Posts Tagged ‘revenue’

Party-Line Votes On Public Education Funding Create $700 Million Hole In Budget

By Sean Whaley | 5:11 pm May 3rd, 2011

CARSON CITY – Legislative Democrats went ahead today with their own funding plan for public education, establishing a level of spending that puts the budget at significant odds with GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval and his opposition to new taxes.

The votes by Democrats have upped the ante in the budget dispute with Republicans, creating a hole estimated at $700 million by state Budget Director Andrew Clinger.

A party-line vote not to use school district bond reserve funds to cover school operating costs as proposed by Sandoval created a $247 million hole in the budget with no revenue to cover it. Another vote against a 5 percent cut in teacher pay added another nearly $260 million to the hole.

Republican members of the money committees issued a statement after the votes, saying the funding restorations they proposed, similar to Sandoval’s, were reasonable and would have protected children from larger class sizes.

“Unfortunately, Democratic leadership rejected this reasonable proposal to protect students and instead increased funding beyond current projections without any indication of which taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill,” the lawmakers said.

Democrats had a different view.

“I have said every day since the beginning of the session that, as a parent and legislator, I will not vote to gut education,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas. “I did not get into public service to rob the children of Nevada of the opportunity to succeed. Today, we closed the (public education budget) at an acceptable level. Our young students deserve no less.”

Lawmakers of both parties voted in unison on some significant cuts to public education, however, including a proposal to require teachers and other school district public employees to pay a share of their retirement contribution. The proposal, which would have to be worked out in negotiations with teacher and other employee unions at the school district level, would save $100 million a year.

The budget votes came at a joint meeting of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees. The votes followed testimony from representatives of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the Nevada Resort Association asking for a discussion on the potential for additional tax revenues for the state budget in concert with meaningful policy reforms.

Reforms sought by the chamber include changes to the state’s collective bargaining process and efforts to address the long-term unfunded liability of the public employees’ retirement system, issues which have not seen any significant action in the 2011 legislative session.

The votes also came after Sandoval administration officials presented a plan for $247 million in additional spending for public education as a result of higher tax revenue projections set by the Economic Forum on Monday.

The “add backs” presented by Chief of Staff Heidi Gansert and Clinger would restore all funding for all-day kindergarten and the class-size reduction program for the lower elementary grades. It would also add $223 million to the basic pupil support, but it would not eliminate proposed cuts to teacher salaries.

State Budget Director Andrew Clinger and Sandoval Chief of Staff Heidi Gansert testify before a joint budget committee on education funding today/Photo: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

By proposing new spending on the public schools budget above that available based on the Economic Forum projections, Democrats now will have to either take money from other programs and services or find new revenue. A number of tax proposals under consideration by Democrats are expected to come up at a hearing Thursday, including a tax on some services and an extension of some of the tax increases approved in 2009 but set to sunset on June 30.

Sandoval has rejected any suggestion of increasing taxes or fees to balance what is now a $6.1 billion general fund budget after the Economic Forum identified $218 million in increased tax revenues.

Sandoval spoke to state residents at 6 p.m. today, presenting his views on the ongoing budget debate with Democrats, who do not have the votes to increase taxes without support from some Republican lawmakers. He reiterated the need for education reform and his opposition to any new taxes.

Longtime lobbyist and Sandoval adviser Pete Ernaut, who attended the public education discussion, said it and the televised remarks from the governor mark “the first day” of the “real” legislative session.

In his public testimony, Billy Vassiliadis, representing the Nevada Resort Association, asked for policy makers and business and community leaders to engage in a discussion on ways to increase funding to the state budget while at the same time ensuring improved student performance.

Nevada Resort Association Billy Vassiliadis testifies before the Legislature on education funding today/Photo: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

“And so one of the decisions you have to make, all of you and the governor has to make, is where do we go going forward,” Vassiliadis said. “While we appreciate very much the discussion of restoration of cuts, but we’re restoring to what? We’re restoring to being 45th in the best case, 49th in the worst case, in education funding?

“But my clients really want to know, what are we going to do, what are you as state leaders going to do, and the governor going to do, to actually put us on a track where our education system can not only benefit from the recovery but actually make the recovery go faster, and all Nevada students and future Nevada businesses will want to move here and take advantage of a great state,” he said.

Sandoval’s unwavering position is that any tax increase could slow job creation and Nevada’s economic recovery.

Sandoval’s position saw some support today from the conservative Keystone Corporation, which issued a press release criticizing the Las Vegas chamber for advocating for an extension of the payroll tax increase approved by the 2009 Legislature to balance the current budget.

That tax increase, which included a tax cut for small business, is set to expire June 30. Sandoval wants to continue the tax cut for small business.

Keystone put out a political update today saying: “The Las Vegas Chamber is leading the fight to extend the 100 percent increase of payroll tax (Modified Business Tax) they championed last session set to sunset this year. Make no mistake this is a tax on Nevada job creators that will prevent businesses from creating new jobs and stimulating our economy.”

