Business fee hike clears first hurdle; Dems oppose |

Business fee hike clears first hurdle; Dems oppose

With only a bit of theater, the Senate Revenue and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday passed the governor’s proposed Business License Fee.

It was a 4-3 party line vote after all but one of the committee members — Ben Kicekhefer, R-Reno — made a brief statement outlining their position.

Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, called on members to “put aside partisanship and fear” and “take this important step forward for the children of our state.”

The bill would tie quarterly business license fees to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and would implement the tax on businesses based on their industry classification. It’s designed to raise about $438 million over the biennium which Gov. Brian Sandoval said would be pumped into the K-12 education budget.

The tax would be applied to not only the businesses that now pay the Modified Business Tax but all 330,000 businesses in Nevada.

The only exemptions would be for federally certified non-profits although health care providers and hospitals would get reductions.

Opponents led by Minority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, said all agree that money is needed to properly fund K-12 education in Nevada. But he said businessmen haven’t had adequate opportunity to weigh in on the plan.

“Many local business owners still have questions about this bill,” he said adding until it is thoroughly vetted, he can’t vote to approve it.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said more revenue is needed to meet the state’s obligation to fund education.

“Whether this is the ideal plan is going to be discussed and debated but this is the best plan we have in this house at this time,” he said. “This is one of those opportunities we have to stand up and do something.”

Sen. Pat Spearman, D-Las Vegas, who introduced her own tax plan in SB378, said she like the other Democrats wasn’t ready to approve the governor’s plan over her own and others.

Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, said there are several proposals before lawmakers to raise the necessary funds and lawmakers “should take the time to talk to businessmen.”

Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, said Senators have “spent an unprecedented amount of time vetting this bill.” He pointed to three lengthy hearings on the plan.

Brower said if Democrats agree more funding is needed to fund education in Nevada, “you have to vote for this bill.”

The bill will go to the Senate floor where it will need a two-thirds majority to pass since it will rais taxes.