Senate Democrats say four bills will spur job growth; details are unclear
February 20, 2013
Senate Democrats on Tuesday introduced four bills they say will create jobs and spur Nevada’s economic recovery.
Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said the goal this session is not only to lay down a long-term vision, but to provide immediate relief. Revenue Committee Chairman Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, said that to speed the process, the four measures will be heard Thursday.
But neither Denis and Kihuen nor the others at Tuesday’s news conference had many details about how the legislation would work or be funded.
Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy director Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank, called the Democrat’s plan a “retread of stale and failed government programs.”
“None of the items introduced by Senate Democrats addresses the core factor that hinders economic growth – the obstacles that Nevada government places in the way of private entrepreneurship,” Lawrence said in a statement.
Kelvin Atkinson, D-Las Vegas, said his measure will restore the governmental services tax revenue taken this past legislative session to support the general fund back to the highway fund, “where it’s supposed to be.” There, he said, the money can be put into projects fixing and improving Nevada’s highway infrastructure.
“That will improve our roads, advance commerce, increase safety for drivers and pedestrians and create jobs,” Atkinson said.
The bill also would require the state treasurer to create a program providing matching funds to maintain and repair not only streets and highways, but schools.
The treasurer would be required to issue up to $325 million in bonds backed by revenue from the governmental services tax.
Asked how the estimated $125 million in funding removed from the general fund budget would be made up, Atkinson said, “that’s a discussion we’re going to have to have.”
“Does that involve taxes? I don’t know, but I’m saying these taxes need to be back where they should be,” he said.
Senate Finance Chairman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said she has two measures on the list.
The first would give an incentive through the modified business tax to businesses that hire unemployed people.
“Jobs are really the key to us having a robust economy,” she said.
But, asked exactly what that incentive would be, Smith said, “You’ll have to come to Thursday’s hearing.”
Her second measure would double the $10 million that Gov. Brian Sandoval is putting into the so-called knowledge fund. That money would come from projected reversions of unspent money by state agencies, she said. The governor, however, already has committed those estimated one-shot funds in his proposed budget, so her plan would require that more reversions than are projected come back to the treasury.
Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, said his measure, SB165, has already been introduced. It would provide a tax incentive to professional film producers to shoot their movies and other projects in Nevada. He said the idea has bipartisan support from lawmakers who, like him, believe “Nevada should be at the top of destinations for film productions.”
He said a side benefit would be that moviegoers would be drawn to Nevada by seeing images of the state in theaters, boosting the tourism industry.
It’s an idea Steve Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, earlier said was not a priority because most states these day offer incentives to the film industry, a factor that often leads to bidding wars and little return on investment.
Lawrence agreed and cited the opinion of the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research group, that said such credits fail to live up to their promises.
“States claim these incentives create jobs, but the jobs created are mostly temporary positions, often transplanted from other states,” according to a 2011 article on the Tax Foundation’s website. “Furthermore, the competition among states transfers a large portion of potential gains to the movie industry, not to local businesses or state coffers.”
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.