Archive for April, 2012

Voter Deadlines Approach

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 7:24 pm April 30th, 2012

CARSON CITY — The final day for Nevadans to register to vote by mail or electronically is less than two weeks away, per a press release reminder today from Secretary of State Ross Miller

Key 2012 election deadlines: 

May 12: Last day to register to vote by mail (or electronically at www.registertovotenv.com for Clark County residents)

May 12: Last day for military and overseas citizens to register to vote. Military and overseas citizens are encouraged to fill out the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to register and request an absent ballot at the same time. The FPCA can be accessed here and at www.fvap.gov.

May 22: Last day to register to vote in person. Applications for registration must be submitted in person by the end of the business day at all county clerk and voter registrars’ offices throughout the state. A complete list of county clerks and voter registrars can be found here.

May 26 to June 8: Early voting

June 5: Last day for registered voters to request an absentee ballot. The Absent Ballot Request Form can be found here.

June 12: Primary Election Day

Information about registered voter status and polling location is accessible through My Voter File at nvsos.gov/votersearch.

Registered voters with Department of Motor Vehicle-issued identification in Clark County can now update their address or change their party affiliation online at www.registertovotenv.com.

 

Nevada Lawmakers Hear Ideas For Revising Local Government Tax Distribution Formula

By Sean Whaley | 3:08 pm April 30th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A consultant hired by the cities of Henderson and Las Vegas to analyze the process used to distribute taxes to the counties and cities told lawmakers today the formula now used to make the allocations has weaknesses.

Jeremy Aguero, principal analyst with the consulting firm Applied Analysis, updated the members of the Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Study the Allocation of Money Distributed From the Local Government Tax Distribution Account on efforts now under way to improve the formula.

“What I’m going to try and show you is a couple of areas where I think we believe there is some weakness in that formula and then some ideas that are being discussed relative to how to address some of those weaknesses,” he said. “I don’t want to leave you with the impression that anything here is definitive or perfect or a final answer to anything. It is a work in progress.”

C-Tax formula has generated controversy

The Consolidated Tax, or C-Tax as it is referred to, has generated controversy over how the local government tax revenues are distributed. It affects 175 local government entities statewide. It was established by the Legislature in 1997. It is composed of sales tax, liquor tax, cigarette tax, real estate property transfer tax and government services tax.

Graphic from Free Software Foundation via Wikimedia Commons.

The city of Fernley 30 miles east of Reno, the last city in Nevada to incorporate in 2001, has filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Taxation and state Treasurer Kate Marshall alleging it has been shortchanged in the formula. As reported by Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston earlier this month, the city has seen population growth of 250 percent since the C-Tax system was established but has not seen significant growth in tax distributions.

Aguero said the expanded working group that is reviewing the C-Tax issues considered several alternatives, including a straight per capita distribution and reverting back to the old formula.

“What if we just threw it all out and started with another formula,” he said. “What if we went back to everybody just gets to keep whatever they collected.”

Each of these ideas presented their own set of problems, Aguero said.

Ultimately the working group decided to proceed by proposing modifications to the existing formula, Aguero said.

“We thought about reverting back to the original C-Tax structure, and there is some merit associated with that,” he said. “But we ultimately landed on this idea of modification to the current formula; that it has strengths, that it has weaknesses; and that we should build on those strengths and minimize those weaknesses as we go forward.”

But Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, the chairwoman of the panel, asked why the issues raised in the report cannot be resolved by the local governments themselves using a memorandum of understanding.

“I’m not sure why we’re spending tax dollars to have the study if they can already do this and it doesn’t change currently where we’re at,” she said.

Fernley mayor says the city wants equity

Fernley Mayor LeRoy Goodman testified before the panel, saying the city decided to sue after requests for an additional tax distribution were rejected by Lyon County. Other attempts to get relief have also been unsuccessful, he said.

“Our fundamental thing on this is simply equity,” Goodman said. “We’re simply asking for an equitable base amount of money, to be treated just like the other entities in the state of Nevada, whether they be cities, unincorporated towns or counties.”

But a Lyon County official told lawmakers Fernley’s share of the consolidated tax appears low because it does not provide all services. Lyon County, for example, provides law enforcement coverage to Fernley, said Lyon County Comptroller Josh Foli.

If Fernley opted to take over law enforcement or other services, the city could negotiate with the county to receive more consolidated tax, he said.

The report provided to lawmakers by Aguero identifies four major issues with potential solutions that would take into account such issues as rapid growth by some cities and counties.

The preliminary proposals would allow slower-growing jurisdictions to have base adjustments that reflect inflation and share modestly in incremental, growth revenues. They would also allow for faster-growing jurisdictions to benefit from a greater share of incremental growth revenues which are added to their base each year. It would also protect against disproportionate declines when revenues fall.

