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September 1, 2014

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LEGISLATURE:

Committee gives green light to extension of tax increases

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s plan to prolong tax increases imposed in 2011 has gained approval of a key Senate Committee.

The bill, passed by the Senate Finance Committee, also includes a tax break for small businesses. In addition, the committee set aside $50 million over the next two years for programs for English language learners.

Joyce Haldeman of the Clark County School District said the district would receive about 80 percent of the money. The district serves a large number of students who do not speak English as their first language, including a large Hispanic population.

Two years ago, the Legislature imposed an excise tax on business and levied taxes on transient lodging and sales tax. It also required mining companies to pay their net proceeds tax in advance.

Those taxes were due to expire in July this year. Retaining them is a key part of the budget, and the bill to extend them is expected to clear both houses by the end of the session. The deadline for closing the session is midnight Monday.

The 2011 tax levied a 1.17 percent tax on total wages paid by business each calendar quarter that exceed $62,000. Sandoval proposed that the tax be continued but that it be paid on businesses whose wages exceeded $85,000.

Also extended for another two years would be a 0.35 percent increase in the sales tax to support schools.

This is part of the total financial package that is being passed Monday on the final day of the Legislature.

The committee also approved the pay bill for the state’s unclassified or executive employees. The highest paid employee will be Tracey Green, the chief medical officer, who will oversee both the health and mental health programs.

She will earn a maximum of $215,809. Her boss Mike Willden, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services will be paid $127,721, the same as most other department directors.

The governor’s office, the Nevada Supreme Court and the Legislature sets the salaries of their employees outside the pay set in the unclassified bill.

The Legislature has decided to restore the 2.5 percent cut imposed four years ago on regular state workers. But it retained the requirement the workers must take six days a year of unpaid leave.

Committee Chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said she hoped there could be a further restoration of benefits to state workers in the future.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said the restoration still “doesn’t make up the hole” the state workers were put in four years ago when the state faced an economic downtown and cut many programs.

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