Taxes, Fees, Revenue Enhancement: Friday Special Session Review, Friday Night Re-Cap with Horsford, Saturday Preview

All right, here’s a round-up of all the main tax, fee and revenue stuff from the special session, bullet-style:

– Assembly Republicans put forth a re-worked Dem budget plan on Thursday evening.  Revenue and fee proposals include an increase in unclamed property transfers ($4M), tax amnesty ($5M), borrowing from Clark County School District capital projects funds ($25M) and Clark County Reclamation fund ($56M), a spend down of the ending general fund balance ($5M), an unclaimed property program ($91M), state park fee increases, Gaming Control Board investigation fees ($4.2M), and the mining deal ($62M).  Total revenue:  $253 million.

– Nevada Mining Association head Tim Crowley says the NMA agrees to prepay some taxes and raise a mining fee from the existing $5 to $25 in order to chip in $100 million. But both Gibbons and Horsford say they do not support pre-payment of taxes because they leave a budget gap.

– Assembly Democrats this week proposed that gaming pay for Gaming Control Board’s enforcement division to the tune of a $32 million tax hike.  But Gibbons said he would veto the measure unless gaming voluntarily agreed to it, and the Nevada Resort Association claimed (surprise, surprise) that it couldn’t get members on the same page.

– In a Senate floor discussion yesterday with gaming lobbyist (and head of R&R Partners) Billy Vassiliadis, Horsford said he wanted gaming to come to the table and do its part.  Vassiliadis retorted that (1) gaming has born up under three tax hikes since 2003, (2) gaming revenue dropped by a $6.7 billion during the last fiscal year and (3) gaming has laid off nearly 34,000 workers so far and that the new tax could lead to as many as 1,000 more layoffs..  He promised help in 2011  but said, “I am sorry to say that for the first time, this year, we just can’t help out.

– Horsford on gaming:  “In fairness to the gaming industry, they contributed nearly 50 percent to the general fund and yes, they have been asked to step up time and time again. But I think they have to do it again.”  And asked of gaming:  ”The question is why should the state subsidize your cost of doing business?”

– Buckley had said earlier this week that the $32 million they want from gaming (which now comes from the general fund) could be better spent on education.  Horsford said that the total spend on the Gaming Control Board ($62 million) could save 800 teachers jobs.

– When it was their turn to be in the Senate Floor hot seat, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Veronica Meter and Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Tray Abney said a lot of words amounting to one thing:  Business can’t help out.  Abney quipped, “If my members cease to exist, government ceases to exist.”  He asked the Legislature to ease the hiring process for businesses by streamlining registration and taxes.

– Senator Randolph Townsend jumped to his feet and grilled Abney. “’No’ is not a plan. Taxing the world is not a plan,” he said, adding, “You are wasting our time. You need to be at the table now.”  Townsend asked Meter and Abney to come up with ideas; the two essentially repeated their talking points. Townsend reiterated his position (for whatever good that did:  there is a two-thirds vote needed to raise taxes and the governor is strongly opposed to a business tax increase, so the business community has no motivation to volunteer anything).

– Other business reps – trucking, the retail association, manufacturers and banks – also testified on the Senate floor.  Interestingly, Nevada Brothel Association lobbyist George Flint joined mining and offered up some help by re-suggesting last year’s idea of a $5 tax on prostitution, saying it would raise $2 to $2.5 million.

– Late last night, Horsford met with the press corps to discuss the remaining agenda and state of negotiations.  Some blurbs and bullets from the Q&A:

– Re: gaming’s position:  “I’m a little disappointed” and “I think they should come to the table.” When asked if he believes gaming cannot afford $32 million, Horsford said bluntly, “No” and added, “Thirty million is three 10 million dollar high-rollers.  I mean, come on.”  He went on to say, “Steve Wynn just announced 400 hires, a new night club and the opening of a new pool.  That is in conflict with the statement, ‘We just can’t.’”

– Horsford: “Revenue reform is at the top of the agenda for 2011. It is THE agenda.”

– Horsford said he was “really pleased” that Gibbons had spent so much time meeting with the Legislature Thursday and Friday.  He said the governor had been “listening to proposals and views” and “interjected his own ideas” and that he seemed “genuinely interested in reaching an agreement.

– When asked if he would agree to 5% education cuts (the current agreed-upon number is 7.5%), Horsford said, “Yes, but having said that, we want the cuts to be as low as possible.”

– Re: the proposal by Assembly Republican to open up collective bargaining to public meeting rules, Horsford said he does not support it, and city and county managers are pushing back because they are in the middle of contract negotations now.

– When asked whether water will stay on the special session agenda, Horsford said he did not think there would be enough time for it.

– Re: Race to the Top, Horsford indicated that based on his conversations with Assistant Secretary of Education at the DOE, he expected the state to qualify for the federal grant funds.

– Re: Senator Townsend and his heated remarks on the Senate floor, Horsford quipped, “I wish we could do term limit reform.”

Today’s expected events:

–More closed door meetings between the governor and the Legislature.

– More discussion of how deep education cuts will be: 7. 5% or 5%.

– More arguing over taxes and fees for gaming and business.  More working out of how mining revenue will work.

– Race to the Top bill sits, or if it goes to Gibbons, does not get vetoed after all.

– A deal, and we all go home tomorrow.  Maybe.