First of governor's tax bills introduced in legislature

The first of Gov. Kenny Guinn's tax bills was introduced Wednesday in the Senate and Assembly.

SB219 and AB204 are the same proposal increasing the cigarette, alcohol, business and slot route taxes by April 1.

Together, the increases are Guinn's attempt to jump-start increased revenues to erase this fiscal year's revenue shortfall as other taxes are set up for the coming biennium.

In the legislation, Guinn made a concession to lawmakers who have expressed reservations about committing themselves on short notice to the increases, saying once they are in place it will be difficult to remove or modify them if the Legislature decides on a different course. The concession is to sunset the increases on June 30.

Meaning the increases would all go away, unless lawmakers pass legislation to continue or modify them.

"The sunset is there for a stop gap," Guinn said. "They can't just approve them without approving them again."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said he, Guinn and Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, agreed on the sunset to help build legislative support. But he indicated again that he supports higher taxes.

"I think this is the kind of situation where the only other alternative to taxes would be very severe," he said.

Perkins said the sunset "keeps it from being a piecemeal approach to taxation." And he said without it, debate over the interim taxes might have interfered with passage of the primary tax package needed to raise revenues for the next two years.

Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, chairman of the Taxation Committee, said he doesn't yet know whether the committee will have joint hearings on the two bills. If not, he said he'll bring it before his committee Tuesday.

The bill would double alcohol taxes, effective April 1, and triple cigarette taxes. It also would triple the Business Activity Tax to $300 per full-time employee per year, and it would raise the taxes charged to slot route operators about 25 percent.

Altogether, the increases would pump about $80 million into the state treasury to offset this year's shortfall.

Guinn said he hopes to have his main tax bill ready for introduction Saturday. That bill will continue the sin taxes and slot route taxes, but allow the BAT tax to drop back as the proposed new gross-receipts business tax comes online. It will also propose increases in the state's share of property taxes and create a new tax on "amusements."

Altogether, it is designed to raise nearly $1 billion for the state treasury over the next two years.


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