An Agenda for the Nevada Legislature as Session Begins

Geoffrey Lawrence

This week, Nevada lawmakers convene for their biennial 120-day session and, following an ambitious first State of the State address from new Gov. Joe Lombardo, expectations will be modest.

The Silver State faces no shortage of challenges for lawmakers to address:

Other issues facing the state include:

Lawmakers aren’t expected to address any of these pressing issues during the 2023 session. With heavy Democrat control of both legislative chambers and a Republican in the governor’s mansion, major reform on these key issues appears unlikely.

However, lawmakers could be poised to tweak some other policy areas.

Nevada will carry more than $1 billion in leftover reserves from multiple rounds of pandemic-era federal bailouts into the new budget cycle. At the same time, historic inflation is causing sales tax revenues to reach levels previously unheard of as the price of goods skyrockets.

Sales tax revenues are forecast at $3.925 billion for the 2023-2025 budget cycle – a 48.4 percent increase from just the 2019-2021 budget cycle. All this money likely takes new taxes off the table and has allowed Gov. Lombardo to commit to massive new spending.

In fact, the excess money allowed Lombardo to propose two minor tax cuts. First, he would cut the modified business tax – an excise tax on private-sector payroll – from 1.37 percent to 1.17 percent.

Second, he would raise the exemption on business receipts from $4 million to $6 million before firms become subject to the state’s unpopular commerce tax. This will partially restore Nevada’s allure as a destination for business growth.

As recently as 2013, the Tax Foundation ranked Nevada No. 1 for state business tax climate, but that ranking has now fallen to No. 25 because of creations like the commerce tax.

Lombardo also proposed a modest expansion of Nevada’s Opportunity Scholarship program, which allows businesses to receive a tax credit for donating to scholarship-granting organizations for low-income children.

The Democratic legislature passed a bill to eliminate opportunities for low-income children during the 2019 session, but Republicans in the minority agreed to raise taxes by over $300 million in 2021 in order to save the scholarship program.

Lombardo would lift the annual statewide limit on tax credits for this purpose from $7 million to $25 million – to account for still less than one percent of state education spending.

Meanwhile, in the time since lawmakers repealed language that could have given greater educational options to families across Nevada, many states have leapfrogged Nevada’s early leadership on the creation of a vibrant marketplace for education.

Elsewhere, Gov. Lombardo has asked for election-law reforms.

He proposes that mail-in ballots be sent only to individuals who request them and that mail-in ballots be received by Election Day so Nevada can tabulate winners on a timely basis. Nevada’s tardiness in tabulating results has generated unfavorable national headlines even as Democrats have lobbied to elevate the state to first in the nation for presidential primaries.

Lombardo has also asked lawmakers to implement some sort of identification requirement for voters, as most states have. The Heritage Foundation currently ranks Nevada 50th among the states in election integrity due largely to the lack of identification requirements and the ability for unrelated third parties to collect and remit ballots.

Although this represents a modest agenda for Nevada’s 82nd Legislative Session, one can be sure the rhetoric will quickly exceed policy substance and provide truculent entertainment for Nevada’s citizens.


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Geoffrey Lawrence

Geoffrey Lawrence

Director of Research

Geoffrey Lawrence is director of research at Nevada Policy.

Lawrence has broad experience as a financial executive in the public and private sectors and as a think tank analyst. Lawrence has been Chief Financial Officer of several growth-stage and publicly traded manufacturing companies and managed all financial reporting, internal control, and external compliance efforts with regulatory agencies including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Lawrence has also served as the senior appointee to the Nevada State Controller’s Office, where he oversaw the state’s external financial reporting, covering nearly $10 billion in annual transactions. During each year of Lawrence’s tenure, the state received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association.

From 2008 to 2014, Lawrence was director of research and legislative affairs at Nevada Policy and helped the institute develop its platform of ideas to advance and defend a free society.  Lawrence has also written for the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with particular expertise in state budgets and labor economics.  He was delighted at the opportunity to return to Nevada Policy in 2022 while concurrently serving as research director at the Reason Foundation.

Lawrence holds an M.A. in international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.S. and a B.S. in accounting from Western Governors University, and a B.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife, Jenna, and their two kids, Carson Hayek and Sage Aynne.