Posts Tagged ‘AFL-CIO’

Nevada Taxpayer’s Association Cites Concerns With Teachers’ Margin Tax Petition

By Sean Whaley | 3:31 pm June 18th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Taxpayer’s Association has identified several concerns with an initiative petition to impose a margin tax on Nevada businesses filed by the state teachers union, including the title.

The “Education Initiative” outlining how the 2 percent tax on companies making more than $1 million in gross revenues should more properly be called the “Margin Tax Initiative”, the association said in an email today. The $800 million a year in revenue estimated to be raised from the proposed tax is not directed specifically to public education, the NTA said.

The money would go to the state general fund instead.

But that is just the beginning of the litany of concerns identified by the NTA.

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

“Proponents claim the $1 million exemption protects small businesses,” the NTA said in its assessment of the proposal. “Not true. The calculation of total revenue pursuant to the provisions of the initiative will put the income of many small businesses over $1 million. Those small businesses will include many franchise operators with a single location, most independently owned gas stations, many medical clinics, ranches and farms and a host of other businesses. In reality it is only the tiny business that will not be captured.”

The concerns are coming forward just as a poll is showing support for the proposal by a nearly 2-to-1 margin among those voters queried. The results of the poll, conducted at the end of May, were reported today by Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston.

Carole Vilardo, president of the NTA, said the association will be reporting even more concerns as businesses begin to analyze the consequences of the tax should it become law. Its first briefing on the proposed tax was issued earlier this month.

The proposal sounds good to voters because it is a tax on business and not on their own pocketbooks, she said.

Tax proponents only want more revenue and they, “don’t care squat about how you get it,” Vilardo said. “They don’t care if it works or not.”

The taxation proposal is modeled on the Texas margin tax and relies also on Assembly Bill 582 of the 2011 session of the Nevada Legislature, which Vilardo said was never fully vetted by lawmakers.

Nevada businesses are already struggling, and face increased fees and future unemployment insurance tax hikes to repay the money borrowed from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits, she said.

The petition was filed with the Secretary of State’s office on June 6 by the Nevada State Education Association with the support of the Nevada State AFL-CIO.

If the groups can collect 72,352 signatures by Nov. 13 it will go to the 2013 Legislature for review. If the Legislature does not approve the proposal it will go to voters in 2014.

Lynn Warne, president of the NSEA, said when the petition was filed that the intent is to provide more funding for K-12 education.

“We believe that they (voters) are looking for a fair, broad-based tax but they are looking for funding for schools, for kids, to make sure Nevada moves off the bottom in per pupil expenditures,” she said.

The NTA also notes that the tax is not based on the ability to pay.

“As a result many small businesses will find their profits wiped out,” the assessment said. “For any businesses hurt by this economy and struggling to keep their doors open, this tax may prove to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The Texas margin tax also created increases in the cost of compliance for businesses, the NTA said.

“Nevada businesses will face these same increases in addition to paying the tax at a much higher rate,” the NTA said. “This tax is a full employment bill for accountants and tax attorneys.”

Warne said she fully expects a legal challenge to be filed opposing the petition in an effort to derail the signature collection effort.


Audio clips:

NTA President Carole Vilardo says the tax proposal appeals to voters because it does not affect them directly:

061812Vilardo1 :33 works or not.”

Vilardo says Nevada businesses are already facing multiple challenges:

061812Vilardo2 :31 for employment security.”


Proposal Seeking A Texas-Style Business Margins Tax To Support Public Education To Be Filed Wednesday

By Sean Whaley | 1:19 pm June 5th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A proposal seeking to implement a Texas-style business margins tax in Nevada to support public education will be filed with the Secretary of State’s office on Wednesday.

Supported by the state teachers union and the AFL-CIO, if the groups can collect 72,352 signatures by November 13, the issue of taxes will be dumped squarely in the laps of state lawmakers in 2013.

Graphic from Free Software Foundation via Wikimedia Commons.

News that the groups were finally ready to file the initiative petition was first tweeted by Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston.

“Basically it is a 2 percent tax on a business entity’s taxable margin for that year,” said Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association.

The threshold for paying the tax is a business making more than $1 million in gross revenue. This threshold is expected to protect small businesses from having to pay the tax, she said.

The proposed tax is expected to bring in about $800 million a year, Warne said.

If enough signatures are collected from Nevada registered voters by the deadline, the 2013 Legislature would have 40 days to approve the proposal or it would go to the voters in 2014. Lawmakers could also offer a competing tax proposal to appear on the ballot, but a two-thirds vote would be required to move any competing tax measure forward in the Legislature.

Warne said she does not foresee any difficulty in gathering the necessary signatures.

“We’re confident that we will not only collect the necessary signatures, which is 73,000, but we will collect significantly more than that and have those ready to be filed with the state by the beginning of November,” she said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval today reiterated his opposition to such a tax proposal. Sandoval earlier this year said he will extend a collection of taxes set to expire on June 30, 2013, into the new budget to ensure there are no further cuts to education.

Supporters of the margins tax say that move doesn’t go far enough, however.

“That’s fine; it’s not adequate though for funding schools and other essential services in the state,” Warne said. “You’ve seen the tremendous battles that have gone on in school districts with regards to funding and how to make ends meet. We just can’t continue to cut funds to education and expect the quality to improve.”

The proposal will provide consistent and predictable funds for education, eliminating the need for layoffs or program cuts, she said.

