Talks Continue In Tax Debate

Nevada Budget Crisis
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There's still no solution to the state's budget impasse. Talks between legislative leaders are continuing. However, as the State Supreme Court considers a number of written arguments on the issue.

It seems like we keep asking the same question . . . is any of
this leading anywhere?

And that depends on who you listen to.

If you're counting this is Day 156 of what was supposed to be a 120-day session. Legislative leaders were looking again for a compromise to end the stalemate, but sending mixed signals on where things stand as they began those meetings. Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick saying they may be close.

Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins is skeptical, saying his hopes have been raised before. Possible budget cuts being talked about include dealying raises for state workers, teachers and university personnel, putting off payments to the public employees retirement system and not restoring the state's rainy day fund.

Meanwhile the Nevada Supreme Court is reading written briefs, preparing for a possible ruling later this week. Among the arguments contained in briefs filed by various parties that the 2-thirds requirement for a vote raising taxes violates the constitution's equal protection clause . . . and that the court can't intervene at all in the legislative branch.

While the size of the budget is one issue. The other is the components
of any tax package.

While some have met with little disagreement - higher cigarette and alcohol taxes have been a foregone conclusion, finding the new business tax has been difficult.

None more so than the gross receipts tax proposed by the Tax Policy Task Force and the governor.

It's widely viewed as unfair to high-volume, low-profit margin businesses like supermarkets and it's currently off the table.

But what about the remaining ideas? We took the concepts in the current debate away from the legislators and lobbyists to an economist for a reading.

Dr. Mark Pingle of UNR says the payroll tax favored by the Senate and even some of the Republican Assemblymen does fit the definition of a broadbased business tax and, given that any tax may be unfair does spread the load.

No matter what the business tax, Pingle says make no mistake who
eventually pays - the public and the consumer.

Pingle says Nevada's narrow tax system may have long been ideal - in
that the state was able to export a lot of its tax load on visitors. With gaming spreading nationwide now and the state growing fast, it may
be inevitable that it now has to be broadened.