Taxable sales show biggest jump since 1999

Taxable sales in Nevada turned in their biggest increase since 1999 in December -- jumping 8.4 percent over the same month of 2002.

But, while one critic of the governor's proposed tax increases said the numbers give some hope Nevada's tax structure isn't as bad as some claim, Gov. Kenny Guinn said the numbers support his push for immediate tax hikes.

Taxable sales rose from $2.98 billion to $3.23 billion. But Guinn pointed out that, through the first six months of this fiscal year, that is just 4.3 percent more than the same period of fiscal 2002. He said collections are still $17 million below the amount projected by the economic forum -- the amount used to build the current budget.

"This illustrates why it is so important for an immediate infusion of new revenue," said Guinn. "In order to meet the state's budgetary needs for this current fiscal year, we will need to see more than 15 percent growth in each of the remaining six months."

Only five counties posted negative numbers in December. But one of them was Carson City, where taxable sales were down 9 percent. Total sales reported were down from $88.7 million in December 2002 to $80.7 million.

Douglas County, meanwhile, posted a 19.8 percent increase from $51.2 million to $61.3 million and Lyon County a 37.6 percent increase from $19.4 million to $26.7 million.

Storey County was one of the other counties reporting a drop in taxable sales -- a 29.9 percent drop from $2.7 million to $1.9 million.

Clark County reported a whopping 10.4 percent increase to $2.35 billion in December and Washoe a 3 percent rise to $532.1 million.

Guinn is pushing for his package of quick tax increases to help erase this year's revenue shortfall.

Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, who has been critical of the tax package since before it was revealed, said the 8.4 percent increase in taxable sales is "great news."

"That will have the effect of taking this biennium definitely down from the $155 million deficit," he said.

He said he hopes December is just the first of several months showing evidence of solid recovery and that a couple more good months would significantly decrease the pressure to raise taxes now.

"We'll still be under pressure. We've spent beyond our means for so long," he said.

He also said it may be evidence Nevada's tax base isn't as unstable as has been painted over the past year.

"Growth could be paying for growth," he said.

Beers has in the past urged Nevada to continue its tradition of finding ways to make tourists pay the bulk of tax needs rather than raising taxes on Nevada businesses and residents.

Assembly Ways and Means Vice Chair Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, agreed the December report was great news for lawmakers trying to get through this fiscal year. But she said it doesn't change the fact that the state's tax system is too narrow and vulnerable to economic shifts.

"I'm concerned some may see this as a reason not to do anything," she said.

Giunchigliani said even if good numbers for the next couple of months help lawmakers get through the rest of this fiscal year, the system has to be fixed.

"The first issue is to find a way to broaden the tax base," she said. "No matter what, we have to find a way to do that. And any businesses not currently paying should be made to pay."


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