Las Vegas Sun

July 24, 2014

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Number crunching aimed at income tax

University system Chancellor Jim Rogers has no concept of going "quietly into that dark night."

The media mogul's call for a state income tax fell on deaf ears among lawmakers, got him in hot water with a few of his bosses on the Board of Regents and left him feeling more than a little alienated. Rogers has made an ongoing joke - or perhaps Freudian slip? - of the fact he has trouble finding dinner companions.

But that hasn't stopped Rogers from continuing to press the issue, telling a group of minority community leaders this week that he is shelling out $200,000 of his own money to pay for an academic analysis of the topic.

The study probably would look at the economic effect of individual and corporate income taxes on the state and the revenue generated.

Keith Schwer, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at UNLV - which takes on commissioned work of this sort - said he is developing a study proposal at Rogers' request.

That doesn't mean the study will necessarily support Rogers' presupposition that there needs to be an income tax, Schwer said. "Nothing helps decision making better than transparency and good hard questions. He was very clear that whatever comes out comes out."

Schwer said his study will be limited to looking at income tax, particularly what the tax would mean for state revenue and expenditures, and not the rest of Nevada's tax structure. The last major tax study conducted by the state in 1990 cost $1.1 million.

"There is no perfect tax system, and if you change one little thing you have all kinds of different impacts, which is why you want to study them very carefully before you evaluate and make any changes," Schwer said.

The importance of research, Schwer said, was driven home by state legislators' decision two years ago to award tax credits to companies building environmentally friendly buildings before assessing the economic blow to the state because of lost revenue.

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