The association would also work to eliminating the current payroll-based business tax, called the Modified Business Tax, Warne said. But there would need to be a transition period so as not to create a hole in the budget, she said.

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, said in a statement that a margins tax would be a “disaster” for Nevadans.

“Despite misleading rhetoric from the Left disparaging ‘corporate greed,’ all taxes are ultimately paid by individuals and families,” he said. “A business margin tax will only further squeeze struggling private firms, dampening their ability to hire and suppressing growth in wages. The pain will be felt by families across Nevada.”

Lawrence said economists from across the political spectrum consider a margins tax to be one of the most economically destructive tax instruments available.

“With Nevada’s adult unemployment at 12 percent and youth unemployment rate at 28.8 percent, a margins tax is a recipe for prolonged economic depression in the Silver State,” he said.


Audio clips:

Lynn Warne says there will be no difficulty in collecting the needed signatures:

060512Warne111 :16 beginning of November.”

Warne says Gov. Sandoval’s plan to extend a package of sunsetting taxes into the next budget is inadequate:

060512Warne22 :20 quality to improve.”

Carson City Judge Rejects Gaming Tax Petition, Supporters Say They Will File New Version

By Sean Whaley | 4:06 pm April 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A Carson City District judge today rejected an initiative petition proposing to create a new and higher rate of taxation for Nevada’s largest casinos, finding that the 200 word description of effect of the measure was misleading.

In rejecting the petition, Judge James Todd Russell said he did not believe he had the authority to rewrite the description himself.

Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller, who attended the hearing on his proposed gaming tax hike, said he will file a new proposal with the Secretary of State’s office reflecting Russell’s concerns and begin the signature gathering effort all over again.

The proposed petition was challenged by the Nevada Resort Association, which cited several concerns with the measure, including the use of the term “unrestricted” instead of  “nonrestricted” to identify the affected gaming properties, and the use of the term “gross revenue” instead of “gross gaming revenue.”

Miller, through a group called Nevadans for a Fair 9% Gambling Revenue Tax (NF9GRT), filed the initiative petition in February. It would set a new tax rate of 9 percent on net casino gambling revenue above $250,000 per calendar month.

Under current law, net casino gambling revenue in excess of $134,000 per calendar month is taxed at a 6.75 percent rate.

Las Vegas attorney Maggie McLetchie, representing Miller’s group, argued that Russell could rewrite the description of effect for the proposed petition, thus allowing the signature gathering process to begin again without the potential for a new legal challenge.

Attorney Maggie McLetchie and Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller talk with the press after a court ruling against their gaming tax petition. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

But Carson City attorney Matt Griffin, representing the resort association, said Russell did not have the authority to rewrite the proposal, which would in effect take away the association’s due process rights.

The description is flawed and the only solution is to reject the petition and require a new one to be filed, he said.

After the hearing, McLetchie said the NRA is using the legal process to stall the petition effort.

“They are obviously trying to exploit a process that is in place to ensure that voters are informed about the effects of a law to try to drag this out for as long as possible,” she said. “And I think it is unfortunate and I think it is antithetical to the very nature of the initiative process.”

McLetchie said judges have in the past rewritten descriptions of effect on other initiative petitions.

“The interest of the NRA is in trying to delay this process for as long as possible,” she said. “Our interest is trying to get this into the hands of the voters.”

The group has until Nov. 13 to collect 72,352 valid signatures from Nevada voters to send the proposal to the Nevada Legislature in 2013. If the Legislature does not enact the proposal within 40 days, it would go to voters in 2014 and take effect in 2015 if approved. The Legislature could also opt to put a competing proposal on the ballot for voters to consider.

The Legislature would have to get a two-thirds vote to approve the tax hike on casinos instead of sending it to the voters. But Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes said a competing tax proposal dealing with the same subject could be placed on the 2014 ballot by a simple majority vote of the Legislature because voters would have the final say.

If both measures received more than 50 percent of the vote, the one receiving the largest number of votes would take effect.

Miller said he is pursing the gaming tax option in the face of a possible business profits tax appearing on the ballot in 2014 as well. The gaming tax, and another petition that could lead to an increase in the mining tax, would be on the ballot as alternatives to a business tax, he said.

Miller said the proposed business profits tax is a bad idea.

State AFL-CIO leader Danny Thompson said earlier this month his labor group is moving forward with a broad-based business profits tax ballot measure to raise money for education. It would assess a 2 percent tax on net profits in excess of $500,000.


Audio clips:

Las Vegas attorney Maggie McLetchie says the NRA is trying to stall the petition:

041112McLetchie1 :09 long as possible.”

McLetchie says the group just wants to get the proposal to the voters:

041112McLetchie2 :07 of the voters.”



State Labor Group Moving Forward With Business Profits Tax Ballot Measure

By Sean Whaley | 2:46 pm April 3rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – State AFL-CIO leader Danny Thompson said today his labor group is moving forward with a broad-based business profits tax ballot measure to raise money for education.

Thompson, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said the proposal will go forward as a petition to amend state law, which would first be considered by the Legislature in 2013. If the Legislature did not approve the measure within 40 days, it would go to the voters in 2014.

Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO.

Thompson said the tax, which would be assessed on net business profits in excess of $500,000 at a rate of 2 percent, has been projected by some analysts to bring in about $1 billion a year to the state general fund. The money would go to fund public and higher education.

