Nevada governor talks tough on tax delay

Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn said Friday that he's considering suing GOP legislators who have held up approval of an $860 million tax package needed to balance Nevada's record $5 billion state budget.

Guinn said in a telephone interview that he wouldn't give in to "blackmail" demands to revisit the main elements of the two-year budget, which was approved and signed into law.

State lawmakers will try again to increase taxes when they meet Wednesday for their second special session since the regular 2003 session ended June 2. They've been unsuccessful because of a requirement for a two-thirds majority vote.

Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, and others want to cut spending to reduce the need for higher taxes.

"Mr. Hettrick, he's been assuming for a long time, and he needs to really understand what the rules are," Guinn said. "He's now saying, 'Oh, we'll take the governor to court.' Take me to court for what? For following the (Nevada) Constitution?"

"I'm thinking about taking them to court for not following the constitution."

Guinn also said he wouldn't consider any piecemeal budget reductions "until I see a tax bill passed. Now if they will pass a tax bill and send it over, at least we would have some idea of what kind of money they needed."

"I can't just say to somebody, 'You're a minority and I'll send it back because what if five other people got together who could stop a majority vote and say we want bills X, Y and Z back?" Guinn said.

"You know, that's pretty much using blackmail and it's not going to work on me because I have an obligation to the entire state. That budget is legal. It's sound."

"Why would I send the budget back when I would be nervous about not getting it back to me balanced and I would have to shut down the state on July 1?" the governor said. "That's just something that would be irresponsible on my part."

Guinn said that when legislators meet they'll have to "work feverishly" to approve adequate taxes to support Nevada's K-12 school system. He said existing tax revenues are sufficient for other government operations.

Hettrick said cuts in proposed spending could be made without endangering the state's budget for the next two fiscal years. He suggested Guinn could be sent an amendment to the existing appropriations act.

Hettrick also said he's developing a specific list of possible cuts that could be presented to the governor and lawmakers Monday.

Proposals already discussed by Hettrick include not restoring any money to the state's "rainy day" fund for fiscal emergencies, and delaying increased state contributions to the public employee retirement system.

While proponents of raising taxes have singled out Hettrick and other Assembly Republicans for blocking the plans, Hettrick said it's wrong to blame his caucus for the impasse. He noted there were at least four unsuccessful tax votes in the Senate, and there has been only one such vote in the Assembly.

Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins has called the tax foes "obstructionists," adding it's critical to approve a tax and school spending plan now so school districts can hire teachers and plan for the next school year.

Perkins said the most promising tax plan is one he forged last week with Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City. That proposal called for a 0.65 percent employer-paid tax on employee wages; a 0.12 percent gross receipts tax, called a franchise tax; and a net profits tax on banks.

"It is time for a small handful of legislators to stop holding our schools hostage with a politically motivated protest of the state budget -- a balanced budget that was approved by the majority of the Legislature," the Henderson Democrat said.


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