Issues that are still outstanding include determining what happens if a local government enters into a long-run period of decline and what happens if a new local government is formed.

A new city in Nevada is a possibility. Residents of Laughlin will vote in June on whether to incorporate.

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Audio clips:

Jeremy Aguero, principal analyst with the consulting firm Applied Analysis, says the current tax distribution formula has weaknesses:

043012Aguero1 :30 as a whole”

Aguero says the formula has strengths as well:

043012Aguero2 :22 we go forward.”

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick says she does not know why the local governments cannot modify the formula on their own:

043012Kirkpatrick :10 where we’re at.”

Fernley Mayor LeRoy Goodman says all the city wants is equity:

043012Goodman :18 towns or counties.”

 

Rep. Amodei Introduces Bill To Speed Public Land Transfers

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 10:30 am April 30th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., today introduced legislation to accelerate the process for transferring small parcels of federal land to local communities.

The “Small Lands Tracts Conveyance Act,” H.R.4976, is aimed at reducing the decade-long process that now exists for many land transfers in Western states, even those that are noncontroversial, he said.

Amodei, who represents the 2nd Congressional District covering much of rural Nevada, said that while such transfers need to be scrutinized, the bureaucratic regulatory maze and slow legislative process are the main culprits in dragging out the transfers.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

“Why should it take more than 10 years for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to transfer the lands they don’t want to local stakeholders who do?” asked Amodei. “What’s needed is an efficient process that promotes community-directed uses and reasonable economic development. In Nevada, where the federal government controls more than 85 percent of the land, these administrative and legislative delays are a wet blanket on our economy and our conservation efforts.”

The bill defines a “small tract” as 160 acres or less and would limit the transfer process for such lands to 18 months by establishing firm deadlines for the BLM and USFS to meet. It would exclude lands with established federal protection for cultural, biological, or endangered species issues.

If parcels are purchased by private entities for fair market value, 50 percent of the revenues from the sales would go to the county governments in which the lands are located, with the other 50 percent going to the federal treasury. If non-private entities purchase lands, such as county governments, 100 percent of the revenues would go to the treasury.

“This bill is a win-win-win,” Amodei said. “It would save the taxpayers, BLM and the USFS the expense of managing an excessive portfolio of federal lands. It would generate revenue for local and federal government, which could be used for deficit reduction. And most importantly, it would give states like Nevada the freedom to determine how best to use our own lands, whether it’s for economic development, farming and ranching, or conservation.”

The legislation would not apply to another measure sponsored by Amodei and other members of the Nevada Congressional delegation seeking to transfer approximately 10,000 acres of BLM land to Lyon County and the city of Yerington for industrial, recreational and cultural development.

The transfer would allow the governments to leverage the substantial infrastructure investments being made by Nevada Copper at its nearby Pumpkin Hollow project.

The Yerington Land Conveyance and Sustainable Development Act had a hearing earlier this month.

Amodei told the Reno Gazette-Journal he is optimistic about getting the bill through the House by the summer, although its future in the Senate is less certain.

Control of federal lands in the West was one subject of a Friday conference sponsored by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. Gov. Brian Sandoval attended by phone.

Following the meeting, Sandoval said in a statement: “I was pleased to join part of today’s Rocky Mountain Roundtable discussion via phone. Now that we’ve begun the discussion, I believe we should work together and have a strategy as issues pertaining to Western states arise. I suggested regular conversations and I look forward to continued partnerships among Western states.”

Broader Measure Of Unemployment In Nevada Shows Slight Improvement In First Quarter Of 2012

By Sean Whaley | 2:15 pm April 27th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A broader measure of Nevada’s unemployment picture, including those who have given up looking for work, showed slight but continued improvement through the first quarter of 2012, a federal report released today shows.

The rate in Nevada dropped from 22.7 percent in the four quarters through Dec. 31, 2011, to 22.3 percent through March 31, according to the quarterly report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The “U-6” rate is sometimes referred to as the “actual” jobless rate because it includes discouraged workers and those working part-time who would like to be in full-time jobs. It compares to the official 12 percent unemployment rate for Nevada for March reported last week by the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR).

Nevada leads the nation in both measures of unemployment.

Photo by FEMA via Wikimedia Commons.

Nationally, the U-6 unemployment rate is 15.6 percent. The only other state with a rate above 20 percent is California, with a rate of 20.8 percent. North Dakota has the lowest rate at 6.3 percent.

The Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization for States shows six different jobless rates using different measures. The U-6 rate includes discouraged workers, defined as people who want work but who had not searched for work in the previous four weeks because they believed no jobs were available to them. It also includes “marginally attached” workers, defined as those who had not looked for work in the previous four weeks for any reason.