Supporters of the proposal would have until November 13 to gather 72,352 signatures from registered voters, which Thompson said is more than enough time to ensure they would be successful. The measure has not yet been filed with the Secretary of State’s office because a final legal review is still under way, he said.

In a subsequent telephone interview, Thompson said there is no question that the proposal will be challenged in court so it is important to make sure it can withstand such a review.

“We qualified the minimum wage initiative in a period of a couple of months,” Thompson said. “And so we just want to make sure everything is correct. Because you still have to get over a court challenge, which inevitably we know will be coming.”

Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, said too many of Nevada’s students are failing in large part because of inadequate funding. A better educated workforce is needed to diversify the state’s economy as well, he said.

In anticipation of such a tax proposal, Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller has filed two ballot measures, one seeking to give the Legislature the authority to raise the mining tax, and a second that would increase the gaming tax on the state’s largest casinos.

He has called Thompson’s proposal, based on a Texas margin tax, “a destructive, terribly complex tax.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval has said he opposes the various ballot measures, arguing tax discussions belong at the Legislature. Partly in response to the different proposed ballot measures, Sandoval last month said he would extend a collection of taxes set to expire on June 30, 2013, into the next two-year budget to avoid any further cuts to public education.

Thompson said he has had no discussions with Miller about his business profits tax proposal, adding that Nevada has relied for far too long on gaming and mining to fund the state budget and public education.

Nevada will be the last state to recover from the recession because the state depends on discretionary income spent on the state’s gaming industry, Thompson said.

“I don’t know what it’s going to look like if we continue down the road we are going,” he said.


Audio clips:

Danny Thompson says qualifying the ballot measure won’t be difficult:

040312Thompson1 :15 will be coming.”

Thompson says Nevada now taxes only gaming and mining:

040312Thompson2 :08 don’t pay taxes.”

Thompson says Nevada’s will recover last because of its tax structure:

040312Thompson3 :17 who recover last.”

Thompson says the tax structure needs to change:

040312Thompson4 :14 where we’re at.”



Gaming Tax Hike Sought As Alternative To Possible Margin Tax Ballot Measure

By Sean Whaley | 1:25 pm February 8th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller said today he is seeking a hike in the gaming tax for the state’s largest casinos to offer the Legislature and voters one more revenue option in the face of a possible Texas-style margin tax that could appear on the ballot.

Even at the proposed 9 percent rate on net casino gambling revenue above $250,000 per calendar month, Nevada would have the lowest effective tax rate in the world, he said in a telephone interview today.

Slot machine / Photo by Jeff Kubina @ Wikimedia Commons

Under current law, net casino gambling revenue in excess of $134,000 per calendar month is taxed at a 6.75 percent rate.

Miller, through a group called Nevadans for a Fair 9% Gambling Revenue Tax (NF9GRT) on Tuesday filed a statutory initiative petition with the Nevada Secretary of State that would create the new, higher rate.

The proposal, along with another to provide for a possible increase in the mining tax filed last week, are meant to providing voters and policy-makers with options in light of an anticipated ballot proposal from Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, to create a 2 percent margin tax based on the Texas model to provide increased funding for public education. Thompson could not be reached for comment on the status of his expected tax proposal.

Thompson and the other groups expected to support the margin tax ballot measure have not yet filed an initiative petition with the Secretary of State’s office, but Miller said there is plenty of time to do so.

If you look at Texas, and what they’re going through with the Texas margins tax, which is the template for what Mr. Thompson is doing, it’s a destructive, terribly complex tax,” he said. “And you couldn’t have a worse income tax in your state. And so we think the people of Nevada need an alternative.

Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller.

“This would be the first income tax in the state of  Nevada,” Miller said. “We’ve got to give people a choice.”

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, wrote an article this week calling the tax unfair to small business and an “abject failure,” in Texas.

Miller said a 9 percent rate is a fair tax rate for the biggest casino operations. The number that surprised him comes from Indiana, where that state collected nearly $875 million in taxes from 11 casinos in 2010. Nevada collected $835 million in 2010, he said.

Indiana’s tax rates go from 15 percent to 40 percent.

“We’re not asking for 15 percent, we’re saying 9 percent, (it) still would be the lowest in the world, the lowest effective tax rate in the world,” he said.

“This initiative represents a 33 percent tax increase on the gaming industry, which would be reckless and irresponsible,” Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, said in an email to the Associated Press. “We are currently reviewing the language. If this effort is indeed legitimate, we will oppose it vigorously.”

Miller said the proposal is not a tax on all casino revenue.

“If our initiative becomes law, it will not increase taxes on room rates, shows, shopping or restaurants in casinos,” he said. “Nor would it increase taxes on small casinos, taverns or convenience stores.

“Nevada’s individuals and small businesses are overtaxed,” Miller said. “By fairly taxing the billions of dollars that big casinos win from high-rolling gamblers, we can lower taxes and fees on individuals and small businesses who are struggling during these tough economic times.”

The group will have to collect 72,352 valid signatures from Nevada voters by Nov. 13 to send the proposal to the Nevada Legislature in 2013. If the Legislature did not enact the proposal, it would go to voters in 2014 and take effect in 2015 if approved. The Legislature could also opt to put a competing proposal on the ballot for voters to consider.


Audio clips:

Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller says a Texas-style margins tax would be destructive in Nevada:

020812Miller1 :26 in your state.”

Miller says even at 9 percent, the top gaming tax rate would be the lowest in the world:

020812Miller2 :10 in the world.”

