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September 1, 2014

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Prostitutes back $5 tax on services for state budget

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CARSON CITY – Prostitutes and brothel owners appeared before a state Senate committee on Tuesday, volunteering to contribute to solving the state’s fiscal crisis.

They were advocating for Senate Bill 369, which would impose a $5 tax on a prostitute’s services and raise as much as $2 million, which is well short of the state’s shortfall, estimated to be at least $2.16 billion.

The hearing room was packed with interested spectators, as well as lobbyists, who presumably had no financial interest in the issue.

State Sen. Bob Coffin, a Las Vegas Democrat who chairs the committee and has favored the tax, began with an awkward gaffe. He said his bill does not encourage the spread of the business, and will “not encourage your daughters to go into the business – they are already there.”

George Flint, the lobbyist for the bordello since 1975, said there are eight major brothels and 17 smaller ones in rural Nevada. Prostitution is illegal in Clark and Washoe Counties, home to the state’s two largest cities of Las Vegas and Reno.

Both the senate panel and the witnesses were divided on the issue.

Bella Cummings, owner of Bella’s Hacienda Ranch in Wells, said this $5 tax could put some of the legal brothels out of business because it would give a price advantage to the illegal prostitutes in Las Vegas and Reno.

“The big money is in illegal prostitution in Las Vegas and Reno, and there are no taxes,” she told the hearing. She suggested the state’s business tax be raised so that the pain could spread.

Others raised concerns about the welfare of sex workers.

Melissa Farley, a psychologist who is considered an expert in sexual victimization, testified from Las Vegas and called the tax “legislative pimping.”

It would ruin the reputation of the state, she said.

She said it was a myth that there are no crimes and drugs in the counties that have legal brothels. She said the sheriff of Nye County recently announced he would need 30 more deputies.

Brothel owners and prostitutes defended their industry.

Deanne Salinger, who said she was an Air Force veteran, said she was more than willing to pay a little more, or have customers pay a little more, to help the state.

Brooke Taylor, who works with Salinger at the Bunny Ranch in Lyon County, said she’s a college graduate who’s worked at the ranch for three and a half years. She thanked Nevada for the opportunity to work in a “safe and legal” business.

Also testifying was Chloe Daniels, another prostitute, who spoke in support of the bill.

The committee did not take action.

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