Speaker-Minority leader meet to discuss new idea

Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, was the pessimist Tuesday while Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, said he thinks the two sides in Nevada's budget battle may be nearing a compromise on taxes.

"The speaker came with an idea, a business tax that would be more acceptable to us," Hettrick said.

But neither he nor Perkins would detail the proposal until after they present it to their caucus members.

"Every time we throw something out in advance, people start taking potshots at it," Hettrick said.

Perkins said staff is working on details of the proposal, which he said is "a piece of the puzzle, but I don't think it's the whole puzzle."

"We still need to have a broad-based business tax," he said. "Folks that come here and make a lot of money in the Nevada economy should contribute."

He said the payroll tax proposed by the GOP doesn't reach some businesses.

"Relying solely on a payroll tax just lets a lot of big businesses get away," he said.

Hettrick said Monday he agrees with Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, who argues the payroll tax hits hardest those businesses which generate the most need for governmental services because it is based on the number of people employed by the business.

He also said the two sides are $20 million to $30 million apart -- less than 1 percent of the $5 billion budget.

Hettrick said he talked with Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, Monday about possible budget cuts.

"I think we're close," he said.

Perkins, however, said he doubts Assembly Democrats will approve some of the cuts Hettrick is suggesting.

"Cuts like Senior Rx or Nevada Checkup, we're just not going to do those sorts of things," Perkins said. "I think we'd make our last stand trying to protect seniors and children because when you lower caseload projections and caseloads come in higher than that, those people are going to be harmed."

Hettrick has suggested giving Gov. Kenny Guinn flexibility to make the reductions and move money from one agency to another to make the cuts while doing minimal damage to state programs. Guinn said he would rather lawmakers reach agreement on what cuts to make and then ask him to specifically authorize those reductions.

"I want a list," he said. "You only send back the items they agree to cut, not the entire budget."

Perkins said legislative leaders probably will call lawmakers back to Carson City early next week in hopes they can finalize a tax plan that funds the entire state budget -- including public schools. The state budget has been passed and signed into law but the existing revenues don't provide enough to also cover school budgets. The shortfall is $860 million over the next two years.

Hettrick has said his caucus wants that cut to below $760 million in new revenue. Perkins said Tuesday he thinks $803 million is about as low as they can go without hurting necessary programs.


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