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Governor's assistant says lawmakers have the tools already

by Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

Gov. Kenny Guinn's chief legislative liaison said Friday lawmakers will have a "good compromise sitting in front of them" when they return to finish the tax plan June 25.

But he made it clear the final deal won't include reopening and chopping money out of the budget.

Deputy Chief of Staff Mike Hillerby said the proposal which had the best chance of passing the special session included a combination of a franchise tax on all businesses and a payroll tax to replace the Business Activity Tax.

"The vast majority of the people who will actually pay those taxes have said they will actually support it," Hillerby said.

He said businessmen and gaming lobbyists were willing to use that as the basis of a compromise

"So what is the Legislature's problem?" he asked.

Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, was upset when, the morning after he thought both houses had agreed on that plan, the Senate went off in a completely different direction.

"I thought we had a deal and then they do this," he said after the compromise was abandoned without any notification to the Assembly leadership.

Hillerby said if lawmakers want to go in another direction, they have the "exhaustive" task force study of the tax structure, thousands of pages of analysis and projections from their own staff and the Department of Taxation.

"The tools are all there and they've just got to put them together," he said.

Some have suggested maybe the governor should prepare a compromise tax plan to help guide lawmakers when they return but Hillerby said no.

"We've got a plan for them to consider," he said. "We gave it to them in February."

Guinn presented lawmakers a tax plan that would have generated just under $1 billion over two years based on a business gross receipts tax. The money committees pared the budget back to $860 million.

But some lawmakers including Southern Nevada Republican Senators Barbara Cegavske, Ann O'Connell and Sandra Tiffany have said it's too much and they won't vote for taxes without further cuts. They are joined by a core of Republican Assembly members including Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick of Gardnerville and Ron Knecht of Carson City.

Hillerby said the governor has signed the budget and believes it is an appropriate level of funding. He said more than 70 percent of the 63 members of the Legislature apparently feel the same since they also voted for the budget.

He said the minority needs to recognize its responsibility to help make sure the budget approved by the majority is funded rather than demand the governor reopen the budget to appease a minority which doesn't intend to support taxes anyway.

"It's a bit disingenuous to now be talking about making budget cuts to make taxes more palatable or to be talking about which taxes ought to be considered when you have no intention of voting for them under any circumstances," he said.


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