Finally the measure includes those employed part-time for economic reasons, defined as those working less than 35 hours per week who want to work full time, are available to do so, and gave an economic reason – their hours had been cut back or they were unable to find a full-time job – for working part time. These individuals are sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that this broader definition of unemployment is based on relatively small sample sizes at the state level.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for DETR, said there has been gradual improvement in both the official rate and the broader measure of unemployment although the state still has a long ways to go. The official jobless rate has fallen for seven straight months. The U-6 measure has declined in each of the last two quarters, he said.

“They have been on the mend, albeit relatively slowly,” Anderson said.

But Nevada’s unemployment rate remains a concern for policymakers, even as other economic indicators are showing improvement.

The state Department of Taxation reported yesterday that taxable sales surged in February by 10.2 percent over February 2011. The state Gaming Control Board reported strong wins for casinos in both January and February.

Anderson said personal income has been up for seven straight quarters as well.

“The one area where we don’t seem to be gaining a whole lot of traction of yet is in our labor markets,” he said. “We’re seeing some improvement but it’s been relatively slow going.”

The reasons are due largely to the lagging construction and public employee job sectors, Anderson said. The construction industry has lost about 100,000 jobs compared to the peak prior to the recession, and budget difficulties have led to declines in government employment, he said.

The public sector job losses are particularly noticeable at the local government level. The March jobless report shows there were 4,400 few local government jobs in March 2012 compared to March 2011. State government jobs were down 1,300 over the same period.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has made job creation a priority of his administration, and is pushing forward with an economic development plan to help create 50,000 new jobs in Nevada by the end of 2014.

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Audio clips:

DETR economist Bill Anderson says Nevada’s jobless numbers are improving but it is slow going:

042712Anderson1 :35 the past year.”

Anderson says job creation is lagging behind other improving economic indicators:

042712Anderson2 :14 relatively slow going.”

Gov. Sandoval Defends Conservative Credentials, Says Online Sales Tax Revenue Is Matter of Fairness

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 8:31 pm April 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today that a recent deal announced with Amazon.com to collect sales taxes from on-line purchases in Nevada beginning in January 2014 is only the tip of the iceberg.

Tax revenues to Nevada could total $200 million a year if all on-line purchases were assessed the state sales tax, he said. Nevada’s sales tax rate varies by county but is between 6.85 and 8.1 percent.

Gov. Brian Sandoval. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

Interviewed on Jon Ralston’s Face to Face television program, Sandoval said the voluntary agreement reached with Amazon could be the first step in an effort to collect the state sales tax from all on-line purchases. He also defended the move as not being a new tax for Nevada residents, but one they are supposed to pay anyway.

Sandoval said the agreement with Amazon, which could begin sooner if Congress acts to allow states to collect the tax from on-line retailers, is worth an estimated $16 million to $20 million a year.

“The universe could be up to $200 million in uncollected sales tax,” he said.

Sandoval said he pursued the agreement to help small businesses in Nevada, many of which are at a competitive disadvantage to on-line retailers. Sandoval said he has visited more than 150 businesses in Nevada and the advantage held by internet retailers is an issue that comes up frequently.

“You can drive down almost any street in the state of Nevada and see businesses that have closed,” he said.

Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 12 percent as of March.

The issue was brought to Sandoval by the Retail Association of Nevada, which praised the deal announced earlier this week. The same deal has been established by governors in other states, including Tennessee, Virginia and South Carolina.

In the wide-ranging interview, Sandoval also defended his conservative fiscal credentials after announcing the extension of a set of taxes set to sunset on June 30, 2013, the Amazon deal that will increase costs to Nevada consumers and an economic plan that will dole out state funds for business expansion.

Sandoval said he decided to continue the sunsetting taxes to deal with an expanding Medicaid population and to avoid further cuts to education.

“I think it is important that we don’t start pitting senior citizens against kindergarteners,” he said. “I’m still a fiscal conservative and Nevadans are not going to be paying one cent more in taxes than the day I took office.”

As to his economic plan and the use of a $10 million catalyst fund to encourage business relocation and expansion, he said: “What we are doing is no different than the most conservative governors in the United States of America.”

Sandoval also  said he has received many phone calls from conservatives who are supportive of his decisions, but that not everyone will support all of his decisions as governor.

“If I am pleasing everybody, I am lying to somebody,” he said.

Sandoval also said he would “respectfully” decline any invitation from GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to be his running mate. Sandoval said he intends to finish his term and run again for governor in 2014.

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Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he reached a deal with Amazon to help Nevada small business:

042612Sandoval1 :22 a competitive disadvantage.”

Sandoval says he started with Amazon but the state can now move on to other on-line retailers:

042612Sandoval2 :15 uncollected sales tax.”

