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Citizens group backs off any tax increases

CARSON CITY — A citizens group charged with creating a vision of a better Nevada on Friday backed off from recommending that the Legislature approve any tax increases or make any other policy changes.

The 20-member Vision Stakeholders Group said it will hold at least one more meeting where members will vote on proposals, including tax and revenue matters.

Group Chairman Robert Lang expressed irritation over the media’s coverage of the group’s draft proposal, saying: “We had our media splash. It would have been good to get our work done first.”

He added that one of the proposals, calling for a high-speed train between Las Vegas and Reno, was sure to be omitted from the group’s final report to the Legislature and yet it was mentioned in the media accounts.

Lang said it is more likely there will be a spaceship to Reno before a train is constructed.

In its coverage of the proposal, the Las Vegas Review-Journal repeatedly stated it was a draft report that could be amended, revised or approved.

Geoff Lawrence, a fiscal analyst with the Nevada Police Research Institute, a conservative think tank, said it was clear to him that the Vision Stakeholders Group was taken aback by the public response to its tentative suggestions to broaden Nevada’s tax base and was “changing its rhetoric.”

Lawrence said he believes the Stakeholders Group was established by the Legislature “to produce an intellectual rationale for higher taxes” next year. “I don’t think that has changed,” he said.

But Lang, who is a nonvoting member, said his aim is “not to bring big government to the West.”

The Vision Stakeholders Group has been assigned to come up with its vision of how Nevada can be improved over the next 20 years. Its members were selected by 16-member legislative committee, including 10 Democrats.

The legislation establishing the group also included spending $253,000 to hire Moody’s Analytics to carry out a study of the state’s tax structure, including looking at broad-based taxes.

Gov. Jim Gibbons vetoed the legislation, contending it only would lead to recommendations for higher taxes. Legislators then funded the study out of their contingency funds.

Stakeholder member Don Snyder said the state may be able to avoid higher taxes if it can tax things like Internet gaming. He said off-shore Internet gaming produces about $30 billion a year, or five times the amount of the Strip. Internet gaming is forbidden by federal law.

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

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