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Legislature 2013:

Kirkpatrick to seek revenue-neutral tax reform


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick testifies before the Taxation Committee on the second day of the 2013 legislative session Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 in Carson City.

Wed, Feb 6, 2013 (2 a.m.)

Rather than seeking a tax increase this session, Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said Tuesday she will pursue revenue-neutral reform aimed at increasing Nevada’s tax base enough that it will eventually generate more money for education and other state services.

Such an approach could earn considerable Republican support, which is necessary for any change to Nevada’s tax laws.

“We are going to try hard to do that,” Kirkpatrick said in a brief interview with the Sun, referring to working a deal for revenue-neutral reform.

Kirkpatrick, who so far has shied away from detailing what she wants to do on taxes this session, said she would favor eliminating the payroll tax and ending the “sunsets” on what was supposed to be a temporary tax increase.

“I want to get rid of the sunsets altogether,” she said of the 2009 tax increase that was originally supposed to expire in 2011. The Legislature extended those taxes two years ago and Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed another two-year extension.

“We can’t be on a seesaw,” she said. “I want the sunsets off.”

Kirkpatrick did not detail a specific proposal for broadening the tax base. But she said expanding the sales tax to include services — such as hairdressing, accounting and legal advice — would be a realistic approach. To make it “revenue-neutral,” the sales tax rate would be lowered.

For weeks, Kirkpatrick has promised to begin on Day 2 of the session an “open and frank discussion” of Nevada’s tax structure, which repeated studies have shown relies too heavily on sales and gaming taxes.

That discussion did begin Tuesday — with a mind-numbing, spreadsheet-heavy explanation of how tax revenue is allocated among local governments. The hearing, before the joint Senate and Assembly tax committees, did not delve into the tax structure.

In interviews after the hearing, however, both Republicans and Democrats on the committee voiced support for a “revenue-neutral” approach to changing the tax structure.

“I think you would have Republicans very seriously entertain that possibility,” Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said. “It’s not our goal for nothing to happen. That’s not our goal.”

Senate Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, echoed Hickey, saying “some method for lowering the rate and broadening the tax base” could earn significant Republican support.

While a revenue-neutral approach is earning kudos from Republicans, some in Kirkpatrick’s party may be dismayed if she stops short of pursuing a tax increase.

More liberal members of the Senate and Assembly Democratic caucuses have said additional revenue is needed now to properly fund education and other state services.

Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, for example, described foregoing additional taxes this year as “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”

To sell it to Democrats, Kirkpatrick points out that broadening the tax base will grow revenue in years to come.

“We need to think long range,” she said. “We can put some things in place now that will result in revenue in the future. But it will all be revenue-neutral (for this budget.)”

If she is able to cobble together enough support among Republicans and Democrats, Kirkpatrick would still have to face Sandoval.

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Discussion: 6 comments so far…

  1. If our Nevada Lawmakers want to really HELP education and educators, they need to put ENforcement teeth in the taxpayer funded, yearly administered "PARENT/TEACHER/STUDENT INVOLVEMENT ACCORD" keeping in mind, that in the last session, the 76th Nevada State Legislative Session, Lawmakers DID make administrators and teachers accountable and responsible through the new evaluation system, but fell short, by NOT also addressing accountability with students and their parent(s)/caregiver(s). We simply cannot make educators solely responsible for ALL of a child's education, especially when you have the student receiving services, and the parent who supports and is the main provider of the child, not also bearing responsibility for their actions or inactions.

    Nevada taxpayers are on the hook paying for that Involvement Accord, but HOW EFFECTIVE is it??? Who is analyzing that Involvement Accord to insure it is 1-worthwhile to continue; and 2-getting the results hoped for? Who is accountable and responsible for this Accord?

    Nevada has the dubious honor of being last in education for all the years this Involvement Accord at taxpayer expense has been instituted. It needs to either be ENFORCED or changed to be more effective, that's for sure.

