- Associated Press - Monday, May 25, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, a major business group that has remained neutral on tax bills for most of the legislative session, said Monday that it would offer conditional and temporary support of Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s revised tax proposal.

The cautious endorsement came as a budget committee held a second hearing for Sandoval’s tax plan, which faces an uncertain future with one week left in the legislative session. Representatives from mining, building, casinos and telecommunications are backing the plan in the name of improving education, but the decision will ultimately turn on the support of several swing Republican Assembly votes.

Chamber President Kristin McMillan said her group opposed the policy behind a portion of Sandoval’s plan, but “in the spirit of compromise, the chamber is here today to say that we can live with a less-than-optimal solution so long as there is an identifiable path to better tax policy.”

In exchange, chamber officials want lawmakers to lay the groundwork for a sales tax on services that could be adopted in 2017. They also want a full study of business taxes and full funding for a proposed medical school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson told chamber representatives that he expected a more “full-throated” endorsement from the group, and business groups that support Sandoval’s plan offered subtle jabs at the testimony during the hearing, emphasizing that they weren’t putting conditions on their support.

Sandoval is trying to raise or extend $1.1 billion in taxes over the next two years, mainly to support a slate of new K-12 education initiatives benefiting English language learners, students in poverty and other groups with special needs.

While his original plan, SB252, passed the Republican-controlled Senate 17-4 in April, even supporters raised concerns about the policy. Assembly Republicans developed a tax plan of their own, AB464, and other alternatives emerged.

Sandoval’s staff said they incorporated the best elements of both plans and emerged this month with the hybrid “Nevada Revenue Plan.” The measure, which is an amendment to AB464 and is expected to raise an additional $524 million over two years, raises the business license fee and ups the rate of the existing modified business tax on payroll, as proposed by Assembly Republican leaders.

The bill also proposes a Commerce Tax, modeled after the earlier Sandoval proposal, that taxes businesses that make more than $3.5 million in gross Nevada revenue each year. Businesses would be taxed at different rates depending on where they fall in 27 industry categories.

Most criticism of the plan centered on the Commerce Tax, which opponents said is complicated and would lead to industries fighting each session to try to get a lower rate.

The committee took no vote on the bill Monday.

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