Nevada Labor Union Seriously Considering Ballot Initiative To Put Tax Increase For Education To Voters

By Sean Whaley | 4:19 pm November 16th, 2011

(Updated to reflect the different requirements to place a measure on the Nevada ballot.)


CARSON CITY – A Nevada labor union leader said today his organization is “looking seriously” at launching a ballot initiative to put a tax hike to increase funding for education to the voters, possibly as early as the 2012 general election.

Graphic from Free Software Foundation via Wikimedia Commons.

“We are looking seriously at this process because the legislative process is an impossible one,” said Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO. “With the two-thirds requirement in the constitution, what in effect that does – it has the minority control the majority wishes. You cannot solve the problem at the Legislature alone without some help from the people.”

Nevada has a two-thirds vote requirement in the Legislature to raise taxes or fees.

Thompson said Nevada needs more tax revenue to properly fund education, which in turn would help in the diversification of the state economy and lead to the creation of jobs.

In an interview with Jim Rogers today on KRNV Channel 4 in Reno on the “Inside Nevada” segment of the noon news, Thompson cited a September poll by the Retail Association of Nevada showing public support for raising taxes if the money is spent on education.

“And I think the solution is, do it by the people, that way the Legislature doesn’t have as much wiggle room, and put the money toward education,” he said.

Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO.

The survey of Nevada voters by the Retail Association of Nevada actually showed that 57 percent would prefer to raise taxes rather than see further cuts in spending to education and health care. Sixty-four percent also said higher taxes would lead to job losses, however.

Other polls conducted in Nevada over the years have often shown voter support for specific types of tax increases, such as those imposed on gaming or on alcohol and cigarettes. Voters have typically not favored increases in the sales tax or property tax.

Asked to comment on a potential tax ballot initiative, Nevada state Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said the issue properly belongs in the Legislature.

“I don’t think there are very many people in the state that believe that tax policy should be through ballot initiative,” he said. “We can talk about it now, we should be talking about it now, between now and next February (2013). But it is the job of the Legislature to make those decisions.”

The Nevada Legislature will convene again in 2013.

Ballot measures are not always well thought out and often cause more problems than they solve, Roberson said.

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas.

“We all want to have more revenue and more funding for education,” he said. “Education and job creation are the two biggest issues facing the state. This state is certainly at a crossroads. We have got to reform education but we all know we need to fund education better.”

Roberson said he and his Senate Republican colleagues would be happy to sit down with Thompson, as well as with legislative Democrats, to discuss and work toward an acceptable solution regarding tax policy and tax reform.

“But I don’t think a ballot initiative to raise taxes is the answer,” he said.

Rogers, the owner of KRNV and several other television stations in the West, said during the interview he would support such an initiative as well.

In a telephone interview with the Nevada News Bureau, Thompson said details of a proposed voter initiative have not been finalized. A petition could take the form either of an amendment to the state constitution or a less restrictive change to state law to increase taxes, he said. No decision has been on which taxes would be proposed for hikes, Thompson said.

He acknowledged that getting a measure qualified for the ballot is difficult given the likely legal challenges and the signature collection effort itself.

A voter initiative to amend the state constitution would need 72,352 valid signatures collected by June 19, 2012 to have it placed on the November 2012 general election ballot. It would have to be approved by voters twice, in 2012 and 2014, to take effect.

Changing state law would require the same number of signatures to be collected by Nov. 13, 2012. The initiative petition would go to the Legislature in 2013. If lawmakers did not enact the proposal, it would go to the voters in 2014.

The AFL-CIO has had success in getting measures on the ballot before, including a constitutional amendment raising Nevada’s minimum wage.

“People are fed up,” Thompson said. “We have the lowest spending on education in the nation and we have the highest unemployment with no solution to these problems in sight, and we have a total dependency on a single industry for paying our bills.”


Audio clips:

AFL-CIO chief Danny Thompson says the union is seriously considering putting a tax hike before the voters:

111611Thompson1 :25 from the people.”

Thompson says Nevada needs to spend more on education to help diversify the economy:

111611Thompson2 :19 paying our bills.”

Nevada state Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, says it is the job of the Legislature to set tax policy:

111611Roberson1 :31 make those decisions.”

Roberson says it is clear to everyone that education needs more funding:

11611Roberson2 : 20 fund education better.”



Legislature Votes To Cut Pay To State And University Workers

By Andrew Doughman | 3:54 pm May 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Legislators on money committees today approved on a party-line vote a 4.8 percent salary cut to state and higher education employees.

The proposal would include a 2.3 percent cut through furloughs – about six days per year – and a 2.5 percent salary reduction.

Gov. Brian Sandoval had proposed in his budget a 5 percent salary cut to state and higher education workers.

Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, advanced the 4.8 percent “compromise” cut. Legislative staff said it would create a shortfall between $7.5 and $10 million in the governor’s budget.

The vote passed with all Democrats voting for the idea and all Republicans voting against it. In an earlier vote, Republicans voted to follow the governor’s recommendation while Democrats voted against it.

Republicans characterized the salary reductions and cuts to benefits as similar to reductions in the private sector.

“What we are seeing here is a continuation of that downsizing,” said Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno.

Democrats contended that government does not operate like private businesses; rather than seeing less business during a recession, more people depend on state services in a recession.

“If we are going to apply true business principles to government, we should be hiring right now … our demand is way up,” said Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas.

Union representatives and higher education faculty testified against the cuts, saying that they much preferred furloughs to salary cuts.

