Assembly again rejects tax plan

After more than two hours of often emotional debate Friday night, the Assembly again rejected a tax plan designed to fund the budget and public education.

Despite all the lobbying, posturing and negotiation, not one vote changed since last week. The vote was 27-15 -- one short of the constitutionally required two-thirds majority.

The measure was an amended version of the bill which passed the Senate on Thursday. The big difference was the Assembly addition of a franchise tax based on gross receipts of a business. The plan is expected to raise about $873 million, $13 million more than needed to balance the budget.

The Republican minority refused to budge saying only until Gov. Kenny Guinn reopens the budget and makes the cuts they are demanding will they vote for any tax plan.

"The mix of taxes is acceptable," said Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, earlier. "The amount is unacceptable."

The only Republicans to support the tax package were Jason Geddes and Dawn Gibbons of Reno, Joe Hardy of Boulder City and Josh Griffin of Henderson.

Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, held the vote open for more than five minutes to see if anyone would change their vote. No one did. Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, moved to rescind the vote and put the legislation on the Chief Clerk's desk "so that we can give everybody one more chance to vote tomorrow."

"A simple 3-percent cut and a few reasonable taxes and we would be walking out of here with a balanced budget," Hettrick said. He said an $873 million tax increase over the next two years was "too much and I believe will ultimately hurt Nevada."

A 3-percent cut in the $5 billion general fund would be about $150 million, bringing the total package down to $720 million. He and other tax opponents said they don't want to cut the budget, but "reduce the enhancements."

But Buckley said that phrase translates into seniors unable to get prescription benefits and children unable to get health benefits.

"These reductions of enhancements hurt people in our state," she said. 'I won't balance this budget on the backs of children and seniors to protect big business."

"I implore you, otherwise we're in court on Tuesday," she added.

Assemblyman David Goldwater, D-Las Vegas, was harsher, telling opponents, "If you're a legislator who believes this state only exists to be a protector of business interests, stand up and say it proud." He and other Democrats said the government must help the poor, seniors, children in schools and those with mental and other disabilities.

That prompted an emotional response from Hettrick who said a vote against the plan wasn't a vote against schools and children despite the fact school funding is tied into the tax plan.

"To imply I am in any way trying to hurt them is wrong," he said.


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