- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed tax plan that would raise business license fees narrowly cleared its first legislative hurdle Tuesday.

Senators voted 4-3 with Republicans in favor to advance the plan during a Revenue and Economic Development Committee meeting.

Democrats on the committee were unanimously opposed to the measure, with Sen. Aaron Ford saying lawmakers needed more time to hear from constituents.

Ford and other Nevada Democrats have mailed out surveys and asked businesses their opinion over the last week. He said it wouldn’t be fair to support the bill at this point.

“We can’t ask owners for input on one day and say a few days later that we changed our mind,” he said during the hearing.

Republican Sen. Greg Brower, however, said lawmakers have spent “an unprecedented” amount of time combing through the bill and that he hopes Democrats provide support.

“It’s time for the Legislature to lead on this issue,” he said. “We cannot lead by survey or by poll or by the number of emails we might receive from constituents.”

The proposal now moves to the full Senate, where it needs a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

The governor’s proposal is detailed in Senate Bill 252 and would restructure the state’s flat business license fee into a tiered system with rates ranging from $400 to $4 million annually. Sandoval said the plan would raise around $437 million over two years to help fund K-12 education.

Republicans are casting opposing votes as anti-education, but Ford said he’s not concerned with that characterization.

He said he wants to make sure other tax plans, including one proposed by fellow Democrat Sen. Pat Spearman, got their fair shake without any “arbitrary deadlines.”

“We will not be forced to vote for a plan before it’s time,” he said. “They should be concerned about the optics of rushing through a vote.”

The bill was amended in committee to add a preamble reiterating that dollars raised through the tax would support education and allow smaller businesses to pay the fee all at once, rather than quarterly.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson has led hours of hearings vetting the bill over the last two weeks. The Las Vegas Republican said he plans to hold the bill on the Senate floor and not allow it to come to a vote until he can work out a deal with Democrats.

“It will sit there until the Democrats decide they want to fund education,” he said.

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