Danny Thompson of the AFL-CIO also said that reductions in the governor’s budget have provoked a grassroots movement that could punish Republicans during next year’s elections.

“I would caution you that if you don’t solve this problem, that organic uprising that has already happened is going to spread and the people are going to solve this problem,” Thompson said.

Legislators also voted to continue suspending merit and longevity pay as well as eliminating holiday premium pay for higher education and state workers. Legislative staff said that these decisions should save the state $71.5 million.

Yesterday, legislators voted to curtail health care benefits for public sector employees.

Public sector employee union representatives said they have already endured these reductions in pay and benefits for several years as Nevada has struggled through the recession.

“It is so totally unfair what we are doing to our state government,” said Jan Gilbert of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

The governor has earlier argued that furlough days resulted in less productivity from employees, causing longer lines at places such as the DMV.

None of the votes are binding, and the Legislature may decide to alter the proposals as they finalize the budget.

Legislative committees last week voted not to reduce pay for school district employees nor did they choose to suspend merit pay for school district employees.

Those decisions could cost the state $402 million during the next two years.

Democrats last week proposed a revenue package totaling about $1.2 billion comprising a continuation of taxes approved by the 2009 Legislature and scheduled to end this year as well as a tax on businesses’ gross revenue and a sales tax on some services.

If passed, these tax increases could pay for that $402 million cost.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, also noted a potential budget consequence in cutting salaries. He said that the sustained compensation cuts could lead some state workers to favor retirement over working for less.

Dana Bilyeu of the Public Employees’ Retirement System estimated that 2,000 current state employees are eligible to collect full retirement benefits.

Should they choose to retire, the state would have an unfunded obligation to cash out those retiring employees for accrued sick leave, she said.

Bilyeu and others in the committee room could not estimate a cost, but she said about 1,000 more teachers than usual retired due to changes in benefits following the 2007 legislative session, causing the state to lose millions of dollars.




Tow Truck Bill Focus Of “Huge Lobbying Effort”

By Andrew Doughman | 7:56 am May 5th, 2011

CARSON CITY – It has been called the most lobbied bill during the legislative session, and it is has nothing to do with taxes.

All the fuss is about changes to the tow truck and auto salvage industry.

In one corner are a wealthy business owner who often contributes to political campaigns, the auto insurance industry, the AFL-CIO and a former Speaker of the Assembly whose clients include  a now-indicted poker company.

In the other corner are tow truck companies, salvage yards, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and a group called the Nevada Tow Car Council.

Somewhere in the middle are two groups: citizen members of the Nevada Assembly, some of whom professed to know little of about the auto industry during a hearing yesterday, and average Nevadans who pay auto insurance and may someday have a vehicle towed.

At stake are potentially lucrative, monopolistic deals for business groups.

Senate Bill 407 would change how tow companies treat vehicles that end up in accidents in Clark County. Tow companies currently take those vehicles to their lots, where people can find their vehicles later.

A proposed amendment to the bill would allow insurance companies to contract with an independent storage lot. If you got in a wreck, your vehicle would go to the insurance company’s lot, where you could retrieve it later.

“I don’t know where all the money is coming from on that bill, but there is a huge lobbying effort on that,” said Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, who heard the bill in a Senate Transportation Committee last month. “There were so many good people on both sides of it that both made good points.”

Dueling Lobbyists Argue Bill Could Create Or Destroy Monopoly

The main proponent of the bill is Bobby Ellis, a businessman who often contributes to political campaigns and owns SNAP towing.

Richard Perkins, a former Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, is lobbying the bill on behalf of Ellis.

Former Speaker Richard Perkins (center), meets with lobbyists and Bobby Ellis, a Henderson businessman, after a legislative hearing. Perkins says Senate Bill 407 does not favor Ellis. "It just gives a level playing field so everyone can compete," he said. /PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

He said that just two tow companies get all the business for vehicles involved in accidents. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police authorize Ewing Brothers and Quality Towing to tow cars from accident scenes.

“A monopoly is what they have now,” he said, noting complaints of price gouging and abuse.

Those two companies can charge fees ratified by the Nevada Transportation Authority.

The bill would allow insurance companies to contract with companies offering lower fees, Perkins said.

“This really opens it up for people instead of protecting the current monopoly,” he said. “You shouldn’t be a victim of an accident and of a tow company. … If they weren’t raping the public we wouldn’t be here in the first place.”

Opponents to the bill note that Ellis is a consultant for Insurance Auto Auctions, which bought his salvage yard several years ago. They say this gives him an in with insurance companies and a reason to contract with Ellis.

Towing company representatives like Paul Enos say that the bill will create a monopoly for Ellis.

Ellis contended that this is not true.

“A lot of people say this is a special interest bill, but I may not even get a contract out of it,” he said.

Opponents to the bill said it has little to do with auto insurance consumers and people who get in accidents. They say that the bill ultimately benefits Ellis and the insurance industry.

“They will absorb the savings, it will never get to the consumer,” said Jason Kent of Quality Towing. “This bill would make us give up the most profitable part of our business.”

Most tow truck companies earn a hefty chunk of their revenue from storing vehicles, said Dennis Milk of Tow Guys towing company.

Some vehicles then move along to salvage yards or auto auction companies, two of which testified against the bill.

Sam McMullen, a lobbyist representing Copart Auto Auctions told a legislative committee “that kind of relationship” between Ellis and Insurance Auto Auctions gave his client concern about the bill.

