(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – A legislative panel today moved four proposals forward as finalists for a study of Nevada’s revenue structure, with a submittal by Moody’s Analytics at a cost of $253,000 receiving the highest rating from lawmakers.
The other three proposals recommended for further consideration are Willdan Financial Services, the second choice of the panel, with a study cost of $153,205; and two tied for third: the Center for Regional Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno, at a cost of $909,861; and Nevada Consultants Inc. of Las Vegas at a cost of $500,000.
Moody’s is based in West Chester, Penn., and Willdan is out of Sacramento, Calif.
Four other proposals were rejected.
The finalists were selected after each lawmaker picked their top three favorites. The top selection received three points, the second, two points and the third, one point. Lawmakers offered a number of reasons for their selections, including knowledge of Nevada and Nevada issues, the quality of the proposal, cost and the ability to meet the required deadlines.
The next step in the selection process will be oral presentations by the four finalists to the full Interim Finance Committee’s Subcommittee to Conduct a Review of Nevada’s Revenue Structure, likely in late October or early November. Ultimately the IFC, made up of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees, will pick the firm to perform the review. It must be completed by July 1, 2010, well ahead of the 2011 session of the Legislature.
A maximum budget of $500,000 has been set for the study, but the IFC can go higher if it decides it wants to do so.
Lawmakers want a study to provide guidance on how to deal with a two-year budget in 2011 that is expected to be as much as $2.4 billion out of balance.
Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, the chairman of the panel reviewing the tax study bids, said at a meeting Oct. 7 there is no preordained decision to increase taxes.
He also said it is critical that a study be performed without a hint of special interest influence. Because of that and the high cost, Raggio did not select the UNR proposal as one of his favorites.
Raggio said the presentation was outstanding, but that there might be a perception among some people that the end product would be biased, given that UNR is funded with general fund dollars by the Legislature.
Even so, the decision to move the UNR proposal was part of a unanimous vote of the panel.
Knight Allen, a resident of Las Vegas who testified as a Nevada citizen, asked the panel to reconsider including the UNR proposal because of the need for unbiased study results. Whether intentional or not, biases can creep into the best intentioned study when it is being performed by a public entity involving public revenue matters, he said.
The panel did not change its recommendation, however.
Steven Miller, vice president for policy at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, said the purported study will be biased no matter who performs the work.
“It’s the same old story,” he said. “The politicians spend every cent in sight. Then they try to fool the voters with a study that is never designed to get spending under control but to find new revenue.”
Given that the result is predetermined, the least costly proposal is the best of a bad lot for taxpayers, Miller said.
The study will go forward despite objections from Gov. Jim Gibbons that the inevitable result will be a recommendation for higher taxes. Gibbons voted against the funding request Tuesday at a meeting of the Board of Examiners, but the other two members of the board voted in favor.