Special Session: Raggio, GOP kill comped meals bill | NevadaAppeal.com
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Special Session: Raggio, GOP kill comped meals bill

On a party line vote, Senate Republicans led by Majority Leader Bill Raggio of Reno killed the bill that would have reaffirmed the taxability of complimentary and employee meals provided by casinos.

Those meals for workers, patrons and others have been subject to the sales and use tax for decades. But, in a case filed by the Sparks Nugget, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled in March they aren’t taxable and that the Nugget was due a near $2 million refund. That prompted dozens of other casinos to file and Taxation Director Dino Dicianno said recently the state was looking at up to $150 million in refunds.

The Assembly responded with a bill to erase that hit to the general fund, unanimously passing AB2 which “clarifies” the sales and use tax law to ensure that those comp meals are taxable just as other restaurant meals are taxable.

Raggio led his caucus to a unanimous stand against the legislation despite the fact he, just an hour earlier, told reporters he supported the legislation.

He said afterward he still supports the proposal but objected to last-minute attempts by Democrats Dina Titus and Terry Care to hang amendments on the plan. Care called for an amendment to also repeal the green building tax breaks granted to businesses in the 2005 and 2007 legislatures. Titus called for an amendment that would give drivers a break if the federal government declares a gas tax holiday. Right now, Nevada law would increase the state tax to make up any federal reduction. She asked to cancel that.

“All of the sudden, without knowledge of the chair, we get two proposed amendments from the Democratic caucus,” Raggio said.

He referred to them as campaign speeches saying the legislature would be in session for days if they started considering things like that.

It was pointed out, to Raggio that he himself could block those amendments by voting against them since the Senate is split 11-10. He rejected that argument accusing the Democrats of grandstanding and forcing him to kill the bill.

Gaming lobbyists had spent the day on that project.

Raggio said now the issue will have to wait until February to review the issue.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said the move was very disappointing.

She said the legislation was recommended by staff which believes that was the intent of long standing tax law.

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Henderson, said for now that leaves the issue in the hands of the Supreme Court.

The Legislative Counsel Bureau has filed for a rehearing of the issue with the Supreme Court and Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, said he has high hopes the court will do so and reverse its decision, reinstating the tax on complimentary meals.

Oceguera said if they don’t act by the start of the 2009 session, “It’ll come up.”

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.