele Fiore discuss Gov. Brian Sandoval’s legislative agenda during an interview with Dave Becker on KNPR-FM, 88.9’s “State of Nevada.”

Not only is Fiore extremely unimpressed with Sandoval’s plan to raise business license fees by several hundred million in support of Nevada’s foundering public schools, but she continues to question his Republican credentials in the run-up to the 2015 session of the Legislature.

Her daily roasting only appears to be growing in intensity.

“Our state cannot afford $1.2 billion in taxes that was voted down,” Fiore said. “This isn’t something that’s pie in the sky. This tax was voted down by 80 percent of the constituents who said no on a gross receipts margins tax. This tax, this $1.2 billion, $440 million of it is basically a watered down gross receipts margins tax.

“The voters spoke loud and clear. So what message are we sending to the voters? ‘Hey guys, you took the time out, you went and voted, you voted this down on the ballot, but we’re not going to pay attention to you today. And we’re just going to do what you don’t want us to do.’ How well do you think that’s going to play in the next election?”

Fiore, meanwhile, called for slashes to the public education budget teacher education incentives and classroom-size reduction.

But, really, she thinks a great deal of Sandoval.

“The respect level for our governor has always been high and will continue to always be high, but just because we disagree on policy doesn’t mean there’s any lack of respect,” Fiore said after blasting his policies and Republican bona fides. “Brian Sandoval is our governor. He’s an incredible individual.”

Battle brewing over Governor Sandoval’s proposed budget “the current budget needs to be flushed right down the drain, and that 12 assembly members will vote against the budget”

budget-battle_0CARSON CITY, Nev. — Two Nevada Republican lawmakers say they have nearly enough votes to block Governor Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget, over concerns about tax increases they say will harm businesses.

Las Vegas Assemblywoman Michele Fiore and Sparks Senator Don Gustavson spoke at the Atlantis in Reno on Tuesday. Fiore said the proposed tax increases in Sandoval’s budget need to be removed after Republicans took control of the State Assembly.

She said the current budget needs to be flushed right down the drain, and that 12 assembly members will vote against the budget.

LVRJ: A tax? For schools? Is Sandoval a Republican?

At least we now know why the Democrats didn’t recruit a substantial candidate against Gov. Brian Sandoval in the last election.

It would have been hard to find anyone capable of running to the left of our popular Republican. But given the sorry state of Nevada’s public education system, that might actually be a good thing.

The state possesses few viable Democrats with politics more progressive than those espoused Thursday by Sandoval in his State of the State, in which he called for a $7.3 billion two-year budget. That includes $1.5 billion in additional revenue: $580 million in the “endless sunset” tax extension, $80 million in increased cigarette taxes, and $440 million from a new fee on business licenses.

A Republican suggesting a big bump in a business tax?

Forgive me if canaries are circling my head. I’m feeling a little dizzy now that Nevada politics has turned upside down.

The new business tax proceeds would go directly toward Nevada’s foundering public schools with its Dickensian motto: “Please, sir, I want some more.” Although teachers union officials have stated publicly a willingness to embrace proposed system reforms, most Nevada Republicans are probably still trying to get their heads around a proposed $440 million tax increase suggested by one of their own.

But what makes critics of the governor’s plan more embarrassed: the idea of a Republican increasing the business tax to improve public education, or the fact our K-12 system ranks among the poorest in the nation?

Predictably, Nevada’s hard-core conservative Republicans had their crewcuts on fire over Sandoval’s checkbook approach to education reform. Their motto: “He wants some more!” Chuck Muth, town crier of the GOP’s new Assembly raucous caucus, lambasted Sandoval on behalf of his gang this week with a widely circulated blog headlined, “America’s Worst Republican Governor.”

Depending on whether they hold the line, and keep their voices raised to that deafening howl that has the state’s political establishment cringing, the Assembly right-wingers will be either tea party-style heroes or out-of-touch patsies. Odds are they’ll be frozen out of most of the adult discussions very soon.

With a nod during his address to former Democratic Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Sandoval’s strategy would appear to be to run to the left in order to forward what is at its heart a laudable agenda: a hint of reform with a healthy infusion of funding to help the school system climb toward a C-plus in the grade book.

Who knows, maybe it will work.

As a 35-year resident and a longtime observer of the Legislature’s biennial budget rugby, Hobbs, Ong & Associates President Guy Hobbs finds Sandoval’s passion for improving the public school system refreshing. But he’s also watched the state budget process long enough to know substantive changes to Nevada’s tax policy are much easier discussed than done.