The joint budget hearing went through a series of votes, some getting unanimous support from the two panels because they were part of the restorations proposed by Sandoval.

But others generated party-line disputes, including a motion by Horsford not to use $247 million in school district debt reserves to fund public education operating costs.

Democrats said using the bond reserve money would go against the wishes of voters who supported school construction questions at the ballot.

But Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said he could not support the motion without some indication of where the money would come from to pay for the policy change.

There was also some criticism of the committee process from Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, who said members received only about 24 hours notice of the meeting. She also questioned why the governor’s add backs were not on the table for discussion.

“If you want to work this as a process where we’re all working together, then let’s do it together, let’s not do it in segmented forms, and one entity pushing the whole cart,” she said.

Audio clips:

Billy Vassiliadis, representing the Nevada Resort Association, says additional funding for education good, but won’t raise Nevada in comparison to other states:

050311Vassiliadis :23 in education funding.”

Vassiliadis says public education needs to be part of Nevada’s economic recovery:

050311Vassiliadis2 :23 a great state.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, criticizes the public education budget process:

050311Cegavske :12 the whole cart.”

 

$50 Million Budget Amendment Mitigates Cuts To Autism, Mental Health, Rural Counties

By Andrew Doughman | 4:29 pm April 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The governor has found $50 million that could erase some of the most controversial cuts in his $5.8 billion proposed budget.

The new revenue projections could mitigate an array of budget cuts to autism, mental health, emergency medical services and rural counties. Those services would have been eliminated or transferred to cash-strapped counties that may not have been able to fund them.

The money going to rural counties drew criticism from Senate Majortiy Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, who called the governor’s recent trip to the Elko area a “blatant attempt to shore up a handful of votes from legislators whose districts will be crippled by this budget.”

“The governor is trying to cut deals to get votes,” Horsford said in a statement released this evening.

The budget amendment fulfills some of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s promises made to rural legislators. The amendment restores an additional $3.6 million to keep open Wells Conservation Camp in Elko.

The governor’s staff refuted claims that the budget amendment had to do with rural counties.

Sandoval’s senior adviser, Dale Erquiaga, said they made the decisions through “a combination of listening to the [budget] hearings and listening to legislators, both urban and rural.”

Added to a Mar. 28 amendment of $25.8 million, that leaves the budget about $86 million larger than when the governor submitted it. Improved economic conditions also mean at least an additional $72 million available as economists change their revenue projections for the state.

Today’s amendment amounted to about $60.7 total, but $10 million was split between correcting earlier estimates and establishing reserve, unappropriated account.

“The governor’s been listening and we realized there were some significant cuts to some of the camps and to mental health services and autism,” said Heidi Gansert, the governor’s chief of staff. “So when this money was made available, we went back through and did a careful evaluation of where we should add back.”

Mike Willden, director of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, said he worked with the governor’s budget staff and his own staff to decide what programs deserved funding.

Democratic legislators suggested the possibility of changing where the money goes in the governor’s budget amendment.

“Now it’s in the hands of the Legislature to move things around,” said Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks. “…I’m not a real fan of making promises in this budget. We have an obligation to the whole state of Nevada.”

Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, echoed his colleague’s comments about the Legislature’s role in deciding how and where the state spends its money.

He said, however, that while the new money is good news, the Legislature still has to fill what he claims is a $1.2 billion shortfall in the education budget.

Legislators are still waiting until next Monday, May 2, when an official group of economists will revise projections for the amount of revenue the state will collect during the next two fiscal years. A nascent economic recovery could mean the Legislature will have more money with which to craft a budget.

Today’s amendment comes after the state found savings from revised federal projections for Medicaid matching funds, reduced costs due to rooting out fraudulent billing and a reduced number of cases.

The good news has a bitter downside, though, since the federal projections are based on how poor a state is. This past month, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released a report showing Nevada’s per capita growth in income was last in the nation during 2010.

That figure means the federal government will give Nevada more aid than the governor had projected when his staff crafted the budget earlier this year.

Some of the largest “add-backs” to the budget are below:

  • Nursing homes should receive back $5 per Medicaid resident per day, meaning a $15 per day reduction rather than a $20 per day reduction. A legal analysis provided one month ago suggested such a cut could violate federal law.
  • The state will provide $3.3 million to restore 75 percent of funding to a welfare program that assists parents with disabilities.
  • $9.2 million could go back to a variety of northern and southern Nevada mental health services.
  • About $5.3 million could be returned to services providing for rural child welfare.
  • $3.4 million would revert to an account for substance abuse prevention and treatment.

 

AUDIO CLIP: Gov. Brian Sandoval’s chief of staff, Heidi Gansert, says $50 million is going back to cuts to autism and mental health services, which were decided through a careful process:

042611 Gansert :20

Assemblyman Asks Lawmakers To Put “Cards On The Table” In Forum Today

By Andrew Doughman | 12:47 pm April 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Sparks, is asking other legislators to “lay your cards on the table.”

