Democrats in Legislature may reveal tax increase proposals this week

CARSON CITY — Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said Monday that legislative Democrats as early as Thursday will release their proposals to increase taxes that he says are needed to sufficiently fund education and state employees.

Denis wouldn’t give details other than to say “it will be a combination of things” and that Democrats have been talking with Republicans in hopes of winning their support.

Earlier this session, Denis said that another $310 million, above what Gov. Brian Sandoval has recommended, was needed to add full-day kindergarten programs, decrease class-size and add English language learners programs.

Democrats also identified about $200 million in additional funds they thought were necessary in the budget. That included about $150 million that Sandoval diverted away from road construction and used to balance his $6.2 billion two-year general fund budget. Denis said road construction money should be spent on road construction.

So far, no Republicans have publicly stated they would increase any taxes, other than extending the $600 million in temporary sales and business taxes that would otherwise expire June 30. Sandoval has included those funds in his budget but vowed to veto any other tax increase plans.

Democrats need the support of three Republicans in the Senate and one in the Assembly to pass taxes by the required two-thirds vote.

Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said his party in the Assembly remains opposed to new taxes.

Sandoval added about $135 million to education in his proposed budget. He later added $25 million to education through additional funds he identified. Democrats contended that about $90 million of those funds would simply cover expected student growth.

Denis expects the Economic Forum — a group of five business leaders who by law forecast state tax revenues — to come in with “flat” projections of revenue available for state government over the next two years. The forum meets Wednesday. Its projections are binding on the governor and Legislature as they complete the proposed budget for July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2015.

Little more than a month remains in the Legislature. It’s doubtful there would be time to implement major new taxes because the Department of Education would need time and additional staff to gear up for a new tax program.

Democrats could look at easy-to-implement increases in existing so-called “sin” taxes — cigarette and tobacco taxes.

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-Las Vegas, also has complained that the live entertainment tax — usually 5 or 10 percent — isn’t collected in many places that offer live entertainment and is such a complicated tax that it’s hard to determine which business should pay it.

Hickey said he would be willing to consider “fixes” to problems in the collection of the live entertainment tax, but not major changes.

The Legislature adjourns June 3.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.