Nevada NewsMakers

News - March 29, 2018 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

The Commerce Tax has little chance of being repealed, although Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt opposes it, said Robert Uithoven, Laxalt's campaign consultant.

The Commerce Tax was at the core of a reported $1.4 billion in new taxes enacted by a Republican-controlled Legislature in 2015. It applies only to the state's largest businesses but has drawn the ire of many conservative Nevadans.

"When the Commerce Tax was first proposed, Adam Laxalt said he opposed it," Uithoven said on Nevada Newsmakers Wednesday.

"Adam Laxalt still opposes it today," said Uithoven, who is also a consultant in the campaign of Republican lieutenant governor candidate Michael Roberson.

"But there is a political reality as well," Uithoven said.

The current recall drive to repeal the Commerce Tax has little chance for success, Uithoven said.

"It appears like the organizers of the Commerce Tax repeal are not going to be able to get the signatures, that I have been able to tell, to put a repeal (question) on the ballot. So I don't think it will be repealed."

The Commerce Tax received the two-thirds majority necessary to pass the 2015 Legislature after it was pushed by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval and GOP leadership in both houses of the Legislature.

Controller Ron Knecht and Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers filed paperwork last August with state officials to begin the efforts to get the issue on the ballot.

Conservative legislators who oppose the tax also have little chance to mount a successful effort to pass a bill to repeal it in the 2019 Legislature, Uithoven said.

"It would arguably be tough with a Republican (majority) Legislature to repeal the Commerce tax and with a Democratic (majority) Legislature, even more daunting," Uithoven said.

Sandoval is opposed to any Commerce Tax repeal, telling the Nevada Independent that repeal would “irreversibly and permanently harm” Nevada's public-school children and business climate.

When asked about major differences between Laxalt and Sandoval, Uithoven said: "I think a lot of people will focus on the Commerce Tax."

Yet Laxalt and Sandoval have many areas where they agree, especially in education, Uithoven said.

"I think there will be a lot more in common than there are differences," Uithoven said. "(Laxalt would be) continuing on with the economic reforms we have seen, a lot of the economic growth that we've seen."

Laxalt shares Sandoval's support for Education Savings Accounts and Opportunity Scholarships, Uithoven said.

"There were significant education reforms that were put in place through Gov. Sandoval and I know Adam Laxalt is getting ready to announce his education plan here in the next few weeks.

"People will be able to see those similarities and how he (Laxalt) would want to continue it, build upon it and really improve upon it."

Laxalt has already endorsed Roberson as lieutenant governor.

"I think you will see a unified ticket coming out of the June primary but he has endorsed Michael Roberson," Uithoven said.

Roberson, however, was the senate majority leader in the 2015 Legislature and led the push for the Commerce Tax and Sandoval's $1.4 billion tax increase overall.

What will voters think of that?, Uithoven was asked.

"We will find out," he said. "Michael Roberson was a part of that tax increase for sure, as was a majority of the Republicans in the senate and a majority of Republicans in the assembly supported it."

When reminded that Roberson was a major player in passing the tax package, Uithoven said:

"True, he helped pass it. He also helped pass construction defects and he also helped pass collective-bargaining reform. There were a number of reforms that were passed in the 2015 Legislature, education reforms, ESAs, Opportunity Scholarships. He was a part of those as well."

Roberson and Laxalt have spoken about their differences on the Commerce Tax, Uithoven said.

"Certainly they have had conversations about it and there is a difference of opinion and that is OK," he said.