 

 

Nevada Posts Double-Digit Gains In Taxable Sales in February

By Sean Whaley | 4:32 pm April 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada consumers purchased $3.2 billion worth of taxable goods in February, a 10.2 percent increase over February 2011 and the 20th consecutive month of increases, the state Department of Taxation reported today.

A number of major taxable sales categories saw double-digit gains, including motor vehicles and parts dealers, up 22.9 percent; bars and restaurants, up 11.9 percent; furniture and home furnishings, up 15.4 percent, and general merchandise stores, up 16.9 percent.

Car dealership. / Photo by Coolcaesar via Wikimedia Commons.

Also seeing big increases were merchant wholesalers-durable goods, up 18 percent; clothing and clothing accessories stores, up 11.3 percent; and accommodations, up 25.7 percent.

The only major category reflecting a decline was the construction industry, which was off 25.5 percent over February 2011.

Both Clark County, up 11.1 percent; and Washoe County, up 10.7 percent; saw double-digit gains.

Fourteen of Nevada’s seventeen counties recorded an increase in taxable sales for February 2012 compared to February 2011. Only Elko, Humboldt and White Pine Counties recorded a decrease.

Compared to the May 2011 Economic Forum projections and based on department analysis, the general fund portion of the sales and use taxes is approximately 4 percent or $21.2 million above its forecast for fiscal year 2012 through February.

Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada, said the February report is encouraging for a number of reasons, including the big increase in the accommodations category, which reflects stronger tourism numbers.

Casino win numbers were strong in both January and February of this year.

“Very optimistic looking forward,” he said. “We’ve got reason to believe that March and April are going to be good months as well. We projected an increase in spending in the spring for Easter.”

The unseasonably warm weather has contributed to the increases in several of the categories, Wachter said.

One ongoing concern is Nevada’s 12 percent unemployment rate, he said.

“We’re still mildly concerned,” Wachter said. “We need to get people spending money and the best way to do that is to give them a job. But these numbers are worth being optimistic for.”

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Audio clips:

Bryan Wachter of the Retail Association of Nevada says the strong numbers should carry through March and April as well:

042612Wachter1 :12 spring for Easter.”

Wachter says Nevada’s 12 percent unemployment rate remains a concern but the February taxable sales report is cause for optimism:

042612Wachter2 :11 being optimistic for.”

 

 

Nevada Homeland Security Commission Adopts Drastically Reduced Funding Plan For 2012

By Sean Whaley | 1:11 pm April 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s Homeland Security Commission today adopted a drastically reduced plan to continue the fight against potential terrorist attacks, leaving six ongoing programs without funding because of declining federal support.

Led by Commission Chairman and Gov. Brian Sandoval, the panel of law enforcement and other emergency services providers unanimously adopted a plan that will see $4.3 million in total federal funding this year, a 60 percent reduction in funding from 2011 when Nevada received $10.8 million.

The commission approved funding for 10 projects and programs, including its three threat analysis, or “fusion” centers, but another 11 received no funding at all. Six of the 11 were to sustain existing programs, from the Washoe County Silver Shield program to the Carson City Regional Citizen Corps. Silver Shield programs are those designed to protect critical infrastructure, from water systems to government operations.

Hoover Dam, part of Nevada's critical infrastructure.

The projects receiving funding were the result of a collaborative effort by the statewide commission.

The federal funding comes via two programs: the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Federal support for both programs was reduced significantly this year. The UASI funding totaled $2.66 million, down from $5.7 million last year, and the SHSP funding totaled $1.65 million, down from $5.14 million in 2011.

Even so, Rick Martin, program manager for the state Division of Emergency Management, said the funding priorities developed by commission members and support staff and funded today will keep Nevada safe.

“That’s certainly what we’re concerned with as well, and that was part of the commission’s priorities this year, is to ensure that we virtually get the biggest bang for the buck and that we are safe and that we are sustaining the programs and projects that are most important to this process,” he said.

Martin said efforts will continue to find other sources of money for the projects that received no funding.

“We’re going to work diligently to find additional funding, not only in the homeland security grant program but the other preparedness grant programs as well,” he said. “So we’re going to work really hard to make sure that some of these programs don’t go away.”

The reduction in federal funding for homeland security has been a source of concern for Sandoval and the commission as a whole.

At the March commission meeting, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said federal officials need to reassess the “threat matrix” used to allocate funding to states and cities for homeland security efforts, particularly given the reduced level of funding being made available. Gillespie said the formula gives a higher priority for funding to cities like Detroit without taking into consideration how cities like Las Vegas and Seattle have changed since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

At today’s meeting the commission also agreed to seek federal approval to use about $569,000 in “de-obligated” homeland security funding allocated to Nevada in prior years to support some of the 11 programs and projects that received no money.

