More Cops tax, mining tax bills gain key panel approvals

CARSON CITY — The Legislature’s two tax committees did what was expected Thursday — vote for the “More Cops” tax increase bill to hire more police in Clark County and advance a resolution to let voters decide next year whether to approve a constitutional amendment that could lead to higher taxes on mining.

Both Assembly Bill 496, the proposal to impose a 0.15 percentage point sales tax increase to hire additional police in Clark County, and Senate Joint Resolution 15, the mining tax amendment, move respectively to the state Senate and Assembly floors for final votes, likely next week.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has pledged to sign the “More Cops” bill because voters in 2004 supported a police plan to hire police. The bill was amended slightly Thursday before it won approval from the Senate Revenue and Economic Development Committee.

The amendment would limit the increase to four years unless the Legislature in 2015 or 2017 removes the sunset.

The tax hike contained in the measure would need a two-thirds vote from the Clark County Commission before it could be implemented beginning Oct. 1. If approved, the sales tax rate in the county would be 8.25 percent, up from the current 8.1 percent.

The vote for the “More Cops” bill came after some Republican members objected to the late amendment limiting the increase to four years. Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said he preferred the bill without the amendment, but the additional revenue would be better than no increase at all.

The amendment was offered by state Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, who said his proposal would allow the Legislature in 2015 and 2017 to revisit the issue. Lawmakers would have the discretion to increase the sales tax rate, rescind the increase or remove the sunset, he said.

The tax increase would generate an estimated $34 million in the nine months of the 2014 fiscal year and more than $46 million in the following three full fiscal years for the various police agencies in Southern Nevada.

The Metropolitan Police Department would get 73 percent of the new revenue.

Gillespie said in previous testimony the additional tax revenue would allow him to fill a $30 million hole in his budget and ensure 300 current police officers continue to patrol the streets.

Also Thursday, the Assembly Taxation Committee approved the mining tax resolution 7-5, with all Democrats backing the proposal and all Republicans rejecting it.

If voters in the Nov. 4, 2014, election approve the resolution, then a constitutional requirement to cap mining taxes at 5 percent of the sale price of minerals, minus deductions, will be repealed. The Legislature then would be permitted to set new rates.

Mining industry lobbyist Jim Wadhams said after the hearing that his industry has an “education campaign” ahead to show residents what could happen if they support the resolution.

He said the mining tax would revert to a lower rate than had been in effect before 1989 if voters change the state constitution.

Deputy Legislative Counsel Kevin Powers has testified that is not true, but mining representatives strongly hinted in an early hearing that they will file a lawsuit if legislators continued to collect the 5 percent tax.

“People need to understand the consequences of their votes,” Wadhams said.

Sandoval does not sign resolutions so he cannot prevent it from advancing to the ballot in 2014.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at or 775-687-3900.

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