Guinn Waffles While
Wynn Wins Again
RENO (April 6, 1999) - Bad news for
taxpayers was reported on many fronts yesterday. In Reno Tuesday
evening, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn (R), addressed the Washoe County
Democratic Central Committee. He focused mostly on the state's budgetary
famine in times of plenty and on education.
On one hand, I noted, he has
been praised for vetoing a fee increase which would have brought
about $12,000 per year to state government. The Las Vegas Review-Journal
praised his action in an editorial.
The Nevada Republican Liberty
Caucus this week notified its list-serve that because of the
veto, Gov. Dudley Do-Right
has been nominated for a "Friend of the Taxpayer" award
from Americans for Tax Reform.
However, a tax increase he just signed dwarfs that small gesture.
On March 30, Gov. Guinn signed
Senate Bill 255 into law just in time to impose an April 1 sales
tax increase on Washoe County (Reno/Sparks). For complete details,
please read my column entitled "Stabbing
the Taxpayer on the Ides of March".
On Tuesday evening, I asked
Gov. Guinn to please reconcile his no-tax stance given these
seemingly contradictory actions and in light of last week's hearing
on Senate Bill 477.
On April Fool's Day, Reno-Sparks
casino interests showed up en masse to support SB 477, a bill to
impose a major increase in Washoe County room taxes. When Sen. Ann
O'Connell, R-Las Vegas, asked if the governor would break his no-tax
pledge by signing such a measure, casino lobbyist Harvey Whittemore
assured the Senate Committee on Taxation that the governor does
not consider this type of taxation as falling within his no-tax
pledge as the tax is paid by tourists.
Testifying in opposition, I
noted that some of our room tax is paid by low-wage Nevada workers
who live in weekly motels because they cannot qualify for apartments.
(The legislature is also processing Assembly Bill 540 which will
give casinos $500,000 in tax breaks to build low-cost housing
for such workers, throwing tax money at a problem by handing
cash to those who cause it. Go figure.)
Responding to my question at the
Washoe Democratic meeting Tuesday night, Gov. Guinn said he has
sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill
Raggio, R-Reno, and Assembly Speaker Joe Dini, D-Yerington,
clarifying his position. He said that he will only veto "anything
affecting the general operating budget which I control."
Gov. Guinn said he will continue
to sign into law taxes and fees which voters approve or which
their local officials impose upon them. He gave Douglas County's
voter-approved sales tax increase as an example, as well as Washoe
County's, which was imposed by lame duck county commissioners,
not voters. He will thus be signing the room tax increase called
for in SB 477, he noted.
The governor's argument for
local control was eerily similar to that given by Assemblyman
Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, at a recent town hall meeting.
Mr. Anderson voted with the assembly majority to retroactively
ratify the sales tax increases in SB 255, part of a package to
depress the downtown Reno Union Pacific Railroad tracks. His
constituents did not warmly receive his explanation.
I have made the above facts known
to Americans for Tax Reform and suggest that anyone who cares to
should post a message at their website.
GUINN TALKS TO DEMOCRATS (April 6, 1999) GOP Gov.
Kenny Guinn, left, talks politics with longtime senior citizens
activist Orland T.Outland before addressing the Washoe County
Demcratic Central Committee at Vaughn Middle School in Reno.
Outland, a trustee of the Nevada Council of Senior Citizens
and twice-chair of Common Cause Nevada, asked the governor
about improving outreach programs to inform those of humble
means that prescription drugs remain available when Medicaid
dollars are not.
asked if the governor would devote any tobacco lawsuit settlement
money toward outreach and payment of premiums for the program.
The governor replied that there would be no cigarette money
for the program. Outland writes a weekly column on senior
citizens issues for the Daily Sparks Tribune and a monthly
column in Senior Spectrum.
CARSON CITY (April 6, 1999) - Taxpayers
took another beating Tuesday afternoon. Senate Bill 90 was killed
by the Senate Committee on Taxation. Sponsored by Sen.
Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, it would have repealed Las Vegas
casino mogul Steve Wynn's tax loophole for his high-priced casino
art collections. The break is estimated to cost taxpayers about
$18 million a year. Neal testified before the Nevada Tax Commission
last year that it would be against the law for Mr. Wynn to charge
Nevada school children to see artwork already costing their schools
millions in lost tax funds. The commission agreed and Wynn sued
the commission. The case has not yet come to trial.
Supporting Neal's repeal were
Las Vegas Sens. Bob
Coffin (D) and Ann
O'Connell (R). Voting to kill the repeal were Mike
Schneider, D-Las Vegas, Dean
Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, Randolph
Townsend, R-Reno, and Mike
The committee then turned to
521, Wynn's bill, lobbied by the abovementioned Mr. Whittemore.
Senate Bill 521 would outright give Mr. Wynn his art tax break
and throw a bone to Nevadans, half-price admission to what the
San Francisco Chronicle noted as "pro-rated
on a per-painting basis...the most expensive museum in the world"
to get into.
Neal opposed setting Wynn's loophole in cement. The most
shocking result is that a majority of the committee (Coffin,
O'Connell, McGinness, Neal), voted against the Wynn loophole
when Wynn first pushed it through in 1997.
The current legislation says
Wynn will donate any leftover admission fees, after costs are
deducted, to charity. Any student of Hollywood accounting knows
that a net gets awfully hard to find after creative accountants
get done deducting all those pesky costs. (See "Casino
Seeks Tax Break for Art's Sake" in the 4-12-99 New York
Sen. Neal salvaged one thing
after being savaged by the taxation committee. He asked the Chairman
McGinness when he would hold a hearing on Neal's two bills to
repeal the sales tax on hearing aids (SB 405 and SB 406). Sen.
McGinness said he would schedule them for Thursday, April 8,
so that they would have a chance of making Friday's deadline
for senate passage of all surviving legislation.
Ghosts of Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann
As readers of my Sunday Sparks
Tribune column noted, property tax protestors have been fearful
that Assembly Joint Resolution 17 would not get a hearing. Assemblyman Don Gustavson,
R-Reno/Sparks Northern Valleys, introduced a Nevada version of
California's 1976 property tax-limiting Proposition 13.
Apparently, the protestors prevailed.
Ted Harris of Nevadans
for Fair Taxation reports that assembly taxation committee chair
"has scheduled a hearing on AJR 17, Thursday, April 8, at
1:00 p.m. in room 3142. If we get a yes vote from the taxation
committee, this will be followed by a hearing with the (assembly)
constitutional amendments committee at 3:30 p.m. in room 4100.
Plan on spending the afternoon as we are not certain how long
this will take."
[Editor's note: Goldwater
on April 12 announced that further hearings will be necessary
to amend the bill and promised to bring it to a vote.]
So there's a little something
to cheer about in both the upper and lower houses.
to Guinn Watch