Nevada Senate votes for hotel room taxes in Reno | SierraSun.com

Nevada Senate votes for hotel room taxes in Reno

RACHELLE GINES
Associated Press Writer

CARSON CITY, Nev. ” The Nevada Senate voted 16-5 on Tuesday for a 3 percent room tax on hotel rooms in Las Vegas and Reno that would help deal with Nevada’s widening budget crisis.

Four Republicans, including Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, joined with the 12 Democrats who control the Senate to support the plan, while five other Republicans voted “no.”

The vote, two more than the minimum of 14 needed, sends the plan to GOP Gov. Jim Gibbons for his signature. The Assembly had voted 35-7 earlier to approve the plan, which already has public support from Reno- and Las Vegas-area voters.

In a November advisory question, 66 percent of voters in the Las Vegas area and 57 percent in the Reno area backed the increase.

Gibbons generally opposes higher taxes but has said that given the public support he will support the higher room taxes. Major Nevada casinos and the Nevada State Education Association, a teachers’ union, delivered more than 130,000 signatures supporting the tax increase.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, said he was “very, very reluctantly” supporting the plan but added that lawmakers are dealing with a budget shortfall of “at least” $2.3 billion and rejecting the room tax would only increase the shortfall.

Raggio said the initiative petition was “the lesser of two evils at this point,” and not the best way for the state to set tax policy, but agreed with Horsford that rejecting it would only worsen the shortfall, by about $232 million.

While his GOP caucus was divided on the issue, Raggio said his responsibility was to the state first and not his political party, adding, “My concern is the survival of this state.”

The opponents included Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, who said the teachers’ union “hijacked” the legislative process with its petition. He termed the result “mob rule.”

Also opposing the plan were Republican Sens. Mike McGinness of Fallon, Barbara Cegavske and Warren Hardy of Las Vegas and Mark Amodei of Carson City.

Under the petition, money from the room tax could be used during the next two years on general budget shortfalls. Starting in July 2011, the money must be used to raise teacher salaries or improve the performance of students.

Tuesday’s proceedings on the initiative took less than two hours, compared with more than five hours of debate on the plan in the Senate on Monday.

During Monday’s hearing, Kim Sinatra, Wynn Resorts general counsel, Station Casinos and Harrah’s continued to back the increase despite the financial woes of the gambling industry.

Sinatra acknowledged her company agreed to back the NSEA room tax petition in exchange for the teachers’ union decision to drop a petition to increase the gaming tax by 3 percentage points.

Even with the increase, Sinatra said the room tax rate in Las Vegas would be below rates charged in New York, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco and most other convention cities.Senate votes for room taxes

By RACHELLE GINES

Associated Press Writer

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) ” The Nevada Senate voted 16-5 on Tuesday for a 3 percent room tax on hotel rooms in Las Vegas and Reno that would help deal with Nevada’s widening budget crisis.

Four Republicans, including Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, joined with the 12 Democrats who control the Senate to support the plan, while five other Republicans voted “no.”

The vote, two more than the minimum of 14 needed, sends the plan to GOP Gov. Jim Gibbons for his signature. The Assembly had voted 35-7 earlier to approve the plan, which already has public support from Reno- and Las Vegas-area voters.

In a November advisory question, 66 percent of voters in the Las Vegas area and 57 percent in the Reno area backed the increase.

Gibbons generally opposes higher taxes but has said that given the public support he will support the higher room taxes. Major Nevada casinos and the Nevada State Education Association, a teachers’ union, delivered more than 130,000 signatures supporting the tax increase.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, said he was “very, very reluctantly” supporting the plan but added that lawmakers are dealing with a budget shortfall of “at least” $2.3 billion and rejecting the room tax would only increase the shortfall.

Raggio said the initiative petition was “the lesser of two evils at this point,” and not the best way for the state to set tax policy, but agreed with Horsford that rejecting it would only worsen the shortfall, by about $232 million.

While his GOP caucus was divided on the issue, Raggio said his responsibility was to the state first and not his political party, adding, “My concern is the survival of this state.”

The opponents included Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, who said the teachers’ union “hijacked” the legislative process with its petition. He termed the result “mob rule.”

Also opposing the plan were Republican Sens. Mike McGinness of Fallon, Barbara Cegavske and Warren Hardy of Las Vegas and Mark Amodei of Carson City.

Under the petition, money from the room tax could be used during the next two years on general budget shortfalls. Starting in July 2011, the money must be used to raise teacher salaries or improve the performance of students.

Tuesday’s proceedings on the initiative took less than two hours, compared with more than five hours of debate on the plan in the Senate on Monday.

During Monday’s hearing, Kim Sinatra, Wynn Resorts general counsel, Station Casinos and Harrah’s continued to back the increase despite the financial woes of the gambling industry.

Sinatra acknowledged her company agreed to back the NSEA room tax petition in exchange for the teachers’ union decision to drop a petition to increase the gaming tax by 3 percentage points.

Even with the increase, Sinatra said the room tax rate in Las Vegas would be below rates charged in New York, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco and most other convention cities.