Senate tax deal comes apart

A tax plan many thought would end the Nevada Legislature's special session imploded on the Senate floor Wednesday evening after a political deal was discovered in the 198-section bill.

The bill, SB5, cleared a preliminary Senate vote 15-6 -- one vote more than the two-thirds majority required by the state constitution.

But Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, discovered language in the bill that had never been discussed during the public committee hearing.

Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, confirmed the language was designed to allow a non-restricted gaming license to become "portable." He said it was one of the amendments the Republican caucus thought would be appropriate.

The language was proposed two months ago during the regular session by Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, who wanted it so owners of a property, the Royal Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, can move its gaming license to another area in Las Vegas. Existing law would require a complete relicensing to move a license to a new location.

Amodei, according to two other senators, put the language in the tax plan in order to swing Schneider's vote and get the two-thirds majority.

Ironically, they wouldn't have needed it because Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, dropped his opposition and supported the tax package, getting it out of committee with a vote to spare.

Titus said the gaming license proposal was strongly defeated in the Judiciary Committee and was never publicly discussed as part of the tax package. She said the language would allow a casino to be moved into neighborhoods where gaming resorts are now prohibited in Las Vegas.

She pointed out that Amodei went through the entire bill, detailing different portions of it, the tax levies it was designed to impose and other matters but never mentioned the gaming license portability language.

She said that calls the entire bill into question: "What else is in this bill we have not discussed?"

She was joined by Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, who had voted in committee to support the proposal.

"I am surprised this is in there," he said. "I feel upset and misled."

Coffin and Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, switched their votes on the bill and the two-thirds majority needed to get through the Senate evaporated.

Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, used a procedural move to resurrect the measure and Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, amended Schneider's portability language out of the tax plan.

But enough doubts had been raised that it did no good. On the revote, it died 13-8 -- one vote short of the two-thirds needed to pass.

Raggio adjourned the Senate until 10 a.m. today, leaving the Assembly little choice but to do the same, since its members don't have a bill to act on.

The plan in SB56 is an employer tax based on payroll that would generate about $360 million dollars over the two-year budget. The total revenue package, that has pushed the Legislature past its 120-day deadline, must raise $860 million to balance the budget already approved by the Senate and Assembly.


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