Legislative Session a Success for Education & Economic Development

by Michael Vannozzi

On Monday, the 2015 session of the Nevada Legislature came to a close, and some remarkable things were accomplished to improve education and foster greater and broader economic development.  Lawmakers funded Governor Brian Sandoval’s education priorities and enhanced Nevada’s economic development structure. They invested in Nevada’s workforce like never before, fully funding the UNLV Medical School, Graduate Medical Education, and creating new scholarships for teachers and low income students. Finally, lawmakers passed a fair and equitable compromise on revenues that preserves Nevada’s competitive business environment. All told, this was a truly great session for education and economic development, and the strides that the Governor and legislators made during this session will help the LVGEA realize its core mission: to grow the economy in Southern Nevada through connectivity, community development and aggressive business recruitment, retention and outreach. You will find below detailed notes regarding the approved legislation that we believe will be positive for regional community and economic development. You’ll also see a brief explanation of the tax compromise legislation and LVGEA’s reasons for supporting it. Lastly, we know regional economic development is a team sport, and we think some acknowledgements are in order. Thank you for your continued interest and support.

LVGEA’s Policy Priorities

In December 2014, the LVGEA Board of Directors directed the team to focus on ten economic development and education policy priorities: 

  • Targeted investments in PK-12 education using new revenues generated from a variety of sources, including the business community.
  • Funding for a new independent allopathic public medical school in Southern Nevada.
  • Incentives and policies to grow the unmanned aerial systems industry
  • Increased allocations to the Catalyst Fund
  • Increased allocations to the Knowledge Fund
  • Incentives aimed at boosting Southern Nevada’s STEM workforce
  • Incentives to support business retention in target industries
  • Policies that will ensure that the state has sufficient, development ready industrial land
  • The consolidation of ballot initiatives related to fuel revenue indexing
  •  Increased support for regional economic development

At every step in the process, LVGEA worked collaboratively with business and community groups to advance these policy priorities to improve the environment for economic development.

What Changes Were Made to Education?

The LVGEA has long said that education and economic development are inextricably linked. That’s why the LVGEA Education Council was formed in 2013 in order to pursue partnerships with business and community groups to improve the education system throughout Southern Nevada. During the session, LVGEA was a consistent and strong supporter of Governor Sandoval’s education reform, funding, and accountability package. Here are some of the reforms that were approved by legislators:

Full Day Kindergarten

Read by Grade 3

Building the Teacher Pipeline

Bond Rollover for School Construction

Special Education Funding

Expansion of “Zoom Schools”

Creation of “Victory Schools”

Fund for Gifted Students

Great Teaching & Leading Fund

School Technology Grants

Charter School Building Fund

Achievement School District

Education Savings Accounts

Opportunity Scholarships

And many more…

These reforms will show prospective economic development clients that Nevada is serious about improving its education system.  Successful students are more likely to become successful and talented workers, which in turn will help us to recruit high-wage companies to the region.

Legislative Wins for Economic Development

While the 2015 legislative session will likely be remembered for the robust education reform discussion and enhancements to the K-12 education system, it also featured numerous other bills that will help economic development in Southern Nevada. At the direction of the LVGEA Board of Directors, the LVGEA team actively supported many of these bills because of their potential to positively affect regional economic development. Here are just some of the major accomplishments of the session for economic development:

Funding the UNLV Medical School

Apex Water Line Financing Mechanism

Natural Gas Infrastructure

Regulation of Uber and Lyft

Transferable Catalyst Fund Tax Credits

Renewing the Knowledge Fund

Tax Abatement for Aircraft Parts

Tax Abatement for Data Centers

STEM Challenge Grants

Graduate Medical Education Expansion

Tax Abatement Reform

Fuel Revenue Indexing Ballot Measure Consolidation

Transferable Film Tax Credits

Distributed Generation Reform

UAS Privacy Regulations

Medical License Reciprocity

And many more…

LVGEA was proud to partner with organizations like the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) and many others to help advance these important legislative priorities. In particular, LVGEA would like to thank Steve Hill and his team at GOED for their monumental efforts this session.

The Revenue Package: How Will It Work?

The LVGEA knows that taxes play an important role when companies make their business location decisions; that’s why the organization opposed the 2014 Margins Tax. But a region’s workforce plays an even greater role in those decisions. The LVGEA knew that if it endorsed education proposals to help create a better regional workforce, it must also take a leadership role in endorsing a reasonable way to pay for those proposals. That’s why LVGEA took an early and active role in tax discussions during the 2015 session of the Legislature. We did our homework, and we committed to being a constructive partner in the discussions. In March, LVGEA was the first business organization to endorse Governor Sandoval’s Business License Fee plan, and we contributed positively to discussions around alternatives. Ultimately, the package that got through the legislature was a reasonable compromise that, we believe, strikes the balance between the economic health of our state and the need for new school funding.

The Compromise Revenue Package has three primary elements that will broaden Nevada’s business tax structure:

(1) The package increases Nevada’s current Business License Fee from $200 to $500 for corporations (fee for non-corporations is $200) and increases the filing fee by $25 per year;

(2) The package increases the existing Modified Business Tax to 1.475% for businesses generally (2% for mining and financial institutions) while retaining an employer-paid health care deduction; 50% credit for paid Commerce Tax ; and

(3) The package creates a Nevada Commerce Tax, which is an industry-specific, annual levy imposed on businesses with Nevada revenue of $4 million or more; 50% of the tax may be used as a credit against the taxpayer’s Modified Business Tax liability. (Note: Information courtesy of Connor Cain, Legal Extern at Strategic Analysis Research & Decisions, LLC)

The Compromise Revenue Package also keeps intact a 0.35 percent sales tax increase that supports schools and increases the per pack cigarette tax by $1, from $.80 per pack to $1.80 per pack.

All told, these revenues will pose a minimum threat to economic development in Southern Nevada while creating new, positive opportunities to enhance our workforce and education system.

Acknowledgements

The LVGEA would like to thank the following individuals and organizations that assisted us in the 2015 Legislative Session:

LVGEA Legislative Committee: John Delikanakis (Chair), Brian Brannman, Glenn Christenson, Rick Crawford, Don Giancursio, Robert Lewis, and Jeff Parker.

Strategic Analysis Research & Decisions Team: Sam McMullen, George Ross, Sara Cholhagian, Connor Cain, Tom Stewart, and Chase Whittemore

LVGEA Board of Directors led by Chairman Ray Specht

LVGEA Community Partners: Steve Hill, Clark County Education Association, Nevada Succeeds, Urban Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Susanne Trimbath, Jeremy Aguero, Dale Erquiaga, Pat Skorkowsky, Nevadans for the Common Good, the LVGEA Education Council, the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities, the Clark County Black Caucus, HOPE for Nevada, Chris Nielsen, Michon Martin, Mike Wilden, Ken Ladd, Mike Kazmierski, Wynn Resorts, Teach for America, Council for a Better Nevada, the Latino Leadership Council, the Latin Chamber of Commerce, the Asian Chamber of Commerce, the Henderson Chamber of Commerce, and all the other board members, supporters, and community members that helped make this session a success.

The LVGEA would especially like to thank Governor Brian Sandoval, Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford, Speaker John Hambrick, Assembly Majority Leader Paul Anderson, and Assembly Minority Leader Marilyn Kirkpatrick for their leadership to build the New Nevada.

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