Friday, April 15, 2011 | 5:39 p.m.
The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce kept the door open on a tax increase coming out of the 2011 Legislative session today, sending a letter that says the business group could support more revenue for the state if paired with long-term government reforms.
The chamber laid out a list of broad reforms to public employee pensions, retiree health benefits, collective bargaining for public employees and K-12 and higher education changes.
The chamber does not mention Gov. Brian Sandoval by name, but the letter puts the chamber in the camp of Assembly Republicans, who have said they'd trade extending taxes that are set to expire in July for a list of reforms.
Sandoval ran on a promise not to raise taxes and to let taxes passed in 2009 expire. He has kept steady to that, insisting at a different, more conservative business group last week that he would not trade anything for taxes.
"Our review (of Gov. Brian Sandoval's budget) has led us to believe additional tax revenue may be necessary," wrote Hugh Anderson, chair of the Government Affairs Committee in a letter released this afternoon. "However, let me be clear: The Chamber's willingness to support additional tax revenue is absolutely dependent on the passage this year of significant and meaningful reforms that will fix systemic problems that are plaguing our state."
The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce has been seen as key to providing political cover for Republicans in the Assembly and Senate. Democrats need at least some support to pass a tax increase. (Senate Republicans have so far said they fully support Sandoval.)
"There is nothing new in the statement that others have not said," said Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Sandoval. "The governor's position has not changed."
Anderson laid out the effect of some of Sandoval's proposed cuts. It said class sizes would increase in grades 1 to 12 by two students, on average. It also said school district personnel would take a 7.8 percent pay reduction. It said core degrees would be eliminated from higher education.
The demands it makes include:
· Reducing the public's liability to the state's pension system for new government workers.
· Discontinuing retiree's health insurance subsidy for new employees.
· "Reforming" the collective bargaining process and giving local governments "flexibility."
· Reforms to K-12 higher education.