As the budget debate in Carson City roils to no discernible conclusion, Hickey is bringing 21 lawmakers, business leadersa and academics to the Legislature to talk taxes and government reform.

“This forum will help get out into the open things that have only been talked about behind closed doors,” Hickey said. “As moderator, I plan to press participants to speak openly about the ‘end game’ here this session.”

That end game has traditionally involved closed door meetings between legislative leadership.

Hickey will moderate the “Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery” panel today between 3 – 5 p.m. at the Legislature. Viewers online can watch here.

Hickey said he would like to have a serious discussion in public that could evolve into legislative negotiations about the budget.

At the very least, the diversity of voices at the forum should provide an interesting sideshow to the day-in, day-out legislative hearings and committees.

Speaking at the forum span nearly every position on the tax debate. Politically, Hickey’s guests span the spectrum from left to right and include representatives from unions and contractors, free-market libertarians and progressive groups, chambers of commerce and school districts.

Hickey’s forum is not the only change in the legislative end game.

This year, Democratic leaders in the Assembly and Senate have said they will conduct budget hearings in the Assembly and Senate chambers. They say the move will lead to more transparency and include more legislators in budget discussions.

As first reported in the Las Vegas Sun, the change could prompt legislators toward a budget battle over education.

The Legislature has 49 days remaining to conclude its session, pass a budget and finish the drawing of political districts as required every 10 years by the U.S. Census.

 

Panelists for the “Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery” include:

Heidi Gansert, the governor’s chief of staff

Speaker Pro Tempore Debbie Smith, D-Sparks

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas

Tray Abney, Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce

Carole Vilardo – Nevada Taxpayers Association

Dr. Elliott Parker – UNR economist

Clara Andriola – Associated Builders and Contractors

Geoffrey Lawrence – Nevada Policy Research Institute economist

Dr. Heath Morrison – Washoe County School District superintendent

Mary Lau – Retail Association of Nevada

Dr. Tyrus Cobb – former assistant to President Ronald Reagan

Neil Medina – Northern Nevada Contractor

Jim Pfrommer – Education Alliance of Washoe County

Former Sen. Randolph Townsend

Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Mesquite

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks

Bob Fulkerson, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada

Chuck Muth – Citizen Outreach

Dave Humke – Washoe County Commissioner

Danny Thompson – AFL-CIO union representative

Norm Dianda – Q&D Construction

Sin Tax Debate Focuses On Public Health Benefits, Revenues, Effects On Business

By Sean Whaley | 1:16 pm April 5th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Advocates for a tax hike on cigarettes and liquor made their case in the Nevada Legislature today, both to raise revenue and improve public health.

The proposal received a mixed reaction from lawmakers, and some lobbyist opposition, however, because of the negative consequences on business.

The Assembly Taxation Committee heard a proposal from Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, to increase the tax from 80 cents on a pack of cigarettes to $1.70. Her measure would also increase liquor taxes.

Nevada Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, testifies on her "sin" tax bill today. Photo by Cathleen Allison/NevadaPhotoSource.com

The Senate Revenue Committee also heard a separate measure to increase the cigarette tax to $2 a pack.

Pierce said her goal with Assembly Bill 333 is increasing general fund tax revenue, but a number of health advocates testified in support because of the public health benefits of increasing the tax on tobacco. They noted that smoking rates for both adults and children would decrease with the proposed cigarette tax hike and the increase on other tobacco products.

The Nevada Department of Taxation estimates that about $250 million would be generated over the two years of the budget if the tobacco and liquor tax hikes are approved as proposed.

“I believe this state will be devastated if we do not raise revenues,” Pierce said.

The cuts being proposed in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget will take a minimum of a decade to recover from, she said.

Pierce’s bill is the first tax proposal to get a hearing this session.

But the proposals to increase “sin” taxes in the Nevada Legislature face the same roadblock of any other revenue proposals being considered by some lawmakers this session: Sandoval’s unwavering rejection of any tax or fee increases to balance the budget.

This position includes increases in cigarette and liquor taxes, said spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner.

Advocates for the cigarette tax point to a survey of Nevada voters showing strong support for the measure as a way to raise tax revenue.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, who said he smokes an average of a pack of cigarettes a week, agreed that hiking the tax is a good way to raise revenue if the objective is to correct unhealthy behavior.

But Goedhart said obesity is a bigger health issue, and that a tax on calorie consumption could generate public health benefits as well.

He questioned why the Legislature would want to single out smoking among the many unhealthy activities engaged in by the public at large if the objective is to improve the health of Nevadans.

“I mean where does it stop,” Goedhart said after the hearing. “Then it becomes a form of nanny government. Are we going to do a body mass index and charge a person more taxes because they are going to be a burden on the health system because they are going to have the possibility of weight related health issues?”

The proposed increases generated opposition from a variety of groups.

