State seeks to invest in Nevada business

CARSON CITY (AP) - Legislators are making a second attempt to change the Nevada Constitution so that taxpayer money can be invested in private business to spur economic development.

Wording on a ballot question has been given final approval by the Legislative Commission, which hopes for a different outcome than in 1996 when 65 percent of the voters turned it down.

After the 1996 defeat, lawmakers endorsed the plan in 1997 and in 1999. Voters will have final say - again - in November.

Roberta Lange of Nevadans for Economic Opportunity, a group that's promoting the ballot question, told the commission Monday the ballot question was misunderstood in 1996.

Lange said many voters thought it would raise property taxes and worried about accountability. She said that in new ''focus group'' discussions, people changed their mind to favor the amendment after it was explained.

The Nevada Constitution now bars the state from investing its money in any company, association or corporation except those formed for educational or charitable purposes. The proposal would permit investments in private firms to assist in economic development and the creation of new jobs.

Lange said Nevada is one of six states that doesn't provide some type of venture capital for companies. The proposed constitutional amendment would require the state to realize a ''reasonable rate of return on the investment,'' and the Legislature would have to approve each project by a two-thirds vote.

Under present law, companies can take advantage of low-cost bonds to build new plants, get tax exemptions or deferments and seek state funds to help train workers.

Opponents of the proposal call it corporate welfare and say traditionally the state has let private investors run the risk of loss associated with investments involving private business.

The Legislative Commission, which handles business of the Legislature between regular sessions, approves ballot language explaining the proposed constitutional amendment and also the arguments for and against the measure.


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