    Another improvement to the current educational system, is to convert more schools into being MAGNET schools, with specialized programs. Such schools are not only popular choices and always in demand, but are truly effective. This change would not involve much funding to convert, so it would be a near financial wash. Let's do the things to bring Nevada education UP!

    Educators and families were NOT too happy with the previous 76th Legislative Session Lawmakers of the status quo, those who kicked the can down the political road, those Lawmakers, as we can clearly see, did NOT get reelected. The GOOD People of Nevada, those who are forever responsible with caring for and supporting their families, those who don't have any more children than they can be responsible for, those who insure their children behave properly and do their school work, those who are actively involved with their child's life, insist something be done on the behalf of those children who do NOT have such parent support. There needs to be accountability and responsibility, and putting ENforcement teeth in the yearly administered, taxpayer funded, Involvement Accord is a step in the RIGHT direction. Although this ENforcement may not make many who are irresponsible happy, it will be taking steps to fix a problem that impedes the academic and social success of their children.

    We already have the administration, the school police, the truant officers, school counselors, and support staff in place to support this Accord. UNTIE their hands and put ENforcement teeth in the Accord, and watch Nevada leap from dead last bottom to the Heavens!

    Please and thank you.
    Blessings and Peace,

  2. Lack of analysis again rears it's ugly head: Nevada's tax structure was never designed to be the same as every other states. There is INTENTIONALLY no reliance upon income taxes, individual nor business. The State should, however, look at how the revenue is distributed. Perhaps we should return to common sense--the localities within should receive the LSST and CCRT collected within it's geography. The allocation of the amounts collected for mail-order, internet and non-specific geographies can be put DIRECTLY INTO THE RAINY DAY FUND and be restricted so that the next session can't fritter it away.

    I understand the constant inevitable tinkering by everyone from the Legislature, Governor's office, state agencies, requests from cities, counties....has made the current "system" indecipherable. Changing back to common sense, means those areas that are rural and remote won't get a lot of revenue but that's because there are few people there and few services needed. Further, those who chose to live in a remote location cannot expect government agencies to drive up to their doors and provide everything. They should not even expect a school bus to pull up every school day. You make choice and those choices have consequences. If you don't want your kids to grow up in Vegas, expect to provide transportation. If you chose to live in Vegas, don't expect a park on every corner.

  3. I fully agree with the position that Speaker Kirkpatrick has presented. Increase the tax base by allowing many services to be taxed, while decreasing the tax rate so that it becomes revenue neutral. By reducing the tax rate, this should stimulate sales, not just by Nevada residents but think how our visitors from California will want to purchase items here to save some taxes. This would increase the tax collected.

    I would love to see this same idea applied to the governmental taxes for vehicles. Reduce the top rate some while holding to a minimum rate so that older, more polluting vehicles are paying for the use of the roads. With a reduction of both sales tax and the governmental taxes, new car sales should increase, which would increase the revenue to the state and county.

    This really does fall inline with most republican's beliefs in allowing lower tax rates to increase the taxable revenue.

  4. Ms. K might be a bit naive. She needs to factor in the changing demographics. As long as Nevada keeps out the welcome mat to illegals displaced out of Arizona, we will continue to have more and more needs and expenses WITHOUT parallel increases in productivity, business, tax revenue. Therefore, we need to do more with less. Accountability out of K-12. We're already spending a fortune on K-12 but we're 51st in results. Not worth dumping more money there. We also need to refocus on American seniors who've supported the tax base for years and years. Nevada DHHS does little for low-income seniors but does spend a lot via medicaid--how about some new things. Seek a federal grant to contract and build low-income senior / disabled dormitory housing. For every senior or disabled we can keep semi-self-sufficient, medicaid (about half state dollars) saves AT LEAST $5,000 a month--basic nursing home costs. There must be options for those mobile and coherent versus housing and drugging them for years in nursing homes with long wait lists. Let's keep the more expensive options for those with more limitations.