Posts Tagged ‘Lau’

Nevada Retail Sales Outlook For 2011 Positive

By Sean Whaley | 1:54 pm February 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Based on the latest taxable sales results, Nevada will likely match national forecasts calling for 4 percent growth in retail sales for 2011, the Retail Association of Nevada said today.

Much of the growth will likely be in areas other than discretionary spending, however, the group noted in its release.

Statewide, December and fiscal-year-to-date taxable sales comparisons to the prior year are largely positive, with sales up 11.2 percent in Nevada in December and 4.9 percent for the fiscal year-to-date.

Several counties are reporting somewhat less encouraging results, including Douglas, which was up just 0.3 percent for the month and is down 1.0 percent fiscal year-to-date. Washoe County reported a 5.6 percent increase in December and a 1.5 percent increase for the six month period ending in December. Carson City is up 4.9 percent in the latest month and 5.8 percent thus far in the current fiscal year. In Clark, sales are up 2.8 percent and 2.4 percent in December and fiscal year-to-date, respectively.

The review of the taxable sales data was authored by Applied Analysis, a Nevada-based firm providing information and analyses for both the public and private sectors.

The report shows that most of the significant growth is taxable sales activity – some of it in the triple-digit percentages and in the hundreds of millions of dollars – was generated in rural counties such as Elko, Esmeralda, Humboldt, Storey and White Pine. Sizable taxable sales gains in these counties are largely attributed to growth in sales related to utilities, mining and manufacturing equipment purchases.

So increases in taxable retail spending in rural jurisdictions appear to be less attributable to individual consumers, and more the result of rural industry investment. While still encouraging, much of this industrial investment is nonrecurring in nature.

Mary Lau, president of the Retail Association of Nevada, said core retailer categories reported mixed results in December statewide, with pockets of both encouraging results in auto sales, clothing and Internet retailers, and less encouraging results in building materials and general merchandise sales.

“With continued growth in mining and mining-related activities, it is likely Nevada will report gains in taxable sales consistent with national expectations for 2011,” she said. “However, it remains to be seen how much of that growth will be attributed to substantial improvement in consumer discretionary spending in our larger metropolitan areas, as opposed to relatively isolated growth occurring in our more rural areas.”

Based on seven consecutive months of national retail sales growth and better than expected holiday sales, the National Retail Federation (NRF) is projecting a 4 percent increase in retail industry sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) in 2011. However, the federation cautions that rising commodity prices and continued high unemployment could become obstacles to economic growth.

With the price of oil rising to a new two-year high this week as unrest in the Middle East escalates, concerns about potential stagflation conditions are not entirely without merit.

In December, Clark County reported increases in sales in accommodations and eating and drinking places of 13.7 percent and 17.6 percent, respectively.  However, high oil prices mean high gasoline costs and rising airfare, both of particular concern to the Nevada tourism industry. The tourism industry and visitor spending strongly affect retail sales throughout the state.

Business Group Sees Tax Hike On Horizon, Opposes Idea Of Major Overhaul Of Nevada Revenue Structure

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:04 am September 28th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The head of Nevada’s Retail Association says a tax increase will likely be needed to balance the state budget next year, and expanding the sales tax to include at least some services is one place to look.

But Mary Lau, president and chief executive officer of the Retail Association of Nevada, said it is not the time for Nevada policymakers to look at a major revamping of the state’s tax structure.

“To try to switch an entire tax system, I will agree with the people that were polled, it is not the time to do an entire tax restructuring or anything else because guess what, the other states that have those other programs are equally in trouble,” she said.

Lau made her comments during an interview Monday with Jon Ralston on the Face To Face television program. She was interviewed following the Retail Association’s release of a poll conducted on behalf of the group looking at Nevada political races and the public’s views on issues including whether taxes should be increased.

The poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies pollster Glen Bolger.

The poll shows that only 1 percent of those interviewed support a tax increase on small business, 5 percent support a tax increase on large businesses, 11 percent on casinos, 5 percent on mining companies, 12 percent on the rich and 1 percent on the middle class. Seventeen percent said taxes should be raised on everyone.

Support for raising taxes on everyone was lower than in previous polls however.

Lau said the change is a reflection of the current economy.

“A reflection of we don’t have a job, we don’t have any money therefore how are we going to pay,” she said.

Lau said a tax increase, even if it is only the continuation of a package of revenues hiked by the Legislature in 2009 and scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2011, is likely. The state budget cannot be balanced without a tax increase, she said.

There are areas the state hasn’t taxed, such as services, Lau said. An examination of tax abatements and exclusions the Legislature has put in place over the years is also needed, she said.

Both major party candidates for governor have rejected the idea of tax increases to balance the state budget, although many legislative leaders have said new revenues will likely be necessary.