Sam McMullen, lobbyist for Copart Auto Auctions meets with lobbyists for tow truck companies and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department prior to a legislative hearing. McMullen said Ellis' business relationships "cause concern" for this client. /PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

Michael Geeser, lobbyist for AAA, said that cost savings may not necessarily pass along to consumers.

“At least it gives us one more choice and a chance to perhaps bring prices down,” he told a legislative committee.

AFL-CIO representative Danny Thompson said the bill would help average Nevadans.

Representatives from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said they did not want to become “agents” for insurance companies in directing vehicles to the storage lots insurance companies designate.

Both proponents and opponents agreed on a portion of the bill that mandates the Nevada Transportation Authority to develop a standard set of fees for the tow truck and storage lot industry, which should help Nevadans.

Choice Of Committee Stirs Controversy

Further complicating the matter is the committee to which the bill was sent.

Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D- North Las Vegas, is the chairman of the Commerce and Labor committee that heard the bill yesteraday.

Opponents of the bill noted Atkinson is also the recipient of a trip to London paid for by Perkins on behalf of his client, Pokerstars, a company which is now under federal investigation.

Perkins called those implications a “cheap shot” and a “smear campaign.”

Henderson businessman Bobby Ellis was at the Nevada Legislature to support Senate Bill 407. He said the bill is about consumers. "All their (towing industry) gravy and all these charges will go away and it'll help the consumer,

Opponents of the bill pointed at the thousands of dollars Ellis contributed to members of the Commerce and Labor committee.

But groups such as the Nevada Motor Transport Association, which represents tow truck companies and others, also made donations to members of that committee.

If anything, the allegations proved there is money in the fight, and there are a gaggle of lobbyists on both sides who will hope to turn the ear of a member of Nevada’s Assembly before the bill returns for a vote.

The committee has yet to take action on the bill.





Collective Bargaining Bill Dies In Committee

By Andrew Doughman | 7:23 pm April 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Senate Operations Committee Chairman David Parks has put the brakes on a collective bargaining bill that the sponsor said could save $2.3 billion for the state.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, who sponsored Senate Bill 343, said it would save local governments as much as $2.3 billion by amending the state’s collective bargaining law and ratcheting wages down to national averages.

Parks called a hearing on the bill earlier this week, but he said today that the testimony was so negative that he did not believe the bill would have the votes to pass.

“It came down to the overwhelming testimony we received in opposition,” Parks said. “My determination was that there wasn’t strong enough support for it to get a vote.”

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the City of Reno testified in support of the bill. Firefighters and police unions, joined by the AFL-CIO, testified against it.

The bill would eliminate a third-party, binding arbitration process in management and labor contract disputes and instead impose the local government’s contract offer for up to one year.

The Legislature faces a Friday deadline to vote bills out of committee. In a more symbolic move, Parks may have brought the bill for a vote only to vote it down. By not bringing it up, he let it die quietly.

“It troubles me that the discussion of real reform is not proceeding,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, who co-sponsored the bill.

He serves on the Legislative Operations committee that heard the bill. He would have voted for the bill as would have Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. The three Democrats on the committee would have been likely ‘no’ votes.

Public sector unions have traditionally been a strong ally to Democratic candidates, making a bill like Roberson’s potentially unpalatable to his colleagues across the aisle.

The hearing earlier this week had raised the ire of both the sponsor and the opposition.

Lobbyists for public sector unions called the bill “insulting,” and at the end of the hearing Cegavske asked people to apologize to each other for “derogatory comments.”

Roberson at one point during the testimony of the opposition interjected that supporters of the bill were given short shrift.

The Legislative Operations committee did hear another bill, Senate Bill 98, that would also make changes to collective bargaining by requiring mediation prior to arbitration and freeing a third-party arbitrator from having to choose one of the final offers presented. This bill, however, sparked little contention and both public sector unions and local governments endorsed it.

Roberson’s bill, however, appears dead with the caveat that it could be resurrected as an amendment onto a similar bill such as SB 98.

SB 98 was voted out of the Legislative Operations committee today.


Public Sector Unions And Local Governments Spar Over Collective Bargaining Bill

By Andrew Doughman | 8:28 pm April 12th, 2011

CARSON CITY – In the end, only acrimony prevailed.

Legislators did not immediately vote on a bill from Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, but a hearing on Senate Bill 343 provoked heated testimony over how local governments and public sector unions bargain their contracts.

Lobbyists for public sector unions called the bill “insulting,” and by the end of the hearing, Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, asked people to apologize to each other for “derogatory comments.”

The bill that caused all the fuss would do this: It would eliminate a third-party, binding arbitration process in management and labor contract disputes and instead impose the local government’s contract offer for up to one year.

Roberson said this would allow a system that would save taxpayers up to $2.3 billion as well as provide a clearer chain of accountability to local governments bargaining these contracts.

Despite national scenes like the Wisconsin protests over collective bargaining, the Roberson’s bill sparked the first debate about local government contracts have in the Nevada Legislature this year.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has not emphasized changes to the collective bargaining law.

Assembly Republicans have been more brazen in endorsing a stronger position for management in the bargaining debate. Such a bill could be a bargaining chip at the end of the legislative session, as Democrats try to convince a few key Republicans to vote for a tax increase to offset cuts in Sandoval’s proposed $5.8 billion budget.

Public sector unions have traditionally been a strong ally to Democratic candidates, making a bill like Roberson’s potentially unpalatable to his colleagues across the aisle.

