News - March 15, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said Wednesday it would take $1 billion in new taxes for Democrats at the Nevada Legislature to seriously consider one of the Republicans' top priorities -- the Education Savings Accounts.

"I have told people, just off the record, that I would take $1 billion but otherwise, I don't think it is worth negotiating," Segerblom said on Nevada Newsmakers.

A $1 billion tax deal would almost be a state record. Nevada's largest tax plan -- about $1.4 million -- was passed by the 2015 Legislature

The Education Savings Accounts would give parents more than $5,000 per child of state tax money to help pay for the child to attend private or parochial school.

It passed the GOP controlled Legislature of 2015 and was signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval. Yet the Nevada Supreme Court declared the funding of the new law unconstitutional. Now, Republicans have fixed the bill and are pushing it atop their agenda. Sandoval, a Republican, has ESA funding in his proposed biennium budget.

"Public schools are the foundation of the Democratic Party and to fund people just to go to (Bishop) Gorman (High School), doesn't make sense," Segerblom said.

"But everybody has a price tag and if he (Gov. Sandoval) says, 'Here's $1 billion in new taxes, then I'd talk."

Nevadans could pay more tax to cover the state's many needs, Segerblom said.

"It ($1 billion in new taxes) could come from increased sales taxes or we could increase the tax we already passed for businesses," he said. "You could have a higher tax on alcohol, higher tax on cigarettes, we're going to have some marijuana taxes, (possibly) change the property tax formula.

"Our state is so under-taxed that everywhere you look, people could pay more taxes," Segerblom said. "And everywhere you look, we need more revenues."

The new tax money would go to public schools, Segerblom said, citing other concerns.

"It could go to museums, go to mental health, roads, state employees, health insurance ... I mean our needs are just so unending that it would be hard to even decide. But primarily for schools," he said.

Marlene Lockard, a lobbyist and a Democrat, said many at the Legislature don't agree with Segerblom on citizens' ability or willingness to pay more taxes.

At a committee meeting on property taxes, Lockard said, "To hear the opposition, they certainly don't feel under taxed."

A representative of the Nevada teachers' union, which opposes the ESAs, doubted the Legislature would pass a $1 billion tax plan.

"Public education would love to see $1 billion in new revenue. I don't think that is going to happen. So we'll have to keep fighting to keep the ESAs out of it (final state budget)," said Nick Di Archangel of the Nevada State Education Association.

Segerblom said Democrats would only need three Republican votes to raise taxes since the Democrats hold the majority in the state Senate and a near-super majority in the Assembly. Two-thirds of each house must approve any tax increase, per state law.

"We need two Republicans in the Senate and we need one Republican in the Assembly," Segerblom said. "But the reality is, if there is a deal to be made, there are three people right there. So we just need to find those three people and figure out what they want."