Lau agreed that a discussion of taxes won’t come until after the Legislature first looks at reforms and efficiencies in state spending.

Audio clips:

Retail Association Chief Mary Lau says now is not the time to revamp Nevada’s tax structure:

092810Lau1 :12 equally in trouble.”

Lau says the economy has dampened public support for a tax increase:

092810Lau2 :11 to sound bites.”

Lau says taxing services and eliminating exemptions is one place for Legislature to look for new revenue:

092810Lau3 :05 of the services.”

Back To School Spending Could Be Boon To Nevada Retailers Hit Hard By Recession

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 4:08 pm August 3rd, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada families with school-age children will spend $174 million for back-to-school supplies this month if spending trends track with national estimates, the Retail Association of Nevada reported today.

Just under 30 percent of an estimated one million households in Nevada are expected to have one or more children in grades kindergarten through 12. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the average American family will spend $606 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics to prepare to head back to school. This translates into approximately $174 million in back-to-school spending by Nevada families.

Nevada’s estimated 435,000 school children are headed back to school at the end of August, and if spending trends in Nevada resemble those being reported nationally, they will be spending approximately 10.5 percent more per family than last year.

Mary Lau, president of the Retail Association of Nevada, said: “If national forecasts hold true, a 10.5 percent increase in back-to-school spending would be fantastic news for Nevada retailers. However, increased national spending forecasts this past Christmas shopping season did not come to pass for many of them.

“Consequently, we remain cautiously optimistic that increased expectations for spending during this back-to-school shopping season will materialize within the state,” she said.

With Nevada having the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 14.2 percent as of June, “it seems somewhat unlikely that we will witness the extent of increases expected for the nation’s retailers,” Lau said.

The largest category of back-to-school spending is clothing, with families estimating they will spend $225 on pants, shirts, and jackets, among other apparel. The latest taxable sales results in Nevada suggest clothing sales are on the rise, with sales up 10.7 percent year-over-year for the month of May.

Overall Nevada taxable sales have been lagging for many months, however, with growth seen only once in 21 monthly reports through May 2010.

In the NRF survey, electronics were a close second, with families expecting to spend $182 on laptops, smart phones and MP3 players. Families expected to spend $103 on shoes, and finally, $96 on school supplies.

Families with college-aged students are expected to spend $616, down slightly from the previous year’s $618, on new apparel, furniture, school supplies and electronics. With the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey estimating 127,000 students enrolled in college and graduate programs in Nevada, this translates into an estimated additional $78 million spent by those requiring back-to-school purchases to pursue higher learning.

The Retail Association of Nevada also reports that in addition to having the highest unemployment rate in the nation, the state has one of the highest rates of homelessness among school children and school children living in poverty. Despite smatterings of positive developments in the state, challenging economic conditions may depress back-to-school expenditures for a significant number of families this season, the association said.

The data was generated for the association by Applied Analysis, a Nevada-based firm providing information and analyses for the public and private sectors.

Nevada’s Borrowing To Pay Jobless Benefits On Target Despite Record Unemployment Rate

By Sean Whaley | 4:55 pm June 25th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Despite Nevada’s record high unemployment rate, the amount of money the state expects to borrow from the federal government to pay jobless benefits remains on target, a state official said this week.

Cindy Jones, administrator of the Employment Security Division, said the state has borrowed $424 million so far and is on a pace to borrow between $1 billion and $1.2 billion through the end of the recession to pay the state’s 26 weeks of unemployment benefits to laid off workers.

Jones said Nevada’s record 14 percent jobless rate reported in May includes all those seeking work, not just those eligible to receive benefits. The long-term unemployed also don’t have any new wages on which to file claims, she said.

“The increase in the unemployment rate does not necessarily translate into an increase in unemployment insurance claims,” Jones said.

“We’re still seeing very high claim volume compared to anything we’ve experienced at any other time in the program’s history, but we’re not seeing the rapid rise that we saw last year,” she said.

That $1 billion or more in borrowed funds will likely have to be repaid to the federal government, which means higher unemployment taxes imposed on Nevada businesses to make good on the loans.

The average tax paid by most Nevada employers was kept at 1.33 percent for the current year, despite the knowledge that the rate would be inadequate to pay all unemployment claims. The rate was held steady to help businesses weather the economic slowdown.

Jones said over 40 states are expected to borrow about $100 billion from the federal government to pay benefits during this recession. Nevada began borrowing money in late October of 2009 to keep paying claims, holding off longer than many other states because of a healthy trust fund.

The states are getting a break in that no interest is accruing yet on the borrowed funds, she said. Interest was waived this calendar year but will begin on Jan. 1 unless Congress acts to extend the interest free period, Jones said. Nevada’s first interest payment of about $60 million is scheduled to come due in the fall of 2011.

