Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, says little progress has been made in the past week finding some way to build a two-thirds majority for a tax plan.
"Quite honestly, there hasn't been a lot of conversation because it's impossible for me to get my arms around a ghost," said Perkins as he prepared for Wednesday's special session of the Nevada Legislature, their second since the regular session ended June 2.
He said he has discussed a variety of ways to break the logjam, including accountability language and possible cuts that would convince some of the minority block to back a tax plan -- without success.
"It's been a game of hide and seek trying to figure out what it is we can do to compromise," he said.
Some members, Perkins said, don't seem interested in coming up with a plan.
He said the Legislature's money committees cut $140 million from Gov. Kenny Guinn's proposed budget and that the anti-tax members including Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, voted for 95 percent of that budget. He said if they want cuts, they should have made more detailed suggestions where to cut during the money committee hearings on the budget.
"Am I optimistic? Yes. But at some point in time, we've got to see movement on the other side," he said. "They, thus far, have been allowed to sit there and say 'No' without suggesting how to get the job done."
Hettrick could not be reached Monday but he has said repeatedly his goal is to hold his 15-member block together, preventing a two-thirds majority vote on a tax plan. He said the idea is to force Guinn to reopen the budget and make cuts where they want them. Hettrick told business groups last week his caucus has identified $200 million in cuts that could be made without damaging the operations of government.
"My caucus won't vote for $860 million in taxes," he said.
Guinn has said repeatedly he won't reopen the budget. He compared what Hettrick is doing to blackmail, saying the victims will be public schools since the main state budget has been approved but public school funding hasn't and can't be until taxes sufficient to pay the tab are approved.
Perkins also rejected the idea of reopening the budget but pointed out some of Hettrick's rural supporters could be in jeopardy if that happens.
"It's hard to talk about that because I don't want it to be a threat, but given where most lawmakers are from, who is most at risk if the budget gets opened? We worked pretty hard to take care of the whole state, but if they're just going to hold out, they're placing their own districts at risk."
He also made it clear he thinks it inappropriate for some of those lawmakers to appear to be enjoying the blockade they have created.
"Instead of sitting back and smiling at what's going on, how about getting into the work and getting it done?" he said.
Perkins said the session will almost certainly begin Wednesday with the compromise plan that was shelved at the end of the previous special session -- a plan which includes both a franchise tax on business and a payroll tax, but doesn't rely entirely on either.
"I think that's where we're going to start come Wednesday," he said.
Guinn has called the second special session of the year to order at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
IF YOU GO
What: Special session of the Nevada Legislature
When: 8 a.m. Wednesday
Where: Legislative Building, Carson City