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Bill seeks permanent deduction for sales taxes

In true “Perils of Pauline” fashion, Congress waited until virtually the last minute in December to renew a law that allows people to deduct state and local sales taxes on their annual federal returns. On top of that, the renewal was only for a single year.

It wasn’t an isolated incident. Lawmakers have had to pass periodic renewals of the law five times since 2004.

Now, senators from states where the sales tax deduction is most popular are taking another shot at trying to avoid the annual “will they or won’t they” when it comes to extending the benefit.

Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., introduced a bill Jan. 8 that would make the sales tax deduction a permanent part of the tax code. Both sit on the Senate Finance Committee that could take up the bill.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is among co-sponsors along with senators from Wyoming, South Dakota, Washington, Texas, Florida and Tennessee.

Taxpayers in those states plus Alaska are the most prevalent users of the sales tax write-off because they do not pay (and so can’t deduct) state income taxes. The law gives tax filers the choice to deduct one or the other.

In 2012, the most recent year for numbers from the Internal Revenue Service, 280,000 Nevadans claimed the sales tax deduction — 22 percent of taxpayers in the state. The average deduction claimed was $332.

Heller said the extension would let Nevadans “keep their hard-earned money in their own pockets and in turn boost local economies.”

A permanent extension of the sales tax deduction would cost the U.S. Treasury $34 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It could get worked into any type of tax reform bill lawmakers take up this year — if they decide to do so.

— Steve Tetreault

AMODEI ON INTERIOR FUNDING PANEL

It took two tries, but Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., has made it onto the U.S. House panel that sets funding levels for the public land agencies and reviews how the money is being spent.

Amodei, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, was named last week to the Interior subcommittee in the new Congress. He had asked for that seat when he was first assigned to Appropriations in December 2013, but it went instead to Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah.

The post is a fit for the Republican whose district is rural Northern Nevada and who interacts regularly with the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish & Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other parts of the Department of Interior.

Amodei got the department’s attention in the fall when he got a rider passed delaying a final decision on listing the sage grouse as threatened or endangered.

“It is invaluable to have oversight and input into the operations and funding of the Interior Department, which directly and indirectly controls more than 80 percent of our state,” Amodei said in a statement. “We are already engaged in the blue-collar daily work that will hopefully lead to more responsive and thoughtful policies from Washington, D.C., regarding federal land use in Nevada and the West.”

— Steve Tetreault

VETERANS ON GOVERNOR’S MIND

Gov. Brian Sandoval spent most of his State of the State address Thursday talking about education reform, economic development and, of course, taxes, but he saved some time for one of his other top priorities: Nevada’s veterans.

In a talk that rarely strayed from policy and his vision for the future, Sandoval still had time to honor six veterans invited to attend the speech, each representing a different conflict in U.S. history:

■ Radioman 1st Class Bill Parsons of Sparks, who served in the U.S. Navy submarine service during World War II;

■ Retired 1st Sgt. Chuck Harton of Reno, who served in World War II and Korea;

■ Erwin “Moe” McQueen of Ely, who served as an Army infantryman in Vietnam;

■ Air Force Master Sgt. BJ Jefferson of Las Vegas, who served during the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan;

■ Amy Wallin of Reno, who served in the Coast Guard during the global war on terrorism;

■ National Guard Capt. Denisse Ramos of Las Vegas, who was deployed three times, twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.

The veterans received a strong round of applause from the audience in the Assembly chambers, but Sandoval did not leave veterans out of his budget, either, after noting that the Southern Nevada Veterans Home is at capacity.

“My budget contains $14 million in bond funds to build the Northern Nevada Veterans Home,” he said. “Our veterans deserve nothing less.”

— Sean Whaley

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow @STetreaultDC on Twitter. Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

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