'Green' construction bill sent to Gibbons

CARSON CITY -- A "green" construction bill that reduces tax breaks for companies building energy efficient buildings was on its way to the governor Sunday after the Assembly agreed with a Senate amendment to the measure.

Assembly Bill 621 eliminates sales tax breaks for all but six companies that qualified for the program by a Feb. 1 deadline put into the measure by the Senate.

The bill also reduces property tax deductions for buildings that qualify under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards approved by the Legislature in 2005.

The new legislation also protects schools from any property tax losses.

Lawmakers this year sought to revise the 2005 law after learning that it would result in more than $900 million in sales and property tax breaks, which would have translated into reduced funding for local government and public schools.

The new measure eliminates the sales tax exemption for all but six projects, identified by Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, as the CityCenter project being built by MGM/Mirage; Fontainebleau; the Venetian's Lido/Palazzo Resort projects; the Molasky Corporate Center; the Echelon Place project by Boyd Gaming; and the Panorama Towers project. All are in Las Vegas.

AB621 passed with the Senate amendment imposing the Feb. 1 deadline for Tax Department approval of a project despite an e-mail sent to senators on Friday from Matt Maddox of Wynn Resorts objecting to the measure.

"The new amendment to AB621 will have a serious adverse pact on the Encore project for Wynn Resorts," Maddox said.

An analysis of the Wynn project suggests that if the company qualified, it would collect about $30 million in sales tax breaks.

The imposition of the Feb. 1, 2007, deadline for projects to qualify for the original sales tax breaks included in legislation passed in 2005 "will exclude Wynn and cause us to lose millions of dollars and abandon many of the energy saving initiatives," Maddox said.

Lawsuits over the 2007 legislation are possible from companies seeking the more liberal breaks from the 2005 session but excluded by the new bill.

In recommending the acceptance of the Senate amendment, Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said a legislative legal opinion is clear that one Legislature cannot bind a future Legislature to a certain course of action. The 2007 Legislature can change the breaks if it chooses to do so, she said.

The new measure protects the state and provides balance and fairness, Kirkpatrick said.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said the legislation is about good policy, not "who's in and who's out."

"We need to get this done and move forward on this issue," she said.