Union groups opposed Roberson’s bill.

Danny Thompson, representing the AFL-CIO, raised his voice when testifying against the bill. He said union workers have taken pay cuts during this economic recession.

“The reality is this: to blame collective bargaining for the problems that local governments are having or that we are having is insulting to me, I have to tell you,” he said.

The Nevada Legislature established collective bargaining in Nevada during 1969. Since then, local governments and unions have bargained contracts through a process of fact finding and arbitration.

The two sides – labor and management – present evidence and a fact-finder issues a report. If both sides do not accept the report, they can turn to an arbiter to make a final decision of whose offer will take effect.

Lobbyists for police and fire fighters unions testified that most of the time the unions lose if arbitration is used, which they said was proof collective bargaining is not a broken system that cheats taxpayers out of money.

“If you were to implement this bill, you will not have collective bargaining anymore,” said Rusty McAllister, representing the Professional Firefighters of Nevada. “You will have collective begging.”

But Roberson said earlier that ending the final arbitration process and defaulting to the employer’s offer for one year would save local governments money.

Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said this might upset the balance between unions and management.

“Putting this subsection into the bill would cause a local government, an employer, to consider the fact that they have this to fall back on, hence bargaining in good faith might not be something they would do,” he said.

Roberson, after listening to prolonged testimony in opposition to his bill, interjected that Parks had not given supporters equal time to testify.

Parks tried to close the hearing, sparking a hushed conversation that ended with several other supporters of the bill testifying.

Cegavske had the final word when she decried “derogatory comments” that she said lobbyists had made during the hearing.

The Senate Legislative Operations and Elections committee that heard the bill took no immediate action on it.


Nevada Minimum Wage Repeal Proposal Gets Legislative Hearing

By Sean Whaley | 3:18 pm February 16th, 2011

CARSON CITY – State Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, told a Senate panel today the Legislature should move forward with repealing the state’s minimum wage law.

Hardy testified in support of his Senate Joint Resolution 2, which would have to pass this session and again in 2013, then go to a vote of the people in 2014, to repeal the state’s law that sets the minimum wage higher than the federal rate.

Hardy told the Senate Commerce, Labor and Energy Committee that the law, which has pushed the minimum wage in Nevada to $8.25 an hour for most workers as of July 1, 2010, has had a chilling effect on hiring and hampered the state’s economic recovery. The law, which is now part of the state constitution, requires a complex calculation, but essentially means Nevada workers earn $1 more an hour than the federal minimum wage rate.

The federal minimum wage is now $7.25 an hour.

Hardy said 36 states have a minimum wage set at the federal level. The other 14 have higher rates, including Nevada.

The Legislature needs to support repeal of the law to return the state to a level playing field with other states “for those who want to create jobs and foster economic growth in Nevada,” he said.

The Nevada State AFL-CIO worked to put the state’s minimum wage law on the ballot. It passed twice and because it is now in the state constitution, repealing or changing its provisions is a complex and time consuming process.

Speakers, including business representatives and union advocates, took predictable stances regarding the proposal.

Tray Abney with the Reno-Sparks chamber said the state’s minimum wage should not be on “autopilot,” rising without regard to economic conditions.

Sam McMullen, representing the Las Vegas chamber, said locking the law into the state constitution has made it impossible to change as economic conditions have changed.

But Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, said the ballot initiative was launched because the Legislature refused to consider proposals to increase the minimum wage.

Gail Tuzzolo, also with the Nevada State AFL-CIO, said Nevadans “should be talking about creating jobs and rebuilding the economy, not taking income away from individuals struggling to put food on their tables.”

The historical record shows that increasing the minimum wage has reduced the poverty level, she said. Economists have demonstrated that the statistical effect of the minimum wage on job losses is nearly nonexistent, Tuzzolo said.

The panel took no immediate action on the bill.

Nevada Business Leaders Say Legislation Pending In Congress Will Kill Jobs

By Sean Whaley | 6:45 pm September 2nd, 2010

RENO – Several Nevada business leaders took the opportunity of the upcoming Labor Day holiday to speak out today against federal legislation they say will kill jobs in Nevada at a time when the unemployed total more than 20 percent.

The Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs held a “reverse” job fair to convey concerns that if Congress passes the Employee Free Choice Act now pending in the Senate, the country could lose 600,000 jobs within a year of its passage.

Opponents of the measure, which has passed the House of Representatives, say it would eliminate an existing federal requirement that workers be allowed to vote in secret on any unionization proposal. It would also require disputes between unions and employers to be subjected to binding arbitration.

“With 200,000 people looking for work here in Nevada today, the notion of this legislation even being considered is just ridiculous,” said McKay Daniels, speaking on behalf of the alliance.

He said the measure should be called the Employee “Forced Choice” Act and will result in forced unionization of workers in Nevada and across the country.

A Nevada labor leader said in response that the legislation will not eliminate jobs, but would give workers the right to decide how to form a union.

Daniels was joined by Clara Andriola, president of the Nevada Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association, Randi Thompson, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and Tray Abney, director of government relations with the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce, in speaking out against the legislation and other potentially job-killing proposals now being considered in Washington and in Nevada.

Andriola said: “Forced unionization isn’t going to help turn our economy around. Adding burdens, expenses and red tape onto Nevada’s job producers is the fastest way to destroy jobs, not create them.”

McKay Daniels speaks for the Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs with a giant "pink slip".