Katie Jacoy, representing the Wine Institute, a public policy association representing 897 California wineries, submitted testimony in opposition to the increases in the alcohol tax in AB333 because of the significant increase proposed on wine and other alcoholic beverages.

“This proposed tax increase will ultimately harm the responsible wine consumers in Nevada by increasing the price of wine, which is difficult to bear in tough economic times,” she said.

“Under the bill, the excise tax on wine with an alcohol content of 14 percent or less would increase from 70 cents to $1 per gallon, and on wine with an alcohol content above 14 percent would increase from $1.30 to $1.75 per gallon. Given Nevada’s 6.85 percent sales tax that also applies to wine, consumers in Nevada will likely pay one to the highest prices in the U.S. for their wine.”

These price increases will be passed on to the consumer, Jacoy said.

Much of the testimony focused on the cigarette tax, which was last increased in Nevada in 2003. Nevada ranks 35th lowest in its tax rate. New York is the highest at $4.35 a pack, while Missouri is lowest at 17 cents, she said.

California’s cigarette tax is now 87 cents but a $1 increase in the rate is being considered.

One area of opposition to the bill came from premium cigar businesses in Nevada.

Michael Frey, owner of FreyBoy Tobacco, a business that operates six premium cigar shops in Las Vegas, spoke in opposition to the proposed increase in tobacco products other than cigarettes from 30 percent of the wholesale price to 55 percent.

If the increase was approved, Frey said he would close four of his six shops and lay of 35 of 50 employees. Cigar smokers would just begin purchasing their tobacco products over the internet, which is legal, he said.

“Cigar smokers will not quit smoking cigars because it is not an addictive product,” Frey said. “They will simply go on the internet and buy the products with no taxes associated with them and have it shipped into their houses in Nevada.”

There was also concern expressed by some of those testifying that raising liquor and tobacco taxes will cause consumers to purchase their products over the internet.

Goedhart said it may not be legal to purchase cigarettes over the internet to avoid state tobacco taxes, but any projected revenues from a tax increase will be affected by this practice. Goedhart said he found cigarettes for sale on the internet after just a quick search on his computer.

“If we increase the tax we may be increasing tax evasion behavior,” he said.

Peter Krueger, representing the Nevada Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, among other interests, agreed that consumers would likely seek out cheaper alternatives to avoid the tax.

In her concluding remarks, Pierce said: “I think that if we don’t make a considerable course change, I think that when people can begin to sell their houses again, they will go back to the states that they came from with bigger governments and higher taxes, and a better education system, and museums and libraries and all of the things that come from creating community through the collection of taxes.”

Audio clips:

Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce says people will leave Las Vegas when they can afford to do so if changes aren’t made:

040511Pierce1 :17 and higher taxes.”

Pierce says they will return to states with all of the amenities that come from the collection of taxes:

040511Pierce2 :15 collection of taxes.”

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart says raising taxes to curb smoking is Nanny State behavior:

040511Goedhart1 :17 weight-related health issues.”

Goedhart says raising cigarette and liquor taxes could lead to tax evasion:

040511Goedhart2 :11 variety of ways.”

Cigar shop owner Michael Frey says he will close some of his shops if the tobacco tax increase is approved:

040511Frey1 :15 I now have.”

Frey says cigar fans will just buy the product over the internet:

040511Frey2 :15 houses in Nevada.”

 

 

Moody’s Downgrades Nevada’s Credit Rating

By Andrew Doughman | 2:09 pm March 24th, 2011

Despite upgrading Nevada’s outlook from negative to stable, the credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded Nevada’s credit rating to Aa2 from Aa1.

The rationale behind the adjustment involves Nevada’s Legislature. Moody’s cited the two-thirds supermajority required to raise taxes as a negative in Nevada.

The Moody’s report released today notes that the potential need to renew the temporary tax increases passed during 2009 could create a challenge for the Legislature.

The governor has said he does not want to extend those tax increases.

“Also, a two-thirds majority of each house of the Legislature is required to renew the taxes into the 2012-2013 biennium and beyond,” writes Moody’s analyst Julius Vizner. “The supermajority requirement to raise taxes presents a hurdle to achieving balance on an ongoing basis going forward.”

The report also notes that Nevada’s economy is largely dependent on discretionary spending in the gaming and tourism industries.

According to the report, Nevada’s revenue base lacks diversity. The state depends too much on revenues from sales tax and gaming revenues. An economic recovery in Nevada could stall if either of those revenue sources falter.

On the positive side, Moody’s analysts note that Gov. Brian Sandoval has the will to make budget cuts.

The report also noted that Nevada has a relatively low debt burden at $2.4 billion and, as the Nevada News Bureau has reported before, the outlook for funding Nevada’s pension system is bright.

Nevada’s declining home prices, however, stymie economic growth.

The collapse of the housing bubble has ratcheted property values down, which presents challenges to lawmakers crafting the state’s budget.

