Critics oppose ‘energizer bunny’ taxes | NevadaAppeal.com

Critics oppose ‘energizer bunny’ taxes

CATHY BUSSEWITZ
Associated Press Writer

Measures enabling Nevada’s local governments to more easily raise taxes faced strong opposition Wednesday, while a plan to step up state debt collection efforts raised hopes, if slim, for more revenue.

Representatives from Nevada counties argued during an Assembly Government Affairs Committee hearing that they need to find ways to raise revenue, in part because the state has asked the counties to pay for programs that it can no longer support.

But lawmakers, who reviewed two tax-related bills at the committee hearing, received hundreds of e-mails from constituents who said they are in dire straits, and any tax increase could put them over the edge.

“Now we are in for the big ride ” one new ad valorem tax after another in the works,” retiree Bruce Kittes of Carson City told the committee. “I have never heard any government agency ever declare that they had enough tax revenue. There’s just never enough.”

AB67 would authorize county commissioners, by a two-thirds vote, to increase property taxes by 10 cents for every $100 of assessed valuation to pay the cost of public safety, health and welfare services.

Also, counties could raise taxes beyond the capped amount of $3.64 for each $100 of assessed property value, to $3.74. Wes Henderson of the Nevada Association of Counties said that two counties, Washoe and White Pine, already are taxing at the maximum amount.

Critics, including both lawmakers and citizens, said that the current process of seeking approval for tax increases from the Legislature works fine, and the bill is too broad.

“They’re wanting to do this without any real public process,” Government Affairs Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said after the hearing. “That’s where I think the real heartburn is.”

Another bill, AB86, would let cities and counties impose a new tax or fee for any purpose, after winning voter approval. Under current law, a specific purpose must be stated.

“They painted a wonderful picture,” said Juanita Cox of Citizens in Action. “I could hear birds in background. But we oppose this, and we named it the ‘energizer bunny tax,’ because it keeps going and going and going.”

AB87, which was presented by state Controller Kim Wallin, would update the way that the controller’s office collects debts owed to state agencies. The bill would require agencies to turn over their debts to the controller within 60 days of the debt’s due date.

Wallin said that there is over $40 million in outstanding debt owed to state agencies. Agencies owed a lot of money include the Department of Motor Vehicles, the attorney general’s office, and the state labor commissioner.

Wallin said the controller’s office is better at collecting debt than other agencies because it has a department dedicated to debt collection, and can withhold checks from vendors who owe the state money.