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Recognizing the dire fiscal straits faced by the state, Democratic lawmakers in Nevada are pushing for a $1.5 billion plan to reform the sales tax to raise revenue and avoid harsh cuts in public services.

One of the smartest parts of the plan would raise roughly $600 million in new revenues by expanding the state’s sales tax base to include services. Half of the revenue raised from sales tax base expansion would be used to pay for a reduction in the overall sales tax rate. The other half of the revenue would go towards addressing the state’s budget gap. 

As the Institute on Taxation and Economic policy explains, applying the sales tax to services increases revenue and also makes the sales tax less economically distortionary.

A coalition of the Retail Association of Nevada and the Nevada Resort Association are looking to improve Nevada’s sales tax base in another way. They call for legislation requiring Amazon.com and other e-commerce companies to collect sales taxes on items sold to Nevadans. The measure could generate at least $16 million in much-needed revenue.

Bryan Wachter, the President of the Nevada Retailers Association, points out that the biggest victims of the failure to collect these taxes are the “mom-and-pop retail establishments” that face an “uneven playing field” as they have to collect sales taxes that e-commerce sites do not.

These proposals would be major steps in the right direction, but they’re no panacea for Nevada. Even if the Democratic plan and e-commerce legislation is adopted, Nevada’s tax system will remain highly regressive and incapable of meeting the state’s fiscal needs in the years to come.

To meet the long-term challenge of creating a more equitable and adequate tax system, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) recently released a plan entitled “Bridging the Gap”, which includes a state individual and corporate income tax, changes to the state’s extraction tax system and other key reforms.