“I think from the standpoint of biting off what you can chew, it’s a step in the right direction,” Hobbs said of the governor’s plan.

He’s right. And Hobbs was relieved to hear Sandoval’s realistic call to eliminate the “sunset” misnomer from a stop-gap business tax that has been on the books for more than a decade. Like Alaska in summer, this is an endless sunset.

Although Sandoval has what many consider substantial political capital — he would have had a lot more if he’d defeated a viable challenger last November — his legacy will surely depend on how hard he fights for the tax increases that will fuel promising programs for the army of at-risk students in our public schools.

This is precisely where his focus ought to be.

“In the 35 years I’ve lived here and watched all of this stuff develop, I don’t think there’s anybody, Republican or Democrat, that would with a straight face say they’re proud of the way the education system has performed here,” Hobbs says. “When you look at the numbers, it’s hard to be proud of some of those rankings. For Sandoval to bring that into the forefront is a very refreshing thing.”

Hobbs was on hand in 2003 when Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn, also an education advocate, called for a big tax increase on behalf of public schools. He knows a lot can happen between the State of the State and the end of the session. So don’t be surprised if the increased business license fees plan morphs into another form of revenue generation.

A Republican governor just called for a substantial business tax increase and a new focus on improving public education.

Maybe that makes Sandoval a Democrat in spirit or a Republican in Name Only. But it also makes it clear he’s paying attention.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Email him atSmith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.

Nevada’s big businesses waiting for Sandoval budget details

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $1.1 billion tax package to fund education and other state services caught some industry groups off guard, but the state’s largest business organizations say they will await specifics of the proposal before passing judgment.

Representatives of gaming, mining and retail industries say they like the Republican governor’s vision to improve education. It’s how to pay for it that is giving them pause.

Virginia Valentine, president of the powerful Nevada Resort Association, applauded Sandoval’s plan to jump-start school construction and capital improvements.

“The NRA has always advocated for increased and stable funding for all levels of education in our state,” Valentine said in an email. While admiring the governor’s intentions, she added, “We, like many other Nevada businesses, await the details.”

Getting the two-thirds votes in both the state Senate and Assembly needed to pass the tax package will not be a cakewalk for the popular governor. And lawmakers are expected to bring some of their own ideas on taxes when the 120-day legislative session begins Feb. 2.

The cornerstone of Sandoval’s proposal is an overhaul of the state business license fee. Businesses large and small currently pay a flat $200 each year. The governor wants to establish a tiered rate schedule, ranging from $400 up to $4 million, based on gross receipts.

Sandoval said the move would raise $430 million over the two-year budget cycleand pay for his plan to elevate Nevada’s education system from the basement dungeon to the penthouse suite, nurturing a workforce demanded by the high-tech companies such as Tesla that he’s worked to recruit to the Silver State.

“I realize these decisions are difficult. I know I am asking a lot from the business community. But I have explored every option and find this to be the broadest, least complicated, and fairest solution,” Sandoval said in his State of the State address Thursday, when he released the highlights of his $7.3 billion two-year budget proposal.

Mining, which escaped potentially higher taxes at the ballot box when voters in November rejected a measure that would have removed a cap on net proceeds from the Nevada Constitution, did not evade the governor’s revenue strategy. In addition to new business license fees, Sandoval wants $14.6 million more in payroll taxes from the industry.

In a statement, the Nevada Mining Association said it is passionate about Nevada’s schools and shares the governor’s concerns about closing the workforce skills gap. It’s also looking out for its members.

“We are also concerned about the current economic diversity being experienced in the mining industry — virtually no job growth, volatile mineral values and declining company stock prices,” the association said.

Sandoval’s tax plan also would:

■ Make permanent $560 million in so-called “sunset taxes” that were supposed to expire in 2011 but have twice been extended.

■ Raise cigarette taxes to $1.20 per pack, up from 80 cents, bringing in $78.3 million.

■ Impose a new slot tax on restricted gaming license holders with more than 500 machines or revenue of $10 million or more, for $39 million.

Business groups have long said they would support tax policy that is broad and fair in scope. But they want to see the fine print before signing off on the governor’s plan.

Bryan Wachter with the Retail Association of Nevada said its members range from mom-and-pop operations “to those that pay the highest taxes in the state.”

“If there are other options out there that do a better job of bringing in that additional revenue, then we’ll look at those as well,” he said.

There is also an underlying resentment that businesses who struggled to stay afloat during Nevada’s gripping recession are being asked to pony up while tax breaks are granted to new kids on the block. Tesla Motors was given a pass for $1.3 billion in taxes over 20 years to build its $5 billion battery plant in Northern Nevada.

