By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Nevada’s Economic Forum — the state’s five fiscal forecasters — recently projected the state will have $96 million in added tax revenue for the next biennium state budget, $140 million when you also consider savings from the current state budget.
That means businesses that pay the state’s Modified Business Tax (payroll tax) are in for a tax break, Assembly Minority Floor Leader Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas, said.
“Every business that has an employee, they will see a deduction in their Modified Business Tax,” Anderson said at Wednesday’s RGJ-sponsored Battle Born Politics gathering.
In 2015, when lawmakers passed the largest tax hike ($1.4 billion) in state history, they included a provision to lower the tax rates if tax collections got too hot, Anderson told the crowd at Midtown Reno’s Craft Wine and Beer Bar on Martin Street.
“We set (tax-cut triggers) into place the last time (2015 session), with the Commerce Tax, the Modified Business Tax, the Insurance Premium Tax and a couple of others mixed into that,” said Anderson, a past guest on Nevada Newsmakers.
“And if they pay at 104 percent (of projections) or more, then we would start buying down the Modified Business Tax rate,” he said. “That is triggered because we have over-exceeded that (tax) rate. And so that means for the next year, we will have a lower Modified Business Tax rate.”
Although he told the crowd “small businesses” would get a tax break, Anderson later clarified he meant every business that pays the MBT. If a business is small enough to fall below a certain financial thresholds, they are not required to pay the MBT
Anderson said lawmakers included the trigger to lower the tax into the 2015 tax plan so there would not be a repeat of what happened in 2003.
Then, the Legislature passed a $1-billion new-tax plan after a long and bitter legislative session. Two years later, the collections were also running hot. So Gov. Kenny Guinn (RIP. God bless his soul) ordered $300 million returned to Nevada taxpayers via a Department of Motor Vehicles registration plan.
“We did that because back in ’03, we saw a big tax increase,” Anderson said. “There was this huge windfall and the government ended up rebating that in DMV fees.
“So we didn’t want that,” he continued. “We want to make sure we have a rainy-day fund and a healthy ending-fund balance. But we didn’t want a windfall for the government to just spend frivolously. And so we put a cap in there to make sure it would buy down and keep that at a managed level.”
How much businesses will save on the MBT cuts remains to be seen, Anderson said: “Good question. That will be one for the Economic (Forum) forecast to figure out.”
State revenues from the MBT and other taxes may not go down, based on the tax cut, Anderson said.
“They’ve got to figure out how much new business is still moving into the market and what the Modified Business Tax will be,” Anderson said. “I think even then, we will see more revenue because the businesses are growing, although the rate of the payroll tax will be a bit less as we ratchet that down.”
State economy on the rise
The significance of the $96 million surplus should not be underestimated, said Cheryl Blomstrom, interim president, Nevada Taxpayer’s Association.
Nevada hasn’t had a surplus like this for awhile. Blomstrom said the Economic Forum’s projections were uplifting.
“It’s good to see economic recovery actually happening and have it bear out in our numbers,” Blomstrom said Thursday on Nevada Newsmakers. “There has been some talk about a recovery but this is absolute proof that this is the case.
“In addition to the money they allocated and projected and will be allocating, there were other signs of recovery that were talked about by the various economists,” she said. “And I think we are still on an upward trend. And that is the thing I took away from that Economic Forum meeting, is that we are improving.”
The Economic Forum projected $44 million more in tax revenue this year due to the strong economy, the last year of the current budget, and $96 million more in the new proposed two-year budget that will start July 1. That’s $140 million in all. Some of that is already earmarked to help Northern Nevada flooding due to the record-setting wet winter.
“While we all prayed for rain, apparently we prayed a little to much,” Anderson joked. “Now, we’ve we’ve got to spend some money on flood control. So there is about $12 million allocated. It’s a one-shot allocation, to go back and fix some of things that have happened because of the floods. It’s a great blessing to have, a great burden to have, at the some time. But we’ve got to spend some money on it.”
Storey County will be rich
With Tesla, Google, Switch and Panasonic all moving to the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Complex in Storey County, Anderson predicted Storey County will become “one of the richest counties in the state in about four years.” He bases his projection partially on the $1.4 billion in tax incentives given to Tesla to move to Nevada, although it is a mix of state and local taxes.
He said: “If you look at the Tesla effect, now the Google effect, the Panasonic effect, those things you are seeing in Northern Nevada, specifically when it comes to Tesla and everything that is happening out at TRIC. I think the payoff is going to be enormous. Storey County is going to be one of the richest counties in the state in about 4 years when these (tax) abatements expire, right? So they are going to have a tremendous amount of property tax roll in. It doesn’t help you in Reno. It doesn’t help you outside of Storey County but it certainly helps in Storey County where those businesses are at.”
Gilman praises reporters
The Wall Street Journal broke a major scoop in April when it reported that Google was going to be Tesla’s neighbor at the TRIC, buying 1,200 acres.
TRIC’s broker-partner Lance Gilman is not one to heap praise on journalists, from my experience. But he was impressed with the work of the WSJ team of Jack Nicas and Jim Carlton for their reporting on Google.
“They would go up and sit with personnel in the court house in Virginia City, watching the recordings and they were very focused on the information they pulled out,” Gilman said on Nevada Newsmakers. “Of course they pulled out a lot of information. But he (reporter) was relentless. The fella who wrote that article interviewed and called everybody in the state. He called the governor. I know he talked to Steve Hill (Nevada’s economic development guru) and Pat Whitten (Storey County manager). Every department head in Storey County got a call from him, trying to put this story together.”
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