(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Democrats in the Nevada Legislature are conceding they cannot raise new taxes this session to restore spending reductions in public education and other programs.
As a result, lawmakers have scheduled a joint Senate-Assembly budget committee Tuesday to “reconsider” their previous actions on adding hundreds of millions in funding to public education, higher education and health and human services programs.
Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, a member of the Finance Committee, said the purpose of the meeting is to make more cuts in the Democrat-approved budgets that have ended up about $968 million over the $6.1 billion spending plan submitted by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
“Yes, more cuts, more cuts in line with his budget,” Leslie said when asked the purpose of the meeting.
News of the budget meeting to make the cuts was first reported by the Nevada News Bureau.
Democrats in the Legislature have proposed a $1.2 billion tax plan to fund their spending restorations, but so far Republican lawmakers have not been willing to go along with the call to extend a package of sun-setting taxes, impose a tax on some services and establish a new business margin tax.
Sandoval has flatly rejected any proposal for new taxes to balance the budget. He has already vetoed a Democrat-approved public education funding plan passed earlier this month.
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, who also serves as chairman of Senate Finance, was not as blunt about the purpose of the joint meeting: “We’re just going to open up the debate about where we are based on the budget and the revenue and see what type of consensus we can reach.”
But Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said Republicans have not wavered in their opposition to new taxes, and that Democrats are expected to make further spending cuts at the meeting tomorrow.
“I understand they are going to propose additional cuts, but I don’t know what they are going to be,” said Kieckhefer, a member of the Finance Committee. “I assume that it will either be to Economic Forum levels or to levels of Economic Forum plus sunset (taxes) extension, considering they are well over that. So they would have to pare it back to get to that level. We’ll see.”
There is no agreement with Republicans to extend the taxes approved by the 2009 Legislature that will expire June 30. If the taxes were extended, they would bring in about $626 million in additional revenue over the two years of the budget that will start July 1.
Horsford would not say tax increases sought by Democrats are officially dead for the session.
“We continue to meet with individual members to talk about ways to responsibly fund the budget and address concerns from the other side and I hope we will be able to reach full consensus by the June 6 deadline,” he said.
Horsford said Friday is a “big” deadline for getting the budget approved in time for the constitutionally-mandated adjournment.
“We don’t have to take action tomorrow,” he said.