Temporary budget fix for teachers will raise a laundry list of fees
Gov. Kenny Guinn, who has promised not to raise taxes, confirmed Thursday he thinks it is fair if the state raises a long list of fees to compensate for the increased cost of providing services.
Under Senate Bill 577, introduced Thursday, several business-related fees imposed through the Secretary of State’s Office would go up.
The bill is the third attempt by Sen. Mark James, R-Las Vegas, to find some new source of revenue to provide teachers and other public school employees with raises in the state’s two-year budget.
It would increase a list of fees for business filings from mergers, lists of officers, amendments, expedited handling of filings and others most residents have never heard of.
“Most of these are paid by big corporations,” said James.
He said the bill will raise about $30 million over the next two years – which he believes should be dedicated to classroom improvements.
James said the rest of the plan will be presented by Guinn in the next day or two and will involve a series of other increases in state charges for services.
In addition, the plan calls for taking away a car-rental tax now kept by companies. The state charges 6 percent on car rentals in addition to the sales tax, but car rental companies keep 4 percent to offset the cost of registering and licensing vehicles.
It would add about $20 million to the total available over the next two years.
Guinn confirmed that the rental tax is on the list. He said he is looking at what the state charges as “the cost of doing business” throughout state government. And he said many of those charges have not been increased for years – a decade in some cases – even though the state’s cost of providing the services has increased steadily.
“We’re looking at everything,” he said.
Ken Lange of the Nevada State Education Association said said he has been told the goal is to give teachers a 3 percent bonus in 2002 and a 2 percent raise in 2003. He had said earlier the absolute minimum acceptable increase from the state would be in the range of 2.5 percent each year.
Lange said the salary increaes would cost about $130 million over the next two years. In addition, he said, teachers and school employees need a $27 million cash infusion to fix financial problems in their benefits plan.
James’ bill and the rental tax shift will raise only about $50 million – far short of that goal.
However, James said he hasn’t given up on his idea of increasing the annual filing fee for businesses. Nevada’s current fee is $85, and James said any increase would provide significant revenue because there are more than 172,000 businesses registered in the state.
“There needs to be a substantial commitment from the business community, and $30 million is not a substantial commitment,” Lange said.
He said proposals so far have not offered long-term solutions to the problem of funding education or Nevada state government. He urged lawmakers to reconsider a 4 percent net business profits tax proposed by the teachers union.
“Everybody’s trying to work with what we have,” he said. “The problem is we don’t have enough to work with.”
Chamber of commerce lobbyist Sam McMullen said businesses are willing to work between legislative sessions to come up with long-term solutions.
If they’re unsuccessful, however, Lange said the teachers union could revive its tax proposal, which was declared unconstitutional in its original form.
Lawmakers can’t finish the state budget – particularly the $1.6 billion distributive school account, which funds public education – until they decide whether to increase fees, and how much.
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