Nevada was prepared for a recession and had a healthy trust fund available to pay claims, Jones said. But no one was prepared for a slowdown of the magnitude that hit the nation, she said.

Mary Lau, president and chief executive officer of the Retail Association of Nevada, said the expectation that businesses will have to repay the federal loans through higher unemployment tax rates could negatively impact job growth when the state does emerge from the recession. Employers may not be as quick to hire, she said.

“Everybody is going to be paying more,” Lau said. “Some of the jobs may not come back.”

Other factors, including the new minimum wage requirements, will also affect hiring, she said.

The state’s minimum wage is set to go up to $8.25 a hour on July 1. The current rate is $7.55 an hour.

It is highly unlikely the federal government will forgive the loans, Lau said.

audio clips:

Cindy Jones says unemployment rate doesn’t directly correlate with jobless claims:

062410Jones1 :14 eligible for benefits.”

Jones says Nevada not alone in borrowing to pay claims:

062410Jones2 :21 certainly not alone.”

Jones said Nevada was ready for normal slowdown:

062310Jones3 :28 find ourselves in.”

Mary Lau says increased unemployment taxes may slow job creation:

062410Lau1 :14 that much more.”

Independent American Party Files Candidate List, Looks to Make Headway in 2010

By Sean Whaley | 11:50 am March 4th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The Independent American Party (IAP) this week released its list of candidates for 38 different offices, including the seat now held by U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and all three congressional seats. There are candidates for state and local offices as well.

Nevada State GOP Chairman Chris Comfort said he does not believe his party’s opportunities to win races in the November general election will be affected by the presence of conservative minor party candidates.

“I don’t envision that being an issue at all,” he said. “When you look at the (Independent American Party) numbers versus our numbers, they only have 44,487 (active) registered voters.”

But IAP Party Chairman John Wagner said Republicans still blame the minor party for losing the Assembly District 40 seat in the 2008 general election. A victory there would have given Republicans 15 seats, the margin needed to block a two-thirds vote to raise taxes. The 2009 Legislature did vote to raise taxes.

The IAP may also have also played a role in the Clark County Senate 5 race where incumbent GOP Sen. Joe Heck lost to Democrat Shirley Breeden. IAP candidate Tony Blanque took 2,843 votes, while Breeden beat Heck by only 765 votes.

Secretary of State Ross Miller yesterday released the voter registration numbers as of the end of February. It shows the GOP closing on Democrats, with 392,920 active Republican voters versus 456,532 Democrat voters. There are also 163,153 active nonpartisan voters.

Democrats had just over a 100,000 vote advantage leading into the November general election in 2008, so the gap has narrowed considerably.

Comfort said he believes the party will be in a statistical dead heat with Democrats by October.

“We are speaking to our independent friends,” he said. “We are resonating well. Our party has a fire in the belly that we haven’t seen in a long time.”

Republican victories nationally, including the U.S. Senate win in Massachusetts in January, are evidence the momentum has shifted, Comfort said.

But while the gap between Republican and Democrat active voters has narrowed, it isn’t because of new registration activity by either party. Both parties have fewer active voters than in November 2008 due to the move of some registered voters to inactive status. Republicans narrowed the gap because more Democrats than GOP voters were moved to inactive status.

In Clark County the move to inactive status is done every two years. About 70,000 Clark County voters were moved to inactive status, said Pam duPré, public information officer for the secretary of state’s office. Voters on inactive status can still vote.

Wagner, who was the “spoiler” candidate in the Assembly District 40 race in Carson City in 2008, said he believes his party has a real shot at winning some races this year.

“People are fed up with the Democrats and the Republicans,” he said. “So I think people are looking for change. All we’ve been so far is shortchanged. I think we will do fairly well this year.”

Wagner, who spent many years as a Republican, is again a candidate for Assembly 40. He disagrees that his votes in that race in 2008 cost Republicans, because not all of the 1,067 votes he received would have gone to GOP challenger Cheryl Lau. Lau lost to Democrat incumbent Bonnie Parnell by 563 votes.

Wagner said if he decides to remain a candidate for the seat, he will run to win, viewing the major party candidates as too liberal. Parnell is not seeking re-election.

Jon Kamerath, who is the IAP nominee for the Clark County Assembly District 2 seat now held by Republican John Hambrick, said he too believes the party could win some seats come November. Kamerath has not yet filed for the seat but intends to do so unless the party decides he could better serve as a candidate in another elective office.

Kamerath ran for the Assembly 2 seat in 2008, getting only 601 votes compared to 11,781 for Hambrick.

While Hambrick is one of the better members of the Assembly based on his voting record, Kamerath said he is loyal to the IAP and believes the Legislature should reduce spending and lower taxes.

“I would like to cut government even more,” he said. “I want to cut property taxes and sales taxes. I will take the race very seriously.”

