Governor orders lawmakers back to work

Lawmakers have until 5 p.m. Friday to complete work on a tax plan to fund state government after failing to complete their work early Tuesday morning.

Gov. Kenny Guinn ordered lawmakers back to work Tuesday evening calling for a special session of the Legislature.

Guinn's proclamation gives the Legislature until 5 p.m. Friday to pass funding for public education, a tax plan and legislation containing language needed to collect increased fees at the Secretary of State's office

The special session began 14-1/2 hours after the 2003 regular session adjourned.

Guinn gave lawmakers until 5 p.m. Friday to finish the state's business.

The Nevada Constitution mandates an end to the regular session at midnight on the 120th calendar day. Only the governor can call a special session beyond that point.

Guinn said the initial agenda will be strictly limited to the public education funding measures, which failed to pass during the 120 days, and the tax plan needed to raise $860 million and balance the state's $4.92 billion general fund budget over the next two years.

Guinn can expand the agenda at any time during the special session and said there are "a few bills, maybe 9 or 10" which deserve to survive and become law.

"We'll give consideration to those after we come to a conclusion to our tax problem," he said. Lawmakers will get those measures only when they agree to fund the budget.

Guinn made it clear the budget bills will not be reopened for lawmakers to consider thus cutting off the hopes of tax opponents who say the answer is not raising taxes but cutting programs.

Business lobbyists have claimed they can hold everything up until he agrees to reopen and cut the budget.

"I'm not going to respond to that," Guinn said.

Guinn said he is still looking not for a Bandaid but "a solution that will be an advantage to the state for years to come."

Other than a universal tax on services, he said he hasn't ruled out anything.

"There are six or seven that have been projected," he said. "Hopefully we'll end up with a broad-based business tax."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said a wide range of ideas will be looked at including payroll taxes, sales taxes, room tax increases, a net profits tax similar to that proposed by teachers in 2001.

He said there are different levels of support for all those tax proposals and lawmakers will have to see which can finally win two-thirds support in the Senate and Assembly.

Raggio also indicated he doesn't see major cuts in the budget as the answer.

"Everybody likes a tax that doesn't affect them," he said. "But at this time in the state's economy -- the needs, growth -- we have to fund the state's economy."

Deputy Chief of Staff Mike Hillerby said Guinn can limit the length of the session, but Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes said the constitution doesn't specifically say that. Asked whether he could force them to shut down by withdrawing his proclamation, she said, "It's never been tried."

Erdoes said a straight-forward reading of the constitution would seem to allow lawmakers to continue meeting even past the 20th day when their legislative pay ends.


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