Governor says no option offered to business tax idea

CARSON CITY — Lawmakers made good progress in the first week of the Legislature analyzing his proposed budget, Gov. Brian Sandoval said in an interview Friday.

As promised by legislative leaders, lawmakers also got down to businesses on the tax reform front, an issue that will get a great deal of attention over the next four months.

But the word is still out on how they and the governor will handle the teachers’ business tax proposal that might end up on the 2014 ballot.

Sandoval, who is not considering any kind of proposal that might be offered to counter the margins tax initiative petition, said no such option has been presented to his office by the business community.

“Unanimously from the business community, I haven’t heard any support for the margins tax, and no one has presented to me an alternative,” Sandoval said. “I won’t be supportive, as I said in the State of the State, of any new taxes.”

Business groups are concerned that if the margins tax becomes law, it could put some employers out of business and damage the state’s fragile economy, which is still struggling to recover from a deep recession.

While discussions in the Legislature on “tax reform” and “tax neutral” changes to the state’s revenue structure are welcome, Sandoval said there are no specifics yet on which he can comment.

Both terms can mean different things to different people, he said. A services tax could mean a new tax on those who get haircuts or who use landscaping services.

“All of these things aren’t specific right now, so I don’t think it’s fair for me to have to comment on something that doesn’t exist,” Sandoval said. “So when it does, I can evaluate it at the time.”

Sandoval said he remains firmly opposed to the Nevada State Education Association petition to raise $800 million a year for education through a 2 percent business margins tax, which was given new life last week when it survived a challenge in the Nevada Supreme Court.

The Legislature has 40 days to enact the proposal, or it will go to the voters in 2014.

There has been no indication yet on how the business community will respond to the reality that the margins tax measure probably will be in front of the voters in 2014.

Seeking a competing ballot proposal is one option. Another is fighting it in an expensive ad war aimed at voters.

Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada, said his group wants to be part of the discussion on tax policy that is occurring in the Legislature over the next four months.

“The retail association doesn’t want to make tax policy at the ballot box,” he said.

Sandoval had no comment on the other big issue in the first week of the session, that being the plight of Assemblyman Steven Brooks, except to say he wished him and his family well.

Brooks, a North Las Vegas Democrat who is facing allegations that he threatened Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, showed up for the legislative session but on Thursday said he is taking off three weeks to take care of his medical problems.

Sandoval said he was pleased at the reception his Cabinet received during the week’s worth of budget presentations.

“I thought it was extremely productive,” he said. “I think it was a good success for them as well as the Legislature.”

Sandoval said he watched some of the budget discussions via television from his office but will be visiting the Legislative Building often in the weeks and months to come.

Contact reporter Sean Whaley at or 775-687-3900.