Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009 | 2:53 p.m.
CARSON CITY – Nevada cities want the right to raise taxes without having to seek the permission of the Legislature.
“We’re asking for local authority to bypass the Legislative authorization,” said Dan Musgrove, a lobbyist for the Nevada League of Cities and Municipalities.
Local government officials appeared before the Assembly Government Affairs Committee to push for Assembly Bill 86, which would permit cities and other municipalities to get voter approval to boost taxes.
After the upcoming census, Clark County will have an larger share of both houses of the Legislature. Musgrove said smaller communities fear they will lose their voice in Carson City with a reduced number of rural and Northern Nevada legislators.
The bill would require voter approval of a new or increased tax. The bill says that a tax could not be imposed for more than 30 years unless it would impair the payment of any outstanding bonds.
Those safeguards didn’t satisfy some critics. David Shuman, head of the Committee For Full Statehood, complained that 50 percent plus one vote in favor of a tax could mean the money would also be drained from the pockets of the 50 percent of the voters minus one.
He suggested that at least 60 percent of the voters should be required to approve a new or higher tax.
Sam McMullen, representing the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, also opposed the bill. He said there should be a comprehensive review of local budgets, rather than putting a tax question in the ballot.
The ballot question for a tax increase by a local government would have to be “very specific on what the new tax is to be used for,” Musgrove said. It could be put on the ballot by a majority vote of the elected officials.
John Wagner, a critic of the bill, said he supported cities having to come before the Legislature for oversight. “It takes a little longer before they get their hands on our loot,” he said.
The committee did not take action on the bill.
Cy Ryan may be reached at (775) 687-5032 or [email protected].