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Nevada tax study panel nominations criticized

CARSON CITY — Nineteen Nevadans were nominated today to serve as members of a “stakeholder” group that will recommend plans to improve the quality of life in the state, but critics have already predicted that they will favor tax increases.

Among those nominated by a legislative subcommittee were retired Assembly Speaker Joe Dini, D-Yerington; Alan Feldman, senior vice president for public affairs for MGM Mirage, and Keith Smith, president of Boyd Gaming Corp.

The group will work with a private company, likely Moody’s Analytics, which will be selected Thursday to conduct a study on state taxes.

Its recommendations, due in July, will be considered during the 2011 legislative session.

In the resolution for the tax study, legislators ordered the firm making the study to “review proposals for broad-based taxes which are fair and equitable.” The stakeholders group was directed to “develop a quality of life vision” for Nevada for the next 20 years.

Moody’s submitted a bid of $253,000 to conduct the tax study. The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee is expected Thursday to approve that bid and finalize members of the stakeholder group.

Critics complained that it is a done deal that the study will conclude state government should increase taxes.

Geoff Lawrence, a fiscal policy analyst with the Nevada Policy Research Institute, noted that none of the stakeholder members is a “taxpayers advocate.”

“It looks to me like the bulk are public employees or union representatives, along with gaming and mining representatives,” he said. “It’s predictable. The public employees and union representatives likely will advocate more funding to them. The mining and gaming representatives will make sure someone else is paying.”

Lawrence predicted that the tax study will conclude a broad-based business tax, such as a corporate income tax, should be implemented in Nevada.

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, questioned some of the nominations. Goicoechea was upset that the subcommittee did not appoint Doug Busselman, director of the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation, as a member of the stakeholder group. He will be an alternative member.

“We need to spread it out more,” he said of the membership. “We need some agriculture members.”

In an interview, Goicoechea said it was clear to him the stakeholder group would have “an agenda” toward raising taxes.

“People who end up paying taxes should be represented,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said last month the state will face a $2.4 billion shortfall in funding when the 2011 session begins.

The Pew Center for the States concluded in a news conference last week that the state shortfall will be $3 billion.

Susan Urahn, Pew managing director, said then that Nevada legislators have rejected recommendations of five past tax studies that called for the state to levy a broad-based tax on business.

She said economists already have predicted Nevada would be the last state to recover from the recession because of its dependence on gambling and tourism.

That prediction was made Nov. 5 by Moody’s Economy.com, the parent company of Moody’s Analytics.

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


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