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Tax break for Nevada banks not likely, bill sponsor says

CARSON CITY — A measure that would give Nevada bankers a tax break isn’t likely to win approval given the state’s bleak finances, its author says.

Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, said the banks are being treated unfairly because they pay a higher tax rate than other businesses, but adds, “We’re in a tough financial situation, so this bill will not be passed.”

Since 2003, Nevada banks have paid payroll taxes more than three times as high as other businesses in the state, plus a $7,000-per-branch excise levy. For the past three legislative sessions, bankers have tried unsuccessfully to ease those taxes.

This year, with a $2 billion-plus state budget shortfall and national scandals concerning bank abuse of federal bailout money, odds of getting tax relief in Nevada have worsened.

“The idea that with the headlines the way they are, that I could push the green button and do something real nice for banks, that’s a problem,” Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, said during an Assembly Taxation hearing Thursday on Gansert’s Assembly Bill 275. “Executives are getting rewards for destroying their own institutions, not to mention the global economy.”

Bill Uffelman, president of the Nevada Bankers Association, said it’s unfair to hold Nevada’s community banks responsible for the headlines generated by companies such as Merrill Lynch Co. and American International Group Inc. for paying huge bonuses to their employees after accepting federal bailout money.

He urged lawmakers to reconsider their 2003 decision to tax banks at a 2 percent rate, compared with the 0.63 percent rate other businesses pay.

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