Today, financial officers at Nevada’s school districts testified before a legislative committee about declining property tax collections.

Nonetheless, Moody’s cited upticks in gaming revenues as a sign of a nascent economic recovery.

“The stable outlook reflects our expectation that the economy will recover slowly in the state and that the state’s finances will be weak in the next biennium,” Vizner wrote.

According to Moody’s, Nevada’s credit rating could bounce back if it diversifies its economy and tax base while growing its economy as a whole.

Likewise, Moody’s indicated that it would further downgrade Nevada’s rating should the Legislature delay implementing reforms to the state’s tax base.

Nevada’s credit rating might further erode if it does not cut spending if revenue collections fall short of projections.

Nevada will receive a formal revenue forecast on May 1, which will be crucial for legislators as they piece together the state budget for the next two years.

 

 

Assemblyman’s Bill Could Extract Millions In Revenue From Casinos

By Andrew Doughman | 1:23 pm March 22nd, 2011

CARSON CITY – Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, may have just found the state $20 to $35 millions in new revenue.

Under his proposal, if you lose or do not redeem a paper voucher printed from a slot machine, the state would sweep that money into its coffers as unclaimed property. Right now, casinos pay taxes on that money and count the remainder as revenue.

Horne argued that the person owns the voucher rather than the casino. Additionally, he said it would be impossible to track down the owner of the voucher. So that money should revert to the state as unclaimed property.

The bill comes as lawmakers are desperately searching for money to fund state services.

The Assembly  Judiciary Committee debated Horne’s bill this morning.

Representatives from the gaming industry  testified against the bill. Conversely, progressive groups testified in support of the bill because any new revenue would help fund programs they want to save from elimination.

Pete Ernaut, lobbyist for the Nevada Resort Association, said that the underlying mission of the state’s unclaimed property is to match the property with its owner.

Ernaut said that the state Treasurer, who handles unclaimed property, would have to try to match every voucher with its owner. This could mean that the state would have to spend money to try to find the owner of a $1 voucher.

Ernaut gave the committee the $20 to $35 million estimate of the value of all tickets that currently go unclaimed.

Horne disagreed with Ernaut, saying that there is no identifiable information on the voucher.

“We also would contend that this does not become the property of the player until it is redeemed,” Ernaut said.

This would negate Horne’s argument that the voucher becomes a player’s property – not the casino’s – when the slot machine spits out a ticket.

But Horne dismissed Ernaut’s arguments.

“The opposition, they would like this to be a very complicated issue,” Horne said. “In the end, this is a simple case on unclaimed property and who should get it. All the other stuff just muddies the waters and tries to make it more complicated than it actually is.”

The committee took no action on the bill.

 

Thousands Expected Today For Huge Rally For Revenue At Legislature

By Andrew Doughman | 12:01 am March 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – In what could be the largest rally ever held at the Legislature, more than 1,000 students, parents, teachers and activists are expected today to protest education budget cuts.

Hundreds from Las Vegas have hopped aboard a convoy of buses to join their northern counterparts in making a call for more revenue – read: tax increases – to bridge Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed $160 million cuts to the higher education budget.

Organizers say they hope their rally will spark a shift in the debate at the Legislature, where lawmakers have yet to advance any public plans for new revenue.

“I hope these politicians will change their tone,” said Michael Flores, an organizer for Progress Now Nevada. “In Carson, there’s a different atmosphere. They beat around the bush a lot …people feel that, you know what, we have got to get on the ball with this.”

Casey Stiteler, who coordinates the UNR student body’s governmental affairs said the key message is mitigating both cuts and tuition increases.

“We understand very much that a number of important, vital services are being cut as well, but we want to make sure our concerns are being taken in account as these decisions are being made,” Stiteler said.

University presidents have already drafted tentative plans for tuition increases between 10 and 15 percent. They may use a combination of tuition increases, faculty and staff pay cuts, program cuts and reduced course offerings to balance their budgets.

Students have said before that this plan is unacceptable. If their numbers alone do not send that message, then at the very least the UNR pep band playing outside the Legislature should grab some ears.

And it is not just students from universities who are showing up.

Leo Murrieta of the Nevada Youth Coalition has recruited about 150 high school students. He has talked to hundreds of parents and obtained excused absences from school so that students can get a real-life civics lesson.

“The overall response was this is more important, this is something my kid should partake in,” said Murrieta, who has spent most of his recent evenings organizing the trip.

Rally Has Been Months In The Making

Sara Sinnett, a 19-year-old UNR student, texts students Sunday afternoon to remind them about the March 21 rally at the Legislature, which is expected to draw thousands.

All of these groups – K-12, higher education and progressive organizations – have not exactly had problems recruiting for the rally.

People are fed up.

Previous legislative town hall events have been packed with Nevadans upset about the governor’s proposed cuts.

So how, exactly, does that anger translate into action?