“We’re treating businesses differently,” said Randi Thompson, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

“They are just increasing the cost of business on the small folks and keep incentivizing the big folks,” she said. “After awhile, we get a little crabby.”

Thompson said she’s not against Tesla and believes it will have a positive influence on the economy. “But most of the guys I’ve worked with have never asked for a tax incentive.”

Tesla would not be exempt from the new business license fee, though it’s unclear how much it would pay.

Nevada’s two largest business organizations — the Las Vegas Metro and Reno-Sparks chambers of commerce — also hailed Sandoval’s commitment to education but are more muted about his tax plan.

The Las Vegas business group said it looks forward to working with the governor “as conversations evolve” on state revenue needs.

Tray Abney, with the Reno-Sparks Chamber, said the group has historically opposed taxes based on gross receipts. Voters in November rejected a measure pushed by the teachers union to impose a gross receipts business margins tax.

“I’m looking forward to hearing more about it,” Abney said of the governor’s plan. “I think corporate tax reform is a piece of it but it can’t be the only piece.”

Carole Vilardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association and veteran of numerous legislative sessions, said the governor’s speech was impressive and covered a number of topics discussed over the years.

“Obviously the amount of new money required is what’s going to be the challenge,” she said. “It always is.”

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval urges massive significant tax hikes to boost Nevada’s neglected education system

taxCARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Gov. Brian Sandoval is urging lawmakers to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes over two years to fund significant improvements in education he says are long overdue.

The Republican elected to a second-term in a landslide said in his “State of the State” address Thursday night that Nevada’s economy is steadily growing and diversifying after suffering through the Great Recession. But he says leaders still have work to do.

Sandoval proposed a two-year budget totaling about $7.3 billion. It includes about $1.14 billion in additional revenue, mostly in the form of business taxes. It also would increase the cigarette tax from 80 cents to $1.20 a pack.

He wants to spend $781 million more on schools and another $100 million on higher education.

CARSON CITY: The Facts about the Tax By Brad Bonkowski, Supervisor, Ward 2

money blackholeBy Brad Bonkowski, Supervisor, Ward 2

The improving economy is fueling an increase in sales tax revenues. That, combined with ongoing business expansions in Carson City, had allowed the Board of Supervisors to lower the property tax rate. We lowered the property tax rate by $.02/$100 of assessed value in 2014. Doesn’t sound like much, and some criticized it as a political ploy, but in reality we can only lower it in small increments or we jeopardize placing too large a deficit in the General Fund budget.

Over time, if we continue to lower the rate by $.02-$.03 per $100 of assessed value per year, we can get back to the pre-recession rate. That’s great news for property owners. Lowering taxes is always difficult and if the way to get there is to take small steps, I intend to advocate for lower rather than higher property taxes.

As to the 1/8th cent sales tax; it was at the forefront of the fall campaigns and has been criticized by some. However, the money it will raise will deliver a lot of bang for the buck. Our community will get: a new state of the art animal shelter; the long-awaited MAC; major corridor infrastructure improvements to Hwy 50 East, North and South Carson Streets, and downtown. For our citizens it is a small added expense, but for our community it is a significant investment in our future.

Taxes are unavoidable, so the question is “How should we BEST spend tax dollars?” That is the driving question behind every decision I make as part of the Board of Supervisors.

Before joining the Elko Band of Indians’ Dinner in the Park, Gov. Brian Sandoval spoke to the Free Press Thursday about his positions on several key issues

nevada governor brian sandoval
We would have asked why the Department of Taxation office was closed in Elko in 2009 under former Director Dino DiCianno’s gold mine lack of audit cover-up scandal... What has changed since?

ELKO — Before joining the Elko Band of Indians’ Dinner in the Park, Gov. Brian Sandoval spoke to the Free Press Thursday about his positions on several key issues.

Sandoval will stay in town today for the Elko County Fair.

His visit is part of a four-town tour of rural communities in Nevada.

EDFP: Last spring you signed a bill to create a task force that will study the possibility of the transfer of public land from federal to state control. Locally, a lot of community leaders have supported that bill and supported the transfer of public lands. Do you think such a transfer of public lands would benefit the state?

GOV: Absolutely. Backing up, it was really an honor for me because some of the Elko County Commissioners were in the Governor’s Office when I signed that bill. … It’s a bill that I supported from its inception, so I was very pleased when the Legislature passed it and put me in a position to be able to sign it. I think it’s a good thing for Nevada. It’s been a long time coming. Continue reading