something today, it has to be something we're already doing," Denis said. "So
what we did was we started talking to all the stakeholders, from business to
mining, teachers, chambers of commerce, all those kind of individuals,
retailers; we brought them all in here."
Senate Democrats discussed raising the sales tax, the insurance premium tax, property tax abatements and a tax on services.
They met with business lobbyists multiple times, and the various business groups told them that the payroll tax is easy to administer, simple to calculate and predictable over time, Denis said.
They've also been meeting with these same lobbyists to discuss a broad-based business tax, which would replace the payroll tax hike in two years. With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, that proposal remains unreleased.
But it may be a moot point. Republicans have largely, if not completely, coalesced with Sandoval, whose policy has basically been: "Better Schools, No New Taxes."
"We have put a monumental marker down to show that education is a huge priority for this state," Sandoval said during a news conference last week.
But Denis notes that Republicans are committed to vote with the governor to extend what was supposed to be a temporary increase in the payroll tax. Sandoval has long supported extending 2009 tax increases, which include raising the payroll tax from 0.63 percent to 1.17 percent for businesses with annual payrolls in excess of $250,000.
Expanding the payroll tax another 0.33 percentage point is a reasonable proposal if it means Nevada's schoolchildren receive more money during the next school year, Denis said.
But the very business groups that Denis has consulted to develop the proposal now say they won't support it.
While saying the payroll tax is so simple that business owners can "figure it out on a napkin," Reno Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Tray Abney said Democrats need to first agree to pass chamber-supported proposals such as altering collective-bargaining, construction-defect and prevailing-wage laws. All of these proposals are Republican bills.
"It's unconscionable to take money away from Nevada families and taxpayers to fund a status quo system," he said.
The Retail Association of Nevada objects to the extension of current exemptions given to businesses with less than $250,000 of payroll. Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said that results in about 70 percent of businesses not paying the tax.
But Denis said he did not want to burden small businesses with the tax hike.
Instead, he's moving forward with the hearing despite sure Republican and business opposition.
It may be Denis' last stand. A representative for the governor said Sandoval still opposes and will still veto the bill.
That's not stopping Denis.
"If we can't, then we won't get it done, but we'll still move forward with something that we think needs to happen within the limits that we have," he said.
(c)2013 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)
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