Hearings on tax plans open today

The Senate and Assembly will use what Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick referred to as a "buffet" approach to try build a tax plan two-thirds of each house can support.

The 19th special session of the Nevada Legislature opened at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday -- less than a day after lawmakers shut down the regular session.

The mandate from Gov. Kenny Guinn is to pass a tax plan that provides the $860 million needed to fund the $4.92 billion general fund budget to operate the state government for the next two years.

Both houses then adjourned until this morning to give themselves and staff a night of rest before diving back into the battle over taxes.

The Nevada Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of each house to pass taxes, which enabled Republicans in the lower house and a mixed group of tax opponents in the Senate to block a tax plan during the regular session.

The Senate will try to reach some consensus as a committee of the whole, beginning at 9 a.m.

"This ensures that every member of this body will have the opportunity to participate," said Majority Leader Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno.

He said each proposed tax will be thoroughly reviewed by the committee before trying to put together the elements that have the most support. He emphasized that everyone must give up on lost causes and work together.

"If there's a component in there, whether it's your favorite or mine, that there's no chance two-thirds will support, we need to move on," he said.

Raggio said the Senate can reach an agreement.

"If we get to the bottom of the list, we should have a pretty good idea what two-thirds of this body is willing to support," he said.

Despite some demands to cut back spending, he said the issue is taxes, not the budget, since Guinn didn't authorize review of the budget.

The Assembly will open a 19-member select committee chaired by Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, beginning at 8 a.m. today and, like the Senate, review each potential element of the tax proposal to see what kind of support it has.

"We'll take it one at a time and see," said Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas. "As long as the bulk of taxes hit big business and gaming and not senior citizens, I think there is enough consensus to put things together."

But Hettrick said Assembly Republicans still won't support the total tax increase proposed. He said it's $869 million over the next two years, but after all the taxes are in place will generate more than $1 billion every biennium.

"Philosophically, we have real problems getting there," he said.

Hettrick said the core of his caucus still believes the budget must be cut.


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