Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick found support from retailers and the Nevada Taxpayers Association for her bill seeking to overhaul the state’s exemption-laced live entertainment tax and replace it with an admissions levy on everything from movie tickets to NASCAR races.
“Good tax policy is when you broaden the base and lower the rate,” Kirkpatrick told members of the Senate Revenue and Assembly Taxation committees in presenting AB498. “This bill is broad. This bill allows for everyone to have a voice at the table.”
“This is not a new tax,” she said. “This is cleaning up the current structure.”
No action on the bill was taken by the committee and the odds of passage are questionable. Democrats lack a two-thirds majority needed to pass tax increases or override a veto by the governor.
The measure would replace a two-tiered tax rate with an 8 percent tax on admissions. While the current law is supposed to cover live entertainment events, many things are exempt like NASCAR races, Burning Man and the Electric Daisy Carnival, a three-day concert that draws more than 100,000 people each night. It allows exemptions for public facilities and some nonprofit organizations.
Kirkpatrick said three dozen large events in Nevada sold 1.7 million tickets last year but were exempt from the tax.
But the bill would also capture movie goers and golfers who would be taxed on green fees.
The Motion Picture Association of America sent a letter opposing the bill, and Kirkpatrick said she was flooded with emails from golfers and golf course operators.
“I almost felt like I was at a grade school bully fight,” she quipped.
She presented a chart showing initiative fees and monthly dues charged by many golf courses that run into the tens of thousands of dollars. The tax on a $100 green fee would be $8.
David Goldwater, a former assemblyman and lobbyist for NASCAR and Electric Daisy Carnival, said the tax would punish fans.
“Taxes influence behavior,” he said, suggesting the levy would lead to reduced attendance.
Speedway President Chris Powell echoed that concern and noted the speedway contributes money to charitable organizations.
“In these tough times, working families need every break they can get,” he said. “We ask that you not take that break from working families.”
His comment brought a rebuke from Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas.
“NASCAR fans are going to come,” Horne said. “I remember when NASCAR came and was asking for tax exemptions on motor parts. Now it’s getting ridiculous.
“Talking about your concern about the spectator ... it still comes down to your bottom line.”
Sen. Ruben Kihuen, chairman of the Senate Revenue Committee, questioned whether Nevada should be worried about losing events to other states.
Kirkpatrick didn’t balk.
“At some point you either have to decide you want to be part of our state, part of our community, or not,” she said. “If I had a nickel for every time people told me they’d leave if we did something, I’d probably be wealthy.”
She quipped, “I have a hotline to U-Haul. I’m happy to help them.”
Carole Vilardo, executive director of the Nevada Taxpayers Association, called the bill “a step in the right direction.”
Bryan Wachter with the Retail Association of Nevada agreed.
“We need to be looking at tax policy that expands the base and lower the rate for everybody,” he said. “Everyone needs to have some skin in the game.”