Even those programs that were funded saw much less money than requested.

The fusion centers, created to coordinate tips and information from around the state to evaluate the potential for terrorism, were funded well below the amounts requested. The northern Nevada center received $283,240 after initially requesting $482,772. The southern Nevada center received just over $1 million after requesting $1.46 million.

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Audio clips:

Rick Martin, program manager for the state Division of Emergency Management, says the safety of Nevadans and visitors was a top priority in the funding decisions:

042612Martin1 :18 to this process.”

Martin says efforts will be made to find funding for the other programs and projects:

042612Martin2 :17 don’t go away.”

Rep. Berkley Announces Plan To Permanently End Federal Travel Ban To Las Vegas, Sen. Heller Joins Effort

By Sean Whaley | 3:31 pm April 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., today said she will introduce legislation to permanently end a Bush era ban on cities -  including Las Vegas and Reno – from hosting federal agency and executive branch conferences and conventions.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said he will join Berkley in the effort.

A similar effort in 2009 by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not pass.

Heller and Berkley are both seeking the same U.S. Senate seat, filled by Heller in 2011 when he was appointed to the post by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The announcement by the two Nevada members of Congress comes as the fallout continues from a now infamous conference held by the General Services Administration (GSA) in Henderson in 2010.

In remarks on the floor, Berkley said some GOP members of Congress are seeking to attack Nevada’s tourism industry because of the abuses reported regarding the GSA conference.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

“These Republicans are trying to bring back the last administration’s so-called ‘blacklist’ of resort cities like Las Vegas and Reno – prohibiting federal agencies from traveling to hold conferences and seminars,” she said. “This policy has damaged the reputation of my state, hurt our economy and killed jobs.”

Berkley said the blacklist has been lifted by the Obama Administration, but that it is time to make such a policy permanent.

“Las Vegas wasn’t the problem, the irresponsible behavior of the GSA was,” she said. “And that’s why I am going to introduce legislation to prohibit the blacklisting of any city in America.”

Later in the day Heller said he would join in the effort.

“Despite our differing views on the bailouts for Wall Street and Detroit, Obamacare, and stimulus spending that has left many Nevadans out of work, I am pleased to join Congresswoman Berkley in the effort to end the blacklist process by the federal government,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

“Nevada offers the best hospitality and convention services in the world, and Las Vegas, Henderson, Lake Tahoe, and Reno have long been favorite destinations for millions of visitors,” Heller said.  “I have always taken pride in the Nevada delegation working together on Nevada issues, and plan to introduce legislation in the near future.”

While Berkley praised President Obama for ending the federal travel blacklist, she did not bring up his controversial remarks made in 2009 when he told companies receiving federal bailout money that they should not “take a trip to Las Vegas” on the taxpayer’s dime.

Then-Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, among others, criticized Obama’s remarks, saying they helped stall the state’s economic recovery.

Obama later compounded the controversy when he remarked that responsible people don’t “blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.”

Nevada is one of several “battleground” states where the 2012 presidential election is expected to be played out in November.

Several congressional committees have held hearings into the GSA conference, which resulted in the resignation of GSA chief Martha Johnson after she dismissed two deputies and suspended other career employees over the incident.

The $823,000 conference was held at the M Resort and Casino, and included a clown and a mind reader. It was the subject of a critical report by the GSA Office of Inspector General.

 

State Lawmakers Call For Review Of 20-Year Solar Contract

By Sean Whaley | 5:01 pm April 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – State lawmakers today approved $46,284 from a legislative contingency fund to help the Nevada Office of the Military cover a budget shortfall due to high energy costs resulting from a solar project built at three of its sites around the state.

But lawmakers also asked for an attorney general review of the 20-year deal with Sierra Solar to see if the 15 cent per kilowatt hour charge for the electricity can be modified. The rate is now higher than what the agency could get buying power directly from NV Energy.

The contract was entered into in December of 2010, before Gov. Brian Sandoval began his term.

Photo by Fernando Tomás via Wikimedia Commons.

Jennifer McEntee, administrative services officer for the agency, said the energy costs to the state are higher at the three sites because the facilities receive more state general fund support than other facilities operated by the agency. The budget shortfall is the result of this higher state share of the energy costs, she said.

State Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp told lawmakers, meeting as the Interim Finance Committee, that future solar projects will not go forward without a guarantee that they will be at least cost neutral to the state.

“I do think that there is still some really good opportunities for solar, however it really has to be dialed in in order for it to pencil out,” he said.

Keys to successful projects are obtaining both federal tax credits and rebates from NV Energy, Mohlenkamp said.

Lt. Col. Rick Blower said when the contract was approved, electricity rates were expected to rise. Rates have come down instead, however. But it is yet to be determined if the 20-year contract is a bad deal for the state, he said.

Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, asked if there is an opportunity to renegotiate the contract.

Mohlenkamp said any such effort would be difficult, given the investment by the company in the equipment at the three facilities.

Horsford asked that the attorney general’s office review the agreement anyway.

“It’s not that the technology or the approach on renewables is the problem, it’s the fact that someone negotiated a bad deal on behalf of this department,” he said. “We can’t pay for something at a higher rate per kilowatt hour than what we can get in the market from other competing resources.”

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Audio clips:

State Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp says the state will be careful moving forward with solar projects to ensure they are at least cost neutral:

042412Mohlenkamp1 :10 normal commercial terms.”

Mohlenkamp says some solar projects are expected to be worth pursuing:

042412Mohlenkamp2 :08 to pencil out.”

Sen. Steven Horsford says the issue is someone negotiated a bad deal:

042412Horsford1 :25 of this department.”

Horsford says an attorney general review of the contract is needed:

042412Horsford2 :09 other competing resources.”

 

 

GOP Assembly Candidate Criticizes Democrat Incumbent For Napa Valley Fundraiser

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:29 pm April 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Republican Assembly District 37 candidate Wes Duncan today called on his Democratic opponent, Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, to cancel a pharmaceutical fundraiser in Napa, California set for Wednesday.

“With Nevada businesses struggling, I cannot believe that Assemblyman Conklin would hold a fundraiser in Napa, California,” Duncan said. “Assemblyman Conklin talks about promoting business in Nevada, but when it comes to his own campaign, he is happy to send his money out of state when most Nevadans are facing difficult times.”

Napa Valley. / By Aaron Logan, from http://www.lightmatter.net/gallery/albums.php {{cc-by}} via Wikimedia Commons.

Duncan said the state’s elected representatives should be focused on bringing business back to Nevada, including large political fundraisers that would give business to Nevada restaurants and resorts, purchase Nevada products and employ Nevada workers.

“This campaign definitely won’t be holding fundraisers in California that don’t help Nevada businesses,” he said.

The Conklin campaign has not yet responded to a request for comment on Duncan’s criticisms.

Duncan and Conklin are the only two candidates in the race for District 37, located in Clark County.

Conklin is not the first Nevada Assembly Democrat to be criticized for an out-of-state fundraiser.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, a candidate for the 3rd Congressional District in Las Vegas now held by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., also came in for some criticism for holding lavish fundraisers, including a wine tasting event in Napa, in his 2009-10 Assembly re-election bid.

Oceguera defended the events, saying campaigns are more competitive and require more innovation.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller Calls On Congress To Continue Defunding Of Yucca Mountain

By Sean Whaley | 1:43 pm April 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., today sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of both the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations asking them to continue defunding the proposed high level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

Heller’s letter comes just days after some House Republicans indicated they want to allocate $25 million to revive the Yucca Mountain project.

Yucca Mountain tunnel. / Photo by Daniel Mayer via Wikimedia Commons.

Both the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations are currently preparing their Fiscal Year 2013 Energy, Water, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

“As you prepare your Fiscal Year 2013 Energy, Water, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, I am writing to request that you honor the wishes of the state of Nevada, continue to defund the proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, and prioritize funding that seeks alternatives to Yucca Mountain for the long-term storage of our nation’s nuclear waste,” Heller said in his letter.

Heller, who is facing a challenge in his Senate election bid from Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said he has consistently opposed making Nevada the nation’s nuclear waste dump. Berkley has long opposed the dump as well.

“While we need to responsibly develop all of our nation’s energy resources, including nuclear energy, the irresponsible history of Yucca Mountain undermines the integrity of the project,” Heller said in his letter. “Nevadans have a right to be safe in their own backyards, and given the historically politicized nature of this project, I don’t trust the federal government to appropriately manage Yucca Mountain.”

The move by some House Republicans to restart funding for Yucca Mountain reflects concerns expressed by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., who came in for some criticism for suggesting on his House website earlier this year that Yucca Mountain was not dead because it comes up for discussion in the House on a regular basis.

“While I understand it’s great politics for some of my predecessors to say it’s dead, and all that other sort of stuff, and more power to them, you can’t sit here and listen to those guys talk on the floor every week and walk back and tell Nevadans that you think it’s dead too, OK?” he said in February.

A statement on Amodei’s congressional website says in part: “Let me be clear, I do not believe Yucca Mountain should become a simple dumping site for the nation’s nuclear waste. I believe the Administration and Department of Energy (DOE) should keep funding for the project, while Congress works with the DOE to make the location a bastion of nuclear research and reprocessing.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval also sent a letter to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu in March making it clear that he does not support any type of nuclear waste disposal or interim storage at Yucca Mountain. Sandoval’s letter was in response to the Nye County Commission expressing its support for a Yucca Mountain repository.

