After Gov. Kenny Guinn unveiled his budget, Nevada Democrats answered with a list of their own legislative priorities Wednesday.
Raising the minimum wage, purchasing prescription drugs from Canada, expanding education programs, easing a mental health crisis and fast-tracking natural disaster relief to families topped the list announced by Democrats in news conferences in Carson City and Las Vegas.
"We commend the governor for pointing out some important issues, but we don't think he put the meat on the bone," said Sen. Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, at the Legislative building.
"The 2005 Legislature is going to be defined by how we strengthen working families," Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Las Vegas, said at a family-owned Bulgarian restaurant in Las Vegas. "Nevada families have issues to resolve, and they need to be resolved now."
Democrats said they will push to raise the state's minimum wage by $1 an hour over the federally mandated $5.15 an hour. Employers offering health insurance would be exempt from the increase. The plan mirrors a constitutional amendment approved by 68 percent of voters in November. It must be passed by a majority again in November 2006 before taking effect.
"Nevadans said people deserve a raise now," Titus said. "And that's what we want to do."
Twelve states, including California, Oregon and Washington, have minimum wages that exceed the federal rate.
The lawmakers said they plan to introduce a bill to create a state-run Web site that assists consumers in buying prescriptions from Canada and would require the state to use the site to buy prescriptions for prisons and other agencies.
Monday, Guinn called for a creation of a commission to study the issue.
"We don't think Nevada citizens can wait," said Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Committee.
Leslie said Democrats also want to act quickly to ease the state's mental health-care crisis. Although the governor has proposed more than $100 million additional dollars in mental health funding, Democrats said there were holes in his budget.
Democrats criticized the governor for focusing his aid on at-risk and "failing" schools. Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, the chair of the Education Committee, said she would push to make the governor's proposed $100 million Remediation Fund available to all schools, but would not seek more funding.