Kamerath said he believes the IAP has a chance in 2010 because of voter disaffection with the major parties. Nevada has seen its largest tax increases in history in recent years while Republicans served in the executive branch and with complicity from some Republicans in the legislative branch, he said.

Gibbons Defends Budget Plan, Challenges Nevadans to Provide Alternatives if they Disagree

By Sean Whaley | 4:43 pm February 17th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons today defended his plan to balance the state budget and challenged critics to come forward with workable alternatives if they object to any parts of his proposal.

In formally calling the Legislature into special session on Tuesday to deal with a massive funding shortfall, Gibbons yesterday released his list of proposals to balance the budget. It contains 40 different items, from 10 percent budget cuts to state agencies and education to taking $12.6 million from a scholarship fund.

The proposals cut spending in the current two-year budget by $895 million.

“If anyone else has any ideas on how to fix it, I am listening,” Gibbons said. “This criticism does not recognize that this problem is fixable, and I have presented a plan to fix it.”

The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee will meet tomorrow and Monday to review Gibbons’ budget balancing proposals and review other options available to them.

Gibbons’ call for critics to produce their own solutions received some support today.

Mary Lau, president and CEO of the Retail Association of Nevada, said: “Work together people. If you don’t like this $20 million idea, then come up with a different $20 million idea. Instead we get the immediate response that the governor is mean-spirited. Where is the policy in that?”

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, was quoted in the Reno Gazette-Journal as saying: “This governor is mean-spirited and continues to put education last instead of first.”

Horsford said Gibbons has rejected some legislative proposals to reduce spending and instead proposed what he views as unacceptably large cuts to education.

Lau said the state needs productive discussions to get out of the budget crisis, not posturing.

While Gibbons said today his proposal to eliminate some deductions provided to the mining industry to generate $50 million in new revenue to the state is not a tax, Lau disagreed. Bringing more revenue into the state, particularly without the cooperation of the industry, is clearly a tax increase, she said. But she added it may be an effort to bring the industry to the table to forge an agreement on some type of revenue enhancement.

In contrast, Lau said the proposal to ensure sales taxes from purchases made over the Internet are appropriately levied and collected by the state is a legitimate endeavor and not a new tax.

Carole Vilardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association, said Gibbons’ plan is a starting point that at least is on the table for public discussion and comment.

“It has been said by (Gibbons) and the Legislature there are no easy solutions to this,” she said. “I’m sure there are other elements that will surface. If some cuts are considered to be too steep there may be compromise, and cuts may be minimized in one area with greater cuts elsewhere.

“But in an economy like this there is nothing anyone can do that is going to be totally embraced as wonderful,” Vilardo said.

Vilardo agreed that the mining industry proposal is clearly a tax increase. But until details emerge on what “loopholes” Gibbons is proposing to eliminate to generate the new revenue, she had no further comment on the proposal.

Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, acknowledged that Gibbons at least has released a plan to balance the budget.

But he criticized the proposal to sweep the reserve fund that pays for the homeowner association Ombudsman’s Office, a position in the state Real Estate Division that resolves association disputes that Schneider worked to establish in 1997.

The fund is generated by a $3 fee per home per year and is only paid by residents of associations, he said. Taking the fund is the equivalent of levying a tax increase on one segment of the state.

“You can’t sweep that fund,” Schneider said. “It’s not general fund. It is specially set aside to run the ombudsman’s office. That is going to irritate a lot of people.”

The state Budget Office said today that only $500,000 of the $2.7 million in the ombudsman account is being proposed to be used as part of Gibbons’ budget balancing plan, not the entire amount.

Asked for an alternative to the proposal, Schneider said a better way to raise taxes would be to close loopholes in existing law that allow some businesses operating in Nevada to not pay their fair share of taxes to the state.

Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, said Gibbons has put forward a well reasoned plan and deserves credit for doing so.

“I think it is a workable plan if we can get it passed, although the leadership on the other side is not happy with it,” he said. “I think there are quite a few items that they will agree to because we are in trouble.”

Gustavson said he does not support one element: the proposal to use traffic cameras to capture revenue from uninsured motorists. But he acknowledged that he and other lawmakers must now find a way to make up for the $30 million that is proposed to be generated by the program.

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said Gibbons does deserve credit for presenting a plan to balance the budget. But the lawmaker said he still has doubts about some of the components, particularly the proposal to close the Nevada State Prison with the accompanying layoff of 136 employees.

“I don’t know if shutting down NSP is going to save us any money,” he said.

Settelmeyer said he also has questions about whether the Department of Corrections has the space elsewhere in the system to accommodate the NSP inmate population.

“A lot of these proposals are extremely painful cuts,” he said. “The question is can we come up with better alternatives, and if so, will the governor alter the proclamation to include our concepts?”

One point is clear, Settelmeyer said: “Don’t bet on a one-day session.”