The project has been declared dead by some elected officials after President Obama zeroed out funding for it in 2010. U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has also worked successfully to defund the project.

A special bipartisan commission is now calling for a new, “consent oriented” approach to find a suitable location for the disposal of the nation’s high-level nuclear waste.

Report Says Nevada Tax System Ranks Highly For Entrepreneurship and Small Business

By Sean Whaley | 11:29 am April 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A new business index evaluating the states on the effects of their tax systems on entrepreneurship and small business ranks Nevada 3rd behind South Dakota and Texas.

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council’s “Business Tax Index 2012” pulls together 18 different tax measures, and combines them into one tax score that allows the 50 states and District of Columbia to be compared and ranked.

Raymond J. Keating, chief economist for the SBE Council and author of the report, said: “All taxes matter, whether imposed at the federal, state or local level of government. They matter to consumers, entrepreneurs, investors and businesses. State and local levies matter in terms of a state’s competitiveness. And they matter when it comes to economic growth and job creation.”

Business Tax Index 2012: State Rankings

Rank State BTI
1 South Dakota 11.813
2 Texas 12.339
3 Nevada 12.614
4 Wyoming 17.360
5 Washington 17.890

Among the measures used to create the rankings are each state’s top personal income tax rate, top individual capital gains tax rate, top corporate income tax rate, property taxes, sales and excise taxes and unemployment taxes.

Nevada does not have either a personal or corporate income tax and was rated highly in these categories. The state did not do as well in the property tax ranking, coming in 33rd as a share of personal income, 47th on sales and excise taxes and 36th on unemployment taxes.

The report compares favorably with another analysis recently released by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The fifth edition of “Rich States, Poor States,” ranked Nevada 18th among states in its ability to compete and grow its economy.

Minnesota ranked last among states in the SBE Council analysis.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has made job creation a top priority of his administration. Earlier this year he announced a goal of creating 50,000 jobs in the state by the end of 2014.

The state recently released its economic development and diversification plan for the state.

Nevada leads the nation in unemployment, with a 12 percent rate reported in March. While the rate has fallen for seven consecutive months, recent improvements are due primarily to discouraged workers who have given up looking for work.

“As we’ve noted previously, it became quite apparent during the most recent recession that Nevada’s economic fortunes are very much tied to the U.S. economy,” said Bill Anderson, chief economist for the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), when the March report was released last week. “For the state’s modestly improving labor market to continue to strengthen, underlying fundamentals in the U.S. economy must be favorable.”

The SBE Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit small business advocacy and research organization dedicated to protecting small business and promoting entrepreneurship.

 

Gov. Brian Sandoval Announces Deal With Amazon To Collect Nevada Sales Tax On Web Purchases

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:05 pm April 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval announced today that the state has reached an agreement with on-line retailing giant Amazon to begin collecting Nevada sales tax on purchases.

The agreement also calls for the state and the Fortune 500 company to work together for immediate enactment of federal legislation that will address the needs of states, retailers and consumers by creating a simplified and equitable framework for sales tax collection.

Sandoval said he will continue to push Congress to act on legislation that will allow states to collect revenues that are already due.

“The only way to completely resolve this issue is for Congress to enact legislation that, within a simplified nationwide framework, grants states the right to require collection by all sellers,” Sandoval said. “We thank Amazon for creating jobs and investment in Nevada and are very grateful the company is working with us on a federal solution.”

Amazon subsidiaries employ thousands of Nevadans in the Reno and Las Vegas areas.

The agreement could mean as much as $16 million a year in sales tax collections to the state.

“Amazon appreciates Gov. Sandoval’s focus on Nevada jobs and his efforts to encourage congress to resolve the sales tax issue this year,” said Paul Misener, Amazon vice president of Global Public Policy. “We strongly support federal legislation permitting interstate sales tax collection because it is the only way to level the playing field for all sellers, the only way for Nevada to obtain all the sales tax revenue that is already owed, and the only way to fully protect states’ rights.”

According to the agreement between the Nevada Department of Taxation and Amazon, the company will voluntarily begin to collect and remit Nevada sales tax beginning January 1, 2014, or as of the effective date of federal legislation, whichever is earlier. Amazon will collect the sales and use tax in the same manner as traditional brick and mortar retailers, relieving Nevadans from having to self-report use taxes from these sales to the state.

News of the agreement was welcomed by the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN).

“The Retail Association of Nevada congratulates the governor on his leadership in bringing all businesses to the table and requiring them to play by the same rules,” said RAN President Mary Lau.

