(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – The makeup of a 19-member panel selected to participate in a study of Nevada’s revenue structure was approved today, but not before it came in for criticism from some lawmakers for not fully representing the varied interests of the state.
A member of the public also criticized the panel makeup, saying it will inevitably generate a call for higher taxes.
The panel membership was decided Monday by a subcommittee of the lawmaker panel overseeing the study of Nevada’s revenue structure.
Even Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, who participated in the selection on Monday, acknowledged the membership of the “Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group” will have credibility issues as the tax study gets under way.
The panel is not representative of rural Nevada, he said.
Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, agreed, saying the panel is not representative of the general public, small business or rural interests.
Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said he has issues with a panel that does not include any representation from the Reno-Sparks or Las Vegas chambers of commerce.
The panel is composed of competent people, but it appears biased in favor of those interests that consume tax revenue rather than those who have the responsibility of providing revenue, he said.
Raggio said it is critical that a tax study to be undertaken at the request of the Legislature have credibility or the results won’t be accepted.
Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, the chairman of the subcommittee that made the selections on Monday, defended the panel makeup, saying it has a large number of business representatives. The panel includes Joe Dini with the Nevada Mining Association, Alan Feldman with the MGM Mirage and many others, he said.
“You look down the list of people that we’ve put on here and I think it is incredibly representative,” Conklin said.
Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said he believes the panel is well represented by business as well as other varied interests throughout the state.
Geoffrey Lawrence, a fiscal policy analyst at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, also criticized the makeup of the panel for being a “collection of cherry-picked special interests.” He was the only member of the public to speak at the meeting.
“The group includes no explicit taxpayer advocate,” he said. “It includes no explicit small-business advocate. It is composed primarily of public employees, union representatives and other recipients of state funds as well as large gaming and mining interests.”
The result will predictably be a call for higher taxes, Lawrence said.
Ultimately the panel was approved by the Interim Finance Committee’s Subcommittee to Conduct a Review of Nevada’s Revenue Structure. Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, Raggio, Settelmeyer and Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, voted no.
The panel also voted, with some opposition, to make Robert Lang, representing the Brookings Mountain West/University of Nevada, Las Vegas Department of Sociology, as the nonvoting chairman of the panel. Lang had been named by the subcommittee on Monday as an alternate.
The alternate spot was filled by Jacob Snow, representing the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.
Horsford, chairman of the lawmaker panel overseeing the study, said all stakeholder meetings will be noticed and open to the public.
The panel will work closely with Moody’s Analytics, the West Chester, Penn., based firm selected by lawmakers last month to perform the revenue study at a cost of $253,000. The firm has until July 1 next year to complete its review.
Lawmakers have sought the revenue study because of the likelihood that the next state budget will be out of balance by as much as $2.4 billion. This is due in large part to tax increases approved by the 2009 Legislature that will expire in two years, and the likelihood that federal stimulus funds will no longer be available to the state.
Gov. Jim Gibbons has opposed the study, saying it will only result in a call for higher taxes.