Assembly Democrats roll out two more pieces of economic diversity puzzle

Assembly Democrats rolled out the next two pieces of their economic development program Monday.

At the same time, Treasurer Kate Marshall brought her plan to help stimulate diversification to the table in advance of Wednesday's hearing on the subject.

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said Assembly Bill 189 will provide tax credits for small businesses in the state. He said Nevada wants to attract new businesses but shouldn't ignore those companies already operating in the state.

"Obviously we're trying to bring new businesses here," he said. "But we can't ignore those small businesses struggling to keep their doors opening."

He said the bill is a framework, which will be refined during committee hearings to make sure it does the job. One of the things he said must be worked out in committee is the definition of a small business.

Along with that proposal, Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, said Assembly Bill 191 is designed to "infuse the university system with capital investment from private business."

He said businesses could earn tax abatements for contributing money to specific programs designed to help their business develop an educated workforce. Since the goal is diversification, he said those abatements won't be available to the resort and hospitality industry.

He said businesses have told him they support the idea. He said they get more for their money because they get the tax abatement at the same time the state benefits because of the cash pumped into university degree and certification programs.

The students taught by those programs, Conklin said, will also intern at the businesses to complete their training.

Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said the proposals go along with the Nevada Jobs and School Works bills already introduced as part of what they hope is a "holistic approach" to fixing Nevada's economic development programs. He said legislative leaders, including minority leadership, meet with Gov. Brian Sandoval today to continue developing "an overall plan that looks a whole lot different" than existing economic development programs.

Also on Monday, Marshall held a briefing on two of her proposals to help the state's economic situation.

Senate Bill 64 puts $20 million in state funding into a program to make loans to small businesses. Marshall said the state would invest in certificates of deposit with Nevada banks willing to loan out that money to the state's small businesses. She said the program is designed to work with the federal Small Business Administration loan program. In return for a lower interest rate to those businesses, she said the state would agree to take a lower interest rate on its certificate of deposit.

Senate Bill 75 would put $50 million in money from the Permanent School Fund into a program to fund private equity investments in Nevada businesses. She said the state currently makes about 2.4 percent interest on investments from that fund $8 million a year. She said private equity investment programs can make better than double that rate of return an estimated $20 million a year.

"When you put money in a fund like that, it attracts other money," Marshall said.

Since the fund is in the business of loaning money to Nevada businesses, she said it helps those businesses expand, hire more people and diversify as well as expand the state's economy.

"An ancillary benefit is that it drives economic diversification," she said.

Her proposals are scheduled to be heard Wednesday by the Select Senate Committee on Economic Growth and Employment.


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