“We’re hopeful that this agreement serves as a commitment by Amazon to preserve Nevada jobs at its fulfillment center and that fellow internet retailers will follow suit,” she said. “Hard work still remains in leveling the playing field among all businesses both on main street and on-line and we look forward to working with Gov. Sandoval in support of Nevada’s businesses.”

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), is a Fortune 500 company based in Seattle that opened for business on the World Wide Web in July 1995.

 

Native American Tribes File Legal Challenge To Las Vegas Groundwater Pumping Plan

By Sean Whaley | 11:19 am April 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – A coalition of Native American tribes has filed a lawsuit in Nevada District Court seeking to overturn a ruling issued earlier this year by the state engineer granting nearly 84,000-acre-feet of groundwater in four rural eastern valleys to Las Vegas.

Members of the Confederate Tribes of the Goshute protest at the Las Vegas water hearings in Carson City in October. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation (CTGR), Ely Shoshone Tribe and Duckwater Shoshone Tribe filed the appeal on Friday in the White Pine County District Court in eastern Nevada.

The appeal follows a decision by Nevada State Engineer Jason King in March to allocate the groundwater in Delamar, Dry Lake, Cave and Spring Valleys to the Las Vegas Valley Water District as part of an ambitious $7 billion project to pipe the water south.

The water district had sought about 125,000-acre-feet of groundwater in its applications.

“I fear Mr. King’s decision will literally wipe out our tribe, so of course we are filing an appeal,” said Ed Naranjo, CTGR Tribal Chairman. “We are determined to fight this disastrous project so long as decision-makers keep it alive. We have no other choice.”

King found in his rulings that the water district had justified the need to import water from the valleys and that the agency has an acceptable water conservation plan.

In partially granting the Spring Valley water request, he said, “there is unappropriated water for export from Spring Valley, (and) there is no substantial evidence the proposed use will conflict with existing rights . . . ”

Along with the tribes, numerous individuals, groups and municipalities have also opposed the decision, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake, Millard, Juab, and Tooele Counties in Utah, the Great Basin Water Network, and several individual ranchers and farmers.

The water authority argued in hearings on the applications held last year that the plan to acquire unappropriated groundwater rights in rural Nevada to supplement Southern Nevada’s supply of Colorado River water is absolutely essential to the economic future of the region.

The authority said the water would not be tapped for many years if the applications were approved. Beyond the hearing process, construction of a 300-mile pipeline to bring the water to Southern Nevada will take 10 to 15 years. The pipeline project cost is estimated at $7 billion, a figure opponents said is well below what it will actually cost ratepayers.

The tribes argue they depend on the groundwater in Spring Valley for a number of reasons, such as native wildlife and plants, and sacred sites used for religious practice.

Madeline Greymountain, vice-chairwoman of the Goshute Tribal Council, said: “Our tribal leaders and elders have spent a tremendous amount of time and energy documenting the importance of our ancestral lands including Spring Valley. The area is vital to the cultural survival of our people.

“We pleaded before the Nevada State Engineer, we shed tears, we wanted our voices to be heard, but neither our survival as a people, nor our voices were considered in the final ruling,” she said. “Spring Valley is as important to our people today, as it was to our past, and will be to our future generations. So we will protect it in every way we can.”

The Goshute Tribe has been fighting the project for nine years. The tribe detailed its hunting and gathering areas and other cultural information in the form of a cultural map, which was presented to King during the hearings.

Governor Sandoval: No New Taxes

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 4:50 pm April 18th, 2012

LAS VEGAS — Gov. Brian Sandoval today told conservative business group Keystone Corporation that his decision to support a two-year extension of taxes that were scheduled to expire eliminates the need for any new taxes to balance the state budget.

The governor received a standing ovation from the large gathering of business and political leaders at the Silverton in Las Vegas when he said he will block any new business taxes.

Sandoval initially opposed extending a $620 million sunsetted tax package during last year’s legislative session, but an unexpected decision by the Nevada Supreme Court caused him to change his position.

Gov. Brian Sandoval / Nevada News Bureau file photo

Not all Republican legislators were happy with that change, but a majority of lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Legislature agreed and passed a $6.2 billion general fund budget plan that still reduced state government spending.

Sandoval said the state’s finances are in the best shape they’ve been in five years. He cited 10,000 new jobs, rising sales tax collections over the past two years and increased gaming revenues as examples.

Nevada lost 170,000 jobs in four years  and unemployment rose from 4.2 percent to 14 percent during the economic downturn.

The governor also said that Nevada still has the friendliest low-tax business climate in the country.

Sandoval hopes to create 50,000 new jobs by the end of 2014 under an economic development plan that creates regional development authorities and focuses on pursuing new business sectors.

The governor called his plan “prudent” and defended proposed tax abatements and other government-driven initiatives that conservative think tank Nevada Policy Research Institute has called “picking winners and losers.”