Still no tax plan as frustrated leaders call an end to special session

Frustrated and tired after yet another attempt to develop a consensus tax plan failed, Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, Thursday called an end to the 10-day old special session.

"We have been unable to reach a consensus on a revenue plan that will gain 14 votes in this house," Raggio told senators at 8:30 p.m. "Frankly, at this point, we have run out of options."

Gov. Kenny Guinn an hour later issued a proclamation ordering a new special session starting at 8 a.m. June 25 to finish the tax plan.

Perkins called for an end to the session several hours before Raggio, saying it makes no sense to continue wasting time and taxpayer money. He made his remarks before the Assembly, with only 29 members present, sending the body home until it is called to return. The other 13 had already left for home -- mostly to Las Vegas.

Perkins sent a letter to Gov. Kenny Guinn saying they were at an impasse, but Raggio asked for and got one last chance. But even with both a franchise tax and payroll tax in the plan, lawmakers were unable to get enough support to get it out of the Senate so that the Assembly could consider it.

One final hangup seemed to be over the Senate's demand for a statewide room tax, which gaming lobbyists and the Assembly oppose. There was also a battle over whether the payroll tax backed by senators or the franchise tax supported in the Assembly should be the big money generator. And the Senate was resisting demands by both Guinn and the Assembly that a tax on banks be included.

"We hate the payroll tax, and they hate the franchise tax," said Perkins.

He said he was hoping the Senate would send the Assembly a compromise plan it could support without amendment that generated about $860 million more over the biennium.

Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, said he believes everyone was getting closer, but that it may take some time before a number of people realize they can support something that funds the budget. He added they should find more open minds when they come back.

Raggio said "outside elements" -- lobbyists -- caused some of the problems, and some lobbyists refused to agree to any taxes.

"Some just said, 'I'm not going to participate, I'm not going to vote for anything,'" he said.

Sens. Ann O'Connell, R-Las Vegas; Sandra Tiffany, R-Henderson; and Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, are among those who opposed new taxes from Day 1 of the 2003 Legislature. In the Assembly, the list included Republicans Lynn Hettrick of Gardnerville, Ron Knecht of Carson City and Bob Beers of Las Vegas.

While most of those lawmakers said they would support some tax increases, they all said a budget needing $860 million more over the biennium was far too much. Neither house could muster a two-thirds majority for a tax plan. Instead, they are demanding that Guinn reopen the budget and make drastic cuts before they will support any new taxes.

Guinn has said that's not an option. He emphasized that point in his proclamation, calling a June 25 special session by including the public education funding bill, a gaming control board bill and secretary of state's bill that generate funding, and the tax bill. He did not put the budget on the agenda.

Raggio said the Legislature has no choice but to settle its disagreements when Gov. Guinn calls them back.

"There's going to come a day when, if we don't decide, somebody else is going to decide -- and that may be a court," he said.

Raggio said Nevadans don't want a judge writing their tax laws for them.


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