(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce President Matt Crosson said Thursday the Nevada business community will not accept tax increases in the upcoming 2011 legislative session without “meaningful” reforms in a number of areas including taxes, education and public employee benefits.
“It is fair to say the business community, led by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, is going to be demanding serious and significant reform before any kinds of taxes are imposed on the business community again,” he said.
In an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, Crosson said it is premature to detail the specifics of what those reforms might entail.
“They are rather detailed reforms with respect to taxes and tax policy,” he said. “With respect to education and public employment I think we are looking at some very basic reforms. Things related to accountability, to responsibility, to work rules, to pension contributions, to a variety of different things.
“We have to take advantage of the crisis that we are in right now to set the state on the right course into the future,” Crosson said. “And in part that requires reform.”
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, told the Las Vegas Sun last week that as much as $1.5 billion in tax increases may be needed in the 2011 session to help balance the state’s budget. The budget is expected to be about $3 billion short of the $6.5 billion considered necessary to fund state government operations.
Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, also said this week that taxes, while a last resort, cannot be rejected out of hand. Tax increases approved by the 2009 Legislature that are set to expire next year may have to be extended, he said.
The Legislature raised the sales tax by 0.35 percent and nearly doubled the tax on Nevada’s largest businesses to help balance the current budget.
The comments by Horsford and Raggio are in stark contrast to the positions of both major candidates for governor, who have rejected any call for tax increases to get the state out of its budget crisis.
Crosson said he has been involved in private discussions with Democratic leaders – who are expected to again control both houses of the Nevada Legislature – regarding the need for reforms and the need to minimize the impact of any tax increase on the business community should a consensus emerge that such an increase is necessary.
In those conversations, Crosson said he has found “a strong sense of responsibility so far.”
Imposing taxes on small business may extend the recession and make it more difficult for Nevada to recover, he said.
And before any talk of taxes can occur, lawmakers have to look at making “responsible cuts” in state programs, Crosson said.
Involving local governments in any budget review process is also worth a look, he said. There are reports of excess spending at the local government level in Clark County, Crosson said.
“Pension contribution levels are extraordinarily high,” he said. “In circumstances like that, given the difficulties facing the state, I think you really have to look at those kinds of things to see whether some changes can be made and need to be made.”
Crosson said Nevada’s position as a low tax state does put it in a good position to recover from the recession compared to other states such as California.
“If we need to raise more revenue we have to be very clever about how we do it and we’ve got to be sure the impact is as minimal as possible, particularly on the small business community,” he said.