(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Over the objections of Gov. Jim Gibbons, the Board of Examiners today approved a request to spend $500,000 on a study of Nevada’s revenue structure sought by a bipartisan group of legislative leaders.
The $500,000 figure is not guaranteed to be the final price of the study, an uncertainty that caused Gibbons to vote against the request.
Eight bids have been submitted to lawmakers ranging from a low of $32,200 to $909,861. Six of the eight were for $500,000 or less.
Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, presented the request to the Board of Examiners, saying the actual amount of the contract will be negotiated and approved by the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee on Nov. 19 if not before.
But Gibbons said it was not appropriate to bring a $500,000 “carte blanche” request to the board. The legislative subcommittee reviewing the eight bids should make a selection and bring that amount to the board, he said.
“It seems to be premature to approve $500,000,” Gibbons said.
The Board of Examiners will meet again before the IFC meeting, and a specific proposal could be approved at that time, Gibbons said.
But the other two members of the board, Secretary of State Ross Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, voted to approve the request. Gibbons is a Republican, while Miller and Masto are both Democrats.
State Budget Director Andrew Clinger informed the board that any amount approved would be a recommendation only, and that the Legislature could appropriate any amount for the study it saw fit.
Malkiewich said lawmakers decided to seek the $500,000 now because of the urgency of the study, which is scheduled to be completed by July 1, 2010. The lawmaker panel is going to review the bids again on Oct. 15.
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. An impartial study of the state’s tax structure is needed, however, to provide guidance, he said.
His comments were echoed by Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, who said the Legislature wants options on how to balance the budget in 2011.
The study is required to be performed by a qualified and independent consultant and will examine the allocation of tax revenues between the state and local governments, the adequacy of revenues and the stability of different tax revenues, among other issues.
A panel of citizens, not yet appointed by the Legislature, will also participate in the study process.
Gibbons vetoed a bill passed by the 2009 Legislature for an appropriation for a revenue study, requiring lawmakers to use their contingency fund instead.
After the meeting, Gibbons said spending $500,000 on a tax study is unnecessary.
If a study is to be funded, do it for the least amount of money possible, he said.
“We don’t have a tax problem in the state of Nevada, we have a spending problem,” Gibbons said.