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Democrats in Nevada Senate introduce jobs bills

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 | 2:40 p.m.

Senate Democrats today introduced four bills that they say will create jobs in Nevada.

But at least one of them involves new spending, and Democrats were largely unwilling to explain how they plan to pay for their proposals during a press conference they called Tuesday.

Promising further discussion about revenue sources and vetting of the bills at a Thursday hearing, Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, said the bills will be fast-tracked to a vote in the Senate and Assembly early this legislative session.

“Job creation is this Legislature’s and this caucus’ priority,” Kihuen said.

Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, wants to shift more than $50 million per year that the state collects when Nevadans pay car registration fees to pay for highway projects.

“People pay that car registration and they expect those monies to go to roads,” he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has budgeted that money in the state’s overall budget, so moving that money would create a budget shortfall.

“The Governor offered a balanced budget that increased funds for schools and roads,” said Mary-Sarah Kinner, the governor’s spokeswoman. “This proposal creates a hole and shifts money from education and health and human services, with no suggestions as to how to fill the hole.”

How Atkinson plans to address that is a “discussion.”

“Does that mean we’ll have taxes to fund that?” he said. “I don’t know.”

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, has a competing proposal to cut Nevadans car registration fees by half, a proposal that also would open a hole in Sandoval’s budget.

Roberson said he’d replace the money with a broad-based sales tax on services, but Democrats have noted that Roberson has neither introduced the proposal nor determined how much money such a tax would raise.

Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, introduced two bills today, one which would add $10 million to the state’s Knowledge Fund and another that would provide businesses a tax break on the state’s payroll tax -- or modified business tax -- if they hire someone who is unemployed.

The $10 million would be a carryover from the current budget and would not necessarily require Democrats to raise new money, Smith said.

The bill would essentially double Sandoval’s $10 million spending plan for the Knowledge Fund, which the Legislature created in 2011 and is intended to boost the number of start-up companies in Nevada by fostering research in economic growth areas.

Smith said she will reveal more details about her payroll tax break bill during a Thursday hearing.

Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, has a proposal to provide movie producers with tax incentives to film in Nevada.

He’s working with Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, on the bill. Aizley introduced a similar bill during the 2011 session and it died amid acrimony during the final days of the legislative session.

The Nevada Office of Economic Development has already made statements that such film incentives are "not economically sound,” despite their presence in the tax codes of 45 states.

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