Abney said the reason employers are not investing in jobs in Nevada is because of the high level of uncertainty about the potential for new taxes.

“There is a reason people aren’t investing in Nevada and that’s because of the words of our elected officials, both in Washington and in Carson City,” he said.

Bacon said Nevada employers are already facing the likelihood of big increases in unemployment tax rates next year.

“These increased costs by themselves could force many companies out of business or overseas,” he said. “To even talk about adding additional expenses or regulations onto struggling businesses during a time like this is just insanity.”

But Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, said the act will not eliminate jobs. It would give workers some rights, he said.

“All it does is give the employees the right to chose how they want to form a union,” Thompson said. “The system right now that we have in place with the National Labor Relations Act does not work. It is fraught with delay.”

The act does not eliminate the secret ballot, but would allow employees to use alternatives such as sign-up cards if that is their preference, he said.

U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., opposes the legislation while Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., supports the measure.

In a statement Ensign said: “The right for workers to vote by secret ballot in union elections is a fundamental part of our democratic tradition. The big union push for card check not only leaves employees open to union intimidation but also harms the ability of American businesses to create jobs. The unfortunate reality behind card check is that it actually has little to do with protecting workers. Instead, this disastrous policy would only lead to more job losses and greater burdens on small businesses and would do little to help jump start Nevada’s struggling economy.”


Audio clips:

McKay Daniels representing the Alliance to Protect Nevada Jobs says pending federal legislation regarding unionization efforts will kill jobs:

090210Daniels :22 is just ridiculous.”

Tray Abney of the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce says uncertainty over taxes stifling job growth:

090210Abney :18 and Carson City.”

Union leader Danny Thompson says the Employee Free Choice Act will not eliminate jobs:

090210Thompson :11 form a union.”

National Group Says Nevada Minimum Wage Hike Hurts Teen Hiring, Union Official Disagrees

By Sean Whaley | 4:25 pm June 29th, 2010

CARSON CITY – It may be welcome news for those who have entry level jobs, but a more than 9 percent hike in the minimum wage to take effect Thursday in Nevada will have a chilling effect on hiring, particularly for teens, according to one national group.

A Nevada union official disagrees, saying the minimum wage hike isn’t to blame for the state’s record jobless rate or the high unemployment levels seen among teens in the workforce.

Nevada’s minimum wage will increase to $8.25 an hour on July 1, up from the current $7.55 an hour that took effect on July 1, 2009. For minimum wage workers who have access to qualified medical plans, the wage will be $1 less, or $7.25 an hour, up from $6.55 an hour.

The increase comes as state officials recently announced the Nevada jobless rate hit 14 percent in May, highest in the nation and the highest ever reported in the state. The state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation said Nevada’s employers added 4,800 jobs in May, but most of the increase was seasonal or temporary census hiring.

The agency reported that Nevada’s youngest workers, “are bearing the brunt of the recession worse than any other age group.” At 22.8 percent, the unemployment rate for workers aged 16-24 is nearly twice the rate of other groups, the agency said in its May Economy in Brief report.

The hike in the wage is required as a result of a voter-approved state constitutional amendment in 2006 that tied Nevada’s wage to the federal minimum wage and provided for increases based on inflation. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. The Nevada constitutional amendment requires the Nevada wage to be $1 higher.

One critic of the minimum wage hike says it has a negative effect on teen hiring.

“More than one in four teens in Nevada is looking for work without success, and it’s not just because of the recession,” said Michael Saltsman, research fellow at the Washington, DC-based Employment Policies Institute.

The institute looked only at unemployment for those aged 16 to 19 and determined the rate in Nevada was 34.6 percent as of April 2010 – the second highest in the country.

“Minimum wage mandates are keeping teens from finding a job and the coming increase in the Nevada state minimum will make it worse,” he said.

The institute cited a study from Ball State University that attributed the loss of 310,000 teen jobs to the 40 percent increase in the federal minimum wage between July 2007 and July 2009.

“It’s the least-skilled and least-experienced that are hit hardest as a result of increases in the minimum wage,” Saltsman continued. “They’re missing out on the valuable career skills that come from a first job.”

The minimum wage is well intentioned but ultimately does more harm than good, he said. Increased labor costs could lead to the permanent elimination of jobs as employers look for cheaper ways to operate, Saltsman said.

Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, the group that put the minimum wage measure on the ballot, said Nevada’s dismal unemployment picture is not the result of increases in the minimum wage.

“We’re totally dependent on tourism and gaming to make the wheels go round,” he said, “I think that has driven our problems here, along with the foreclosure mess.”

Thompson said putting more money into the hands of the state’s lowest income wage earners will help stimulate the economy because they will spend the additional income.

“They spend it in the economy,” he said. “Which I think right now, given our current economic conditions, is a very good thing.”

He also rejected the suggestion that the high unemployment rate among teens is due to the minimum wage. Thompson said it is the result of competition from adults for the entry level jobs.

Nevada voters supported the ballot measure because they recognized the minimum wage was not a living wage, he said.

“If it were on the ballot today I think it would pass again just as easily,” Thompson said.


Audio clips:

Saltsman on why jobs for teens are important:

062910Saltsman :33 criminal justice system.”

Thompson on why minimum wage hike is beneficial:

062910Thompson1 :28 very good thing.”

Thompson on minimum wage not the cause of teen unemployment:

62910Thompson2 :26 a contribution nonetheless.”