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After an historic election in which both houses of the Nevada Legislature flipped from Democratic to Republican majorities, could an historic change in the ideas considered in Carson City result?
Providing ideas is the Nevada Policy Research Institute with its Solutions 2015, a guide for policymakers in the Silver State.
The right-of-center think tank offers solutions for Nevada legislators in more than 50 issue areas in 12 categories – budget, taxation, state debt, K-12 education, higher education, health care, labor, industry & commerce, public safety, energy, transportation and federalism.
With the Legislature’s new makeup, Solutions 2015 author Geoffrey Lawrence is optimistic that the 2015 Nevada Legislature will be more receptive to the ideas presented in Solutions 2015 than previous Legislatures were to earlier versions.
“I think it’s going to be far more likely, particularly because of the influence public employee unions have had on some of the legislators who are no longer in office. Entrenched interest groups tend to protect the status quo,” Lawrence says. “On nearly every issue,” he continues, “the parties blocking changes are essentially the same.”
One result of the changes in the composition of the Legislature, Lawrence predicts, is “labor reform will be a big issue.”
A few of the labor reforms Solutions 2015 recommends include reforming the Public Employee Retirement System by incorporating “a market-based accounting approach”, restructuring “pension benefits around a Utah-style hybrid system” combining defined-benefit and defined-contribution plans, reducing local governments’ construction costs “by repealing prevailing wage requirements”, and applying open records and open meetings laws to public employee labor negotiations.
The last, according to Lawrence, is “one that resonates with just about everyone except union bosses.” He notes that Nevada is one of the few states that has legal requirements prohibiting the disclosure of the content of labor negotiations between government entities and their public employee unions.
Solutions 2015 also recommends policymakers “[r]eject any proposal for a margin tax.” A version of this tax first appeared in the Legislature during the administration of Republican Governor Kenny Guinn in 2003. It has reappeared in some form or another numerous times since then.
Voters resoundingly rejected a 2% margin tax on gross revenues of businesses with more than $1 million in revenues this past election. After suffering such a defeat, losing by an even larger margin than Governor Brian Sandoval’s outmatched opponent, and with Republicans in control of both houses of the Legislature, the likelihood of a similar tax being considered this session are remote.
However, Lawrence cautions, “I expect some version of this will come back again” in a future session. Its revival should prompt a reminder “that voters rejected it” by a significant margin, Lawrence says.
Readers should not get the impression that Solutions 2015 opposes changes to the state’s tax system. In fact, a section is devoted to tax reform and the essential elements it should contain – minimizing revenue volatility, minimizing distortions in economic behavior, minimizing compliance costs and protecting tax equity.
All four major objectives of tax reform — together optimizing Nevada’s economic climate — can be accomplished through a revenue-neutral expansion of the sales tax base. NPRI has laid out a plan for expanding the sales-tax base with a consequent lowering of the statewide sales tax rate to 3.5 percent. That analysis should serve as a primary guideline to any potential tax-reform effort.
[emphasis in original] In addition, Solutions 2015 devotes considerable attention to reforming the state’s underperforming education system. The report offers solutions certain to shake up the status quo and the education establishment.
Solutions 2015 provides a comprehensive review of issues facing the state of Nevada and should be required reading for anyone making the trek to Carson City this winter for the 78th Nevada Legislature.
[Header image from Shutterstock.com]
Tags: Brian Sandoval, Geoffrey Lawrence, Margin Tax, Nevada Legislature, Nevada Policy Research Institute, NPRI
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