Assembly speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick had a twofold message for the Northern Nevada Development Authority on Wednesday morning.
Yes, she said, the margins tax initiative would be bad for Nevada businesses, but that doesn’t mean the state’s current tax system is properly funding education and other needs.
Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, told NNDA’s monthly breakfast crowd at the Nugget that especially small businesses need to take a hard look at the proposed tax and “understand how it affects your business.”
But she said Nevada, the Legislature and the business community have repeatedly put off having the discussion about what to do to help the state get better.
“We have all these issues, but I don’t know if the margins tax is the way to do it,” she said. “Is it detrimental for the long term? Is it going to make businesses stop coming here? Probably, but we have to do something.”
She said the margins tax initiative on the November ballot is also a warning that, if the Legislature doesn’t act, more issues will be put on the ballot.
“We’ll be like California,” she said. “It’s important we start having these broad discussions. We can’t sit on our hands this time because it’s on the ballot.”
She said, for example, that some businesses that don’t currently pay may have to pay a little.
“We’ve had a lot of discussion about abatements, tax breaks,” she said. “All those things may have worked at one time.”
But the recession severely cut into state revenues, forcing serious cuts to such things as education.
She said lawmakers need to act but before they do, they need to understand the impact of any proposed changes, what they would do particularly to small businesses and, specifically this year, the impact the margin’s tax would have. She said that information has to come from the business community.
“So you need to get engaged and understand what it does,” she said.
She said the state must improve its education system, especially the community colleges, which she said are critical to business and Nevada’s economic health. She said there are mental health needs that must be dealt with and a growing backlog of infrastructure needs. Pointing to the highway system, she said the state “has been taking those highway dollars for years and using them to fill budget holes.”
Kirkpatrick said the key to defeating the margins tax in November is getting the message about its actual impact out to the voting public. She said far too many people signed the petition to put the proposed tax on the ballot without understanding what it would do.
But she acknowledged that the tax may pass, saying, “If it passes, we need to know in the Legislature if there is anything we can do to mitigate the consequences.”