GOP lawmakers make clear tax deal still unresolved |

GOP lawmakers make clear tax deal still unresolved

Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

Two vocal opponents of the governor’s tax plan made it clear Thursday legislative leaders haven’t yet found a compromise to balance the budget.

While the tax committees meet in public twice weekly to discuss a laundry list of tax proposals, leadership has been quietly holding small, closed-door sessions to work out a plan that can be supported by at least two-thirds of each house.

They have met almost daily for the past two weeks.

But some tax opponents have objected as the money committees close more and more state agency budgets largely as the governor recommended, saying that commits the Legislature to tax increases.

The conflict came up again Thursday morning as the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees tried to settle some public-education budgets.

“I’m hoping everybody realizes that if the money doesn’t come, there will be cuts in what we’ve already closed,” said Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas.

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“I’m not going through these budgets with any idea that I’m going to go back and cut,” responded subcommittee chairman Sen. Ray Rawson, R-Las Vegas.

“We don’t have the revenues,” said Cegavske, an outspoken opponent of tax increases.

At that point, Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, said he sees a strong possibility the money committees will have to reopen and cut some of the budgets that have already been closed.

“I can’t in good faith sit here and tell you that just because I closed a budget, I’m not going to come back and deal with the total,” he said.

Hettrick has said on several occasions he would rather cut state services. But the proposal he and other GOP members made public has never been drafted into legislation. It would cut deepest in human resources programs, including the Nevada Check Up program providing health care for poor children and Senior Rx, which helps seniors pay for prescription drugs and welfare.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, agreed with Rawson, saying the budgets are being closed according to need. He, along with the governor, has challenged tax opponents who say there is too much fat in the state budget to give specific examples.

“I would hope that when we’re closing jointly, those are items we can all feel we’ve agreed on,” he said.

Hettrick said he has voted against a number of those programs but been outvoted because he’s in the Assembly minority.

Raggio urged fellow lawmakers not to decide their support for the tax package that is finally developed “on whether you’re in the minority or not.”

And Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, made it clear the onus is on the tax committees now.

“The tax committees will have to do their job about funding whatever programs we approve,” she said.

The center of the controversy is a gross-receipts tax proposed by the governor and his task force. Businessmen statewide oppose it and have proposed a services component to the sales tax. The GOP also has proposed the real estate transfer tax. There are a dozen other tax proposals under consideration from property tax increases to an amusements tax, as well as cigarette, liquor and other specific taxes.