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Sandoval comes out in support of Republican tax overhaul

Gov. Brian Sandoval talks with reporters on June 5, 2016. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is officially supporting the Republican-led effort to pass a major overhaul of the federal tax code.

The Republican governor’s statement backing the tax bill was released Tuesday by the White House, as congressional leaders inch closer to hammering out a final proposal after the House and Senate approved different versions of the bill last month.

“Reforming the nation’s tax code is an incredibly complex task that is long overdue,” Sandoval said in a statement. “I applaud the President for making this a priority in this Congress, and I appreciate Congress’ attention as they reform our tax code with a focus on fairness, competitiveness and economic growth. I continue to appreciate the leadership of Senator Heller and our entire Congressional delegation; their willingness to work with the state will help ensure the final legislative product will be one that will help Nevada grow, put more Nevadans to work, and allow Nevadans to keep more of their hard-earned money.”

It’s the most overt support that Sandoval — at times a fierce critic of President Donald Trump’s decisions to end cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers and congressional attempts to drastically overhaul the Affordable Care Act (ACA) —  has shown for the tax measure, though he did say in November that he “recognizes and believes federal tax reform is necessary.”

The governor did not sign onto a letter last week by 21 other Republican governors applauding and calling for “meaningful tax reform.” But Sandoval, in his role as chairman of the National Governors Association, sent congressional leaders a letter on Tuesday outlining issues in the tax bill that could affect states.

Sandoval outlined several areas, including the proposed repeals of deductions for state and local income taxes, the tax-exempt status for certain private activity bonds and financial management tools such as bonds used to pay off other outstanding bonds could limit or even diminish demand for municipal bonds.

"This would lead to more expensive public infrastructure projects or worse, decisions not to proceed with them, chilling job
creation and economic growth," he wrote.

He had also previously raised critical questions on parts of the bill, including concerns about cuts to affordable housing programs, changes to bonding for sports stadiums and the repeal of the individual mandate provision of ACA that requires most people to have health insurance.

“It would disrupt the exchange, because if people aren’t required to purchase insurance, specifically those that are healthy … it’s going to change the dynamic,” he said in November. “At least the information I’ve seen is that it would cause the premiums to go up even more for those who remain, so that’s an issue as well.”

The Senate version of the tax bill, which passed on a 51-49 vote, included a repeal of the mandate, which wasn’t present in the House version of the bill. Dozens of House Republicans have called for the repeal to be included in the final bill produced by the conference committee, which is charged with reconciling differences between the bills before they’re voted on again by the House and Senate.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that repealing the mandate would save the federal government $338 billion over the next decade, with insurance premiums rising by about 10 percent and roughly 13 million people losing their health insurance.

Sandoval in August signed onto a letter calling for a plan to stabilize health insurance markets that included keeping the mandate in place, calling it “perhaps the most important incentive for healthy people to enroll in coverage.”

The White House also included a statement of support from Nevada Controller Ron Knecht, who backed the tax bill’s elimination of many deductions and exemptions.

“The special interests that benefit from exemptions, deductions and credits available only to some parties are few in number, but each member of the group has a large stake in keeping these provisions,” he said.

121217 Tax Reform Conference Letter by Riley Snyder on Scribd

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