Student and community leaders have been planning the rally since January. They have made phone calls, spoke in classrooms and held events to spread the word. They even allotted student fees to rent buses; UNLV used $15,000 to rent buses for the overnight haul from Las Vegas to Carson City, an expense the UNLV College Republicans have called unnecessary and “wasteful.”

Sara Sinnett, a 19-year-old psychology major at the University of Nevada, Reno, spent hours Sunday afternoon sending reminders to students to get on the Carson City-bound buses come Monday morning.

While she has spent countless hours phone banking and speaking in front of her classes about the March 21 event, she said the old shoe-and-leather approach has not been the most effective.

“The best way we’ve found out to do this is Facebook,” she said. “We’ve also done things like text message campaigns.”

In Las Vegas, Flores has prepped for the rally for weeks. Much of his work has been through text messages and Facebook.

“A lot of people don’t pick up the newspaper anymore, so you put that [news story] on Facebook and that’s how people get fired up about this,” he said.

Whatever the medium, the message got out. But it did not happen overnight.

How much time does it take to coordinate hundreds of people statewide?

“Well, I don’t sleep anymore,” Flores said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

State Lawmaker Proposes Taxing Bottled Water As Way To Increase Revenues

By Sean Whaley | 3:48 pm October 13th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A Nevada lawmaker has asked for a bill to be drafted to require bottled water to be subjected to the state sales tax.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said bottled water is included under the sales tax exemption for food in Nevada even though it has no nutritional value.

Segerblom said taxing the beverage would bring in much needed revenue for the upcoming two-year budget. It is time for the Legislature to review all tax exemptions as a way to generate revenue for programs without raising taxes, he said.

Segerblom says he does not support taxing food.

“The purpose as I understand to exempt food is you don’t want to make it any more expensive than possible for people to survive, and obviously again, bottled water is not necessary to survive,” he said.

The only exception in Nevada now is prepared food intended for immediate consumption, which is subject to the sales tax.

The bill draft request was actually made by Assemblyman Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas, on behalf of Segerblom. Mortenson, who is termed out of office and won’t be serving in the 2011 legislative session, said he gave Segerblom one of his bill draft requests as a courtesy, even though he does not support the idea.

Segerblom said he has been unable to get information on how much revenue might come from taxing bottled water, which has become a ubiquitous item provided at meetings and carried by many people on a routine basis.

Tom Lauria, vice president of communications for the International Bottled Water Association, called a move to tax bottled water shortsighted.

“The FDA is very clear in classifying bottled water as a food, and for some people it is a necessity,” he said. “They don’t have up-to-standard tap water or they have personal immunity problems from cancer or HIV and they require purified water as part of their regular diet.”

Bottled water is very popular, seeing a slight decline last year but still hitting sales of more than $8 billion in the U.S., Lauria said.

Most states that do not tax food do not tax bottled water either, he said. Three states that do not tax food, Washington, New York, and Maryland, have chosen to tax bottled water, Lauria said.

The temporary tax on bottled water in Washington is now on the November ballot for potential repeal by voters.

Audio clips:

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom says bottled water has no nutritional value and could bring in much needed state revenue:

101310Segerblom1 :28 from eating properly.”

Segerblom says a sales tax exemption on food does not need to include bottled water:

101310Segerblom2 :14 necessary to survive.”

Tom Lauria of the International Bottled Water Association says imposing a tax on bottled water is shortsighted:

101310Lauria :27 their regular diet.”

Lucky Baccarat Players A Factor in Nevada Gaming Revenue Decline Of 4.7 Percent In May

By Sean Whaley | 3:29 pm July 7th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Lucky baccarat players on the Las Vegas Strip were a major contributor to a 4.7 percent decline in Nevada statewide gaming revenues in May, the Gaming Control Board reported today.

The win amount from the card game played by high rollers on the Strip totaled just under $61 million in May, a decline of 37 percent compared to May 2009, according to the monthly gaming win numbers released by the state agency.

Frank Streshley, Tax and License Division chief for the agency, said the win percentage held by casinos on the game was 8.4 percent in May compared to more than 13.2 percent a year ago. The difference meant $34 million less in revenue to the casinos, he said.

“Definitely the hold percentages in baccarat had a major effect both on the state and the Strip,” Streshley said. “This is the first monthly decline in baccarat win on a percentage basis in over a year.”

As a result, the total statewide win in May was $847.2 million, down from the $889.2 million reported in May of 2009. The Strip brought in $450.2 million, down 6.4 percent from the $480.8 million won in May of 2009.

On a brighter note, downtown Las Vegas was down less than 1 percent to $42.9 million.

“This is the best month percentage-wise in over two years since June of 2008,” Streshley said.

The North Las Vegas market was up nearly 9 percent to $22.6 million. The Boulder Strip was up 5 percent to $67.7 million. Washoe County was down nearly 8 percent to $70.4 million.

The May decline follows a 5.7 percent statewide gaming revenue decline in April.

