Great tax debate of 2015 Legislature about to get intense

The great tax debate of the 2015 Legislature is about to get intense.

In one corner are the Republicans in the Senate led by Majority Leader Michael Roberson, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s chief lieutenant in the upper chamber, who is trying to pilot Sandoval’s $7.4 billion budget and tax plans to fund it through the legislature.

Then there are Senate Democrats, who for years have pushed for tax increases for education only to be thwarted by a GOP minority with enough horsepower to block the two-thirds vote needed for passage. Democrats this year are in the minority role and trying to flex muscle of their own.

Political maneuvering came to a head Thursday night, when three Democrats on the Senate Revenue Committee voted against the so-called “sunset” bill, which makes permanent a package of taxes passed in 2009 to get Nevada through the grips of recession. Those levies were supposed to expire, or sunset, on June 30, 2011, but have twice been extended. Now Sandoval wants to make them a permanent source for state coffers, along with a $1 increase in cigarette taxes.

Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, said his members wanted more time to vet options, prompting an angry response from Republicans. The political bickering continued Friday, when enough Senate Democrats opposed a bill they had supported the day before. It would allow ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate in the Silver State. The measure failed for the second time this session.

Press releases from Republican and Democrat leadership used terms such as “embarrassment” and “embarrassing” in accusing each other of political gamesmanship.

And then there is the Assembly, where Senate Bill 252, implementing Sandoval’s business license fee overhaul to raise more money, hangs in limbo, and Republican leadership has its own ideas.

When legislators return today, they will have 22 days left to figure it out. Or not. In that case, summer travel plans might be foiled by a special session.

Contact Sandra Chereb at or 775-687-3901. Find her on Twitter: @SandraChereb.

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