Lawmakers lay out a few revenue raising ideas |

Lawmakers lay out a few revenue raising ideas

Lawmakers floated a short list of ideas Thursday they hope could generate more revenue to reduce the need for budget cuts.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, and Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, all weighed in with potential revenue sources.

The biggest idea on the list came from Raggio, who suggested letting private companies bid for the rights to take over operation of state buildings. They would then lease the space back to state agencies for a period of 20 years.

Raggio, who credited Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval for that idea, said it could generate an estimated $250 million one-time pot of money this coming year to offset a chunk of the $881 million budget shortfall.

He said that money would make certain cuts on the list proposed by Gov. Jim Gibbons unnecessary – cuts Raggio said include “a couple I might even term ridiculous.”

Others, he said, “are unacceptable as causing severe gravity or impact on those who can least afford it.”

Raggio said Arizona raised some $735 million by selling some of its buildings. He said he wasn’t suggesting outright sales, just a lease so the state would eventually get control of its property back.

Gibbons’ Chief of Staff Robin Reedy and Deputy Chief of Staff Lynn Hettrick said the proposal is seriously flawed.

Reedy said the state would still have to pay insurance, maintenance, operating costs and security for those buildings.

“And the state’s rent for those is very low. Now we’re going to be paying higher rent,” she said.

Hettrick said the state would be committed to 20 years of payments for a pot of money that would be used up in the remaining 16 months of this budget cycle.

“What do we do next year,” Hettrick asked. “It’s a short-term solution to a long term problem with a long-term payment.”

Buckley suggested a plan she said could help small businesses that are in financial trouble while generating some $40 million to the state. She said the foreclosure mediation program now limited to residential homeowners could be expanded to provide mediation to businesses. The money would be generated by increasing the $25 fee lenders currently pay to file a default notice to $500 in the case of businesses in trouble.

Horsford said his idea is to move the state’s corporate accounts from major banking institutions to Nevada’s community banks and credit unions. He said the big problem for many businesses and others is they just can’t get bank loans from those national financial corporations these days.

“Put the money into our banks and credit unions,” he said. “Then provide incentives to invest.”

Assemblyman Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said he believes more ideas are out there. He asked that local governments and businesses come forward with suggested rule and regulation changes that could help them generate more business and more tax revenue for the state.

Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, said all those ideas have merit and should be investigated by lawmakers.

The process continues Monday afternoon with more discussion among members of the Interim Finance Committee on how to handle the budget crisis.

Teacher certificates now available

(AP) – Gov. Jim Gibbons says education gift certificates are now available to help pay teachers.

Gibbons unveiled his Education Gift Certificate program during his Feb. 8 address to the state.

He says donations will be sent to the Nevada Department of Education and deposited into a fund to pay teacher salaries.

In a written statement Thursday, Gibbons urged anyone who can afford it to contribute.

Certificates are available at any state motor vehicles office or on the state’s Web site.