Streshley said that in addition to the baccarat play, a couple of other factors had an effect on the May report. One positive was the Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley fight May 1 at the MGM Grand. A negative on the revenue total was the fact that there was one less Friday in May 2010 than May 2009.

While a stronger baccarat win would have made a marked improvement in the May gaming win, Streshley said another factor appears to be in play. Nevada’s small but gradual improvement in gaming play appears to have stalled, mirroring the stock market decline and other national economic indicators, he said.

audio clips:

Gaming analyst Frank Streshley says the Nevada gaming slowdown appears to mirror the nation:

070710Streshley1 :37 has stalled somewhat.”

Streshley says baccarat players were lucky and affected the gaming win:

070710Streshley2 :15 the monthly win.”

Unique Revenue Plan from Candidate for Governor

By Elizabeth Crum | 6:07 pm May 17th, 2010

Gino for Governor is a man with a plan.

I absolutely love it, so much so that I have given it a pet name:  The Ricky Bobby Go Fast Revenue Plan.  (Disclaimer:  If you have not seen Talladega Nights, you will not find that name very funny.)

Check out Gino’s website, but here is the gist of the $1 to $2 billion revenue plan that will “enrich” all our lives (I know it will mine):

Nevada drivers will be able to pay a fee to be able to drive quite a bit faster than the speed limit — at what will be called a “Pay Limit” (vs. a Free Limit) — and because lots of us WANT to go fast, Bam! the billions will pour in.

Yes he is serious.

Here’s Gino’s math:

NDOT says NV has about 1.7 million licensed drivers and about 1.8 million passenger cars.

Highway Patrol says the typical unmonitored speed is about 80-85 mph.

Gino took this information and questioned “numerous” NV Highway Patrol Officers:

Question: If there was a law that allowed people to purchase the privilege to drive fast, say up to 90 mph for $25 a day, on any given day what percentage of drivers would do it?

Answer: About 30 – 40%

Which is exciting because:

That is about 3 or 4 out of 10 drivers! WOW!

However, Gino, being a conservative guy, wants to go with an assumption of just 10%.  So:

10% of 1.7 Million drivers = 170,000 drivers

On any given day, at $25 this comes to: $4.25 million per day

Assume only 6 days per week we get: $25.5 Million per week

Each year this comes to: $1.3 Billion per year!!!

And this only accounts for domestic passenger vehicles!

If we add tourism (about 100,000 vehicles per year) and we add commercial vehicles the story just gets better. In fact, it nearly doubles to about $2.5 to $3 BILLION per year!!!

However, Gino cautions:

• The plan shows well over $2 Billion dollars per year is achievable. However, one must be exceptionally cautious with the data. While the data supports remarkable revenue opportunity, it is folly to expect contributions to the plan will be on these averages the first few years the plan rolls out. Consequently, conservative planning is prudent and was incorporated in the revenue expectations. To evaluate revenue expectations conservatively, compounding percentage reductions were calculated into the plan.

Whew, ok.  I was worried about compounding percentage reductions, but Gino has it covered:

• With substantial conservatism employed, the plan shows just over $1 Billion revenue per year is possible, after it is fully adopted. Adoption time can take three to eighteen months. Translation: Under this plan and with-in a year and a half Nevada could be generating nearly $1 Billion dollars of additional revenue.

I am eager to get started and Go Fast but first, I have a few questions:

How is this $25 fee which gives you the freedom to legally drive like a mad man on Nevada’s highways and byways going to be collected? Do you actually pay daily?  Or is this something you pay on an annual basis (which would work out to $7,800 per year based on 52 six-day weeks)?  Can you pay with a credit card?  On a website?

Is there an office at which you’ll have to go stand in line?  Because, being a person who loves to Go Fast, I am totally willing to shell out eight grand a year for the privilege of doing so, but I really hate waiting in long, slow lines so that might hold me back.

Also, who will log all the driver data into the system and issue the Go Fast Passes?  And do the passes come in different colors?  And how much will the administration of all that cost?  And did Gino remember to apply a compounding percentage increase to that side of the equation (because we all know that is how bureaucracy works)?

And how will highway patrol know you have paid your fee as you go zipping by at 90 mph?  He won’t be able to see a decal or anything, so will he pull you over and then let you off without a ticket when you show him your Go Fast Pass?  And doesn’t that kind of defeat the joy of driving fast in the first place?

Or will there be some high tech device on your car that tells his radar device know you have paid your Go Fast fee?  And how much will those devices and the new tricked-out radar devices cost?  Is that built into the fee, or is there an additional equipment cost?

I’m sure Gino has it all worked out, so I’ve emailed his campaign and will report back with answers.

