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CARSON CITY, Nev. – Drawing on the experience of neighboring Utah, credit unions in the Silver State are girding for a possible legislative push by the Nevada Bankers Association for a tax on CUs, but this time the state’s Republican governor, Kenny Guinn seems to side with CUs. “We had a 60 minute meeting with the governor and his aides Feb. 5 at which he told us that, as non-profits, we would be excluded from any business tax bill his office put forth,” declared Tony Mook, chairman of the Nevada Credit Union League and president of Cumorah Credit Union of Las Vegas. Citing a severe budget shortfall in the state amidst falling gaming revenues, Gov. Guinn introduced a bill calling for a one-quarter of 1% gross receipts tax to be levied on for-profit institutions, naming large out-of-state banks as corporations which should be paying “their fair share” of taxes to the state. Guinn complained that megabanks like Wells Fargo of San Francisco and Bank of America hold 86% of the state’s deposits and yet return only a small amount of revenue to the state other than an employee head tax. Nevada has no corporate or personal income tax but relies on revenue from gaming, tourism and a limited sales tax. In addition to Wells Fargo and BofA, also identified in the group of out-of-staters is Zions Bancorp. of Salt Lake City, a Utah CU antagonist which has a large presence in the state through its affiliate, the $2.6 billion Nevada State Bank of Las Vegas and which was instrumental in the crafting and introduction of the CU tax bill in Utah. The president of Nevada State, William Martin, for weeks has been vocal about the need to include CUs in the business tax. His comments and other bankers’ opinions have appeared in Reno and Las Vegas-area newspaper op-ed pages, as well as in a statewide business journal. But Gov. Guinn has resisted Zions’ call and “on purpose” has excluded CUs as well as other non-profits like rural electric co-ops and hospitals from the taxable group, said Mook of the Nevada League After first being off the taxable list, Guinn did decide to add “bowling and golf” businesses while leaving out the non-profits, Mook said. At the Feb. 5 meeting, Mook said “the governor did tell us to watch our backs” as banks could mount a campaign this spring or summer to raise the CU tax issue in the legislature as a result of Gov. Guinn’s special task force to seek new revenue including the business tax, a subject which has occupied state government for two years. A press spokesman for the governor pointed out the sharp cutback in state revenues in recent years due to the growth of Indian reservation gaming in California siphoning off casino and tourist dollars. To prepare for a banker attack, the Nevada Credit Union League said it has hired a Las Vegas lobbying and PR firm, Gregory & Assoc., to handle contacts with legislators. The firm expects to relocate some staffers to Carson City for the job, said Mook. In solicitation letters that went out to its members, the League said it hopes to raise $40,000-$50,000 in a special fund to pay for the expense of hiring the Gregory firm and for lobbying/pr expenses during the year. The League chairman said Nevada CUs are well positioned for a banker tax campaign and over the years have built up solid friendships with key lawmakers. “I think we might be doing a better job than Utah since we’ve learned” effective lobbying skills, said Mook who knows something about that state. The Cumorah executive served a decade ago as vice president and chief financial officer at Goldenwest CU of Ogden, which under the expected new Utah law faces a curb on business lending as one of the three CU targets of the bank attack in that state. Mook, who also was an executive at America First CU of Riverdale, Utah, also subject to the Utah bill, said the Nevada League has worked hard at keeping up contacts with legislators through receptions and meetings. “I know when I was in Utah we never hiked the hill or did the kind of things we do here, and so I think the League there had to do catch up,” he observed, adding the result was that it cost them in failing to sway lawmakers to understand the CU position. John Van Etten, lobbyist for the California and Nevada Leagues in Sacramento, said a formal ceremony introducing Guinn’s tax bill in both the Senate and House taxation panels is to be held later this week, “and there are several different proposals that might be presented.” The Nevada League will be “watching them to see which ones affect credit unions,” he said, acknowledging also that CUs in the state “have laid the groundwork and support” for the CU message among lawmakers. [email protected]

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