Senate Taxation Chairman Bob Coffin warned today that no business will be immune from tax increases if legislators decide the state needs additional revenue to cover essential program costs.
"We need to save our education system, human resources, programs for the elderly and the young," Coffin remarked in a speech before his committee held its first meeting of the 2009 Legislature.
"Everything is on the table," he added. "That is code that any tax that can be raised to balance this budget will be raised or considered — mining, gaming, all industries are vulnerable to the necessities, the urgencies of balancing this budget."
Even two years ago when Republicans controlled the committee, Coffin was outspoken in the need to raise taxes to fund highway construction. At one meeting, he engaged in a verbal duel with Gov. Jim Gibbons over whether additional road taxes were needed.
In recent weeks, he has mentioned that legislators should consider taxing legal prositution, escort services and strip tease acts as the state suffers through its worst recession in generations.
"Welcome to the 2009 version of "Let's Make A Deal," added Coffin, noting he was returning as chairman after 18 years during which Republicans held control of the Taxation Committee. "We don't hold back in this committee."
But when Coffin asked the six other members of the committee to comment on tax issues, none made any comments.
Coffin said the committee over the next two months will study state spending and programs and determine whether the budget prepared by Gibbons is short of state needs. Gibbons has proposed state general fund spending of $6.17 billion, or 9.3 percent less than the budget approved by the Legislature in 2007.
If any taxes are raised, then Coffin said he wants to put in a mechanism that they will expire on a certain date. He noted in 2005 legislators returned $300 million in excess revenue to citizens, but added they did not give the money back to the businesses that absorbed tax increases in 2003.
Coffin said there have been previous recessions in Nevada, contending that one in the 1964-66 period in Las Vegas "was every bit as bad as today."
"We need to take advantage of every opportunity we can to balance the budget," he added.
Contact Las Vegas Review-Journal Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.