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

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:13 am February 27th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s expected events:

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

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

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

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

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

List of “Revenue Enhancements” Still on the Table

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:37 am February 24th, 2010

Assemblyman Morse Arberry, Jr., D-Las Vegas, has confirmed that all of following items are still on the discussion table as possibilities for increasing state revenue and closing the budget shortfall:

– A fee increase for gaming control board – between $32 and $57 million

– Tax Amnesty – $15 million

– A grab from Clark County school capital projects – $25 million

– A grab from the Clark County Reclamation Fund – $56 million

– An increase in foreclosure mediation fees – $28 million  (Details:  a $500 fee from the banks, plus a possibly increased fee from the homeowners which is currently $200 or $250)

– Mining – $100 million

We’ll be asking legislators whether or not they support these items and checking for updates throughout the day

December Tax Collection Stats

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:51 pm February 23rd, 2010

Statewide sales taxes declined 6.6 percent in December compared to last year, but gross revenue collections ($291,942,636) from sales and use taxes showed a slight (0.78%) increase compared to December 2008.

$104,794,843 was collected and deposited into the State general fund for the quarter ending December 2009 for Modified Business Tax from General Businesses and Financial Institutions. This is a 40% increase compared to the same quarter last year.

Total exccise tax collections ($101,007,257) for the month of December 2009 increased 5.25% compared to the same month prior year.

Quoth the Governor:

December tax collections continue to decline; however, after 14 months of double digit percentage declines in sales taxes over the prior year, we have a single digit decline of under 7% for December 2009 taxable sales compared to December 2008. While some indicators are beginning to show signs of a thaw in the state economy, Nevadans continue to experience high unemployment rates and the highest foreclosure rate in the nation. My administration will continue to press for leaner, more efficient and effective government as we face tough budget decisions on the road to economic recovery.

New Ideas for Revenue, Cuts from the Governor’s Office

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:48 pm February 15th, 2010

RalstonFlash email that hit the Inbox at 3:02 today:

Collecting sales tax from Internet, 4-day work week on special session agenda

That’s the word from the governor’s office, which reportedly is considering a couple dozen items but only has finalized six so far. Spokeman Dan Burns tells me they include a move to collect sales tax on Internet sales from Nevada vendors — now if you buy online, there is no sales tax.

Burns derided my notion that this is a tax increase; rather it is collecting taxes that have gone uncollected, which is unfair to those who buy in the store, he told me. I hope nobody else calls this a tax increase; that would be an unfair shot at the governor of Muthian proportions.

Other items:

1. Four-day work week, 10 hours a day. Furlough days also will cost 10 hours of pay.

2. Allowing counties and cities to shift monies from capital/reserve funds

3. The so-called hold harmless clause for schools — state would only pay for number of students, even if less than previous year

The rest is still being discussed, including water.

And remember, even after the proclamation is released Tuesday, it can be amended until end of session.

(Hat tip to KRNV’s Vickie Campbell)

Update (5:42 p.m.): Sebelius has some background and commentary worth looking over.

Double-Digit Decline in Nevada Statewide October Gaming Win Called Disappointing

By Sean Whaley | 11:08 am December 10th, 2009

CARSON CITY – Nevada gaming revenues declined significantly again in October after two months of what was hoped to be the beginnings of a turnaround in the state’s biggest industry.

A state Gaming Control Board official called the 11.6 percent decline in statewide gaming win a “disappointment.” The decline came off of an October 2008 report that was down 22.3 percent over October 2007.

It was the 22nd straight month of statewide consecutive gaming revenue declines.

Total gaming win was just $800 million compared to $905 million in October 2008. It was the lowest win since December 2003.

The state had seen only single-digit declines in gaming win in August and September, hinting at the possibility of a bottoming out of Nevada’s gaming economy.

Frank Streshley, control board Tax and License Division chief, said one reason for the poor performance is that gamblers were luckier than usual on table games in October. The “hold,” or amount of the wagers retained by casinos from gamblers, was lower for most of the major games, from craps to blackjack.

“The luck factor can go either direction,” he said. “Volume on the game side was up.”

The hold on blackjack in October was 10.2 percent versus 12.7 percent in October of 2008. The craps hold was 11.3 percent versus 14 percent in October 2008. Other table games were similarly lower except for baccarat, a game favored by high end players, which was slightly higher compared to October 2008.

Baccarat was one of the few bright spots in the report, Streshley said.

“We continue to seeing strong play on the high end baccarat,” he said.

Casinos won $65.4 million on baccarat in October, up 61.4 percent or about $25 million over last year. The “drop” or the amount wagered by baccarat players was also strong at $709.8 million, up 43.7 percent over October 2008.

The monthly gaming report released today showed total game and table win statewide of $252.5 million, down 10.6 percent over October 2008.

The slot win statewide of $537 million was down 12.1 percent over the previous year.

On the Las Vegas Strip, casinos took in $426.3 million, down 10.3 percent.

Downtown Las Vegas was off 16.4 percent, Reno was down 16 percent and South Lake Tahoe was off 24.1 percent.

The disappointing win came despite a sold out concert by the rock group U2 on Oct. 23 that brought in 42,000 fans to Las Vegas.