CARSON CITY, NEV. – Gov. Kenny Guinn's plan to rebate $300 million of the state surplus to residents won unanimous Senate approval, as Assembly leaders continued to push a competing plan. Under Guinn's Senate Bill 519, motor vehicle owners would receive checks for as much as $300 per vehicle, based on what they paid in registration fees in 2004. Only 20% of Nevada motorists would receive the maximum rebate, while one-third would receive $50 or less.
Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, said that the higher-priced, newer vehicles will generate the largest rebates. The biggest rebates, he said, would go to limousine companies and other large companies.
Guinn's Chief of Staff Michael Hillerby defended the governor's decision to give rebates to companies on their vehicles. He said businesses pay registration fees and much of the state taxes and should get rebates like everyone else.
Hillerby noted that under the governor's plan, people and businesses will both receive the total amount they paid up to $300 per vehicle in registration fees in 2004. A person who paid $100 in registration fees in 2004 would receive a $100 rebate check. But someone whose car registration fees were $500 would receive only $300.
In their competing plan, Assembly leaders proposed giving all adult vehicle owners and residents with state IDs rebate checks of equal amounts, about $175. They said the money would represent a return of the gas taxes paid in 2004.
"We have to sit down with the governor and (Senate Majority Leader Bill) Raggio and see what compromise there is," said Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson. "We prefer more money into the hands of more people."
Assembly Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, added: "Our house has a different philosophy. We want what is best for the taxpayer who has given his money to us."
Guinn, who earlier threatened to veto the state budget bill unless the legislature approved a $300 million rebate plan, vowed to fight for his plan. "The Democrats believe in the transfer of wealth, taking money from people who paid and giving it to people who didn't pay," he said. "My plan is predicated on the premise you give as much back as you can to the people who paid."
Coffin complained that Guinn's plan gives the false expectation that everyone will get rebates of $300. The average rebate check will be about $100. Coffin predicted that "class warfare" would erupt over the low rebate checks and unhappy residents might throw rocks through the windows of legislators.
The Department of Motor Vehicles said 20% of vehicle owners paid more than $300 in registration fees last year. Seven thousand Nevadans paid $1,000 or more to register their vehicles.
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