Nevada lawmakers analyze state budget proposal
Nevada lawmakers return Monday for a second week of pre-session hearings into the $4.81 billion, two-year budget that Gov. Kenny Guinn hopes to balance with a nearly $1 billion tax hike.
The week will open with a review Monday of budgets of the state Gaming Control Board, and the Transportation and the state Motor Vehicles departments. The Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation also is on the agenda.
Agencies dealing with veterans, child and family services, public health and public safety, Nevada prisons, business and industry will be reviewed later in the week.
The 2003 session starts on Feb. 3, and the hearings in advance of the session are designed to give the lawmakers a jump start on their review of the budget for the next two fiscal years that Guinn recommended in his State of the State address.
While the Assembly and Senate money committee members holding the advance hearings are covering a lot of ground, there will be more scrutiny during budget hearings held after the session opens.
“You’re not going to hear a lot of argument,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said in describing the pre-session hearings. “This isn’t really the best time to dig into it.”
And once the session starts, the closer look at Guinn’s budget will have to go smoothly because “there’s not going to be a lot of time for wasting time,” Raggio said.
The review of the budget plus work on Guinn’s tax plans and hundreds of other legislative proposals must be completed by early June, when the 2003 session is scheduled to end.
There are three volumes of budget material, totaling more than 1,000 pages — and tough decisions to make if the legislators refuse to go along with Guinn’s tax plan.
In his State of the State address, the Republican governor said it would be “political cowardice” for lawmakers to oppose the biggest tax hike in Nevada history given the state’s pressing needs.
The tax plan covers what would be a $700 million-plus shortfall and allows for expansion of some services, mainly in education and human services programs.
Guinn’s proposals for a hike in cigarette taxes, a new entertainment tax on concerts and movies, and a boost in property levies prompted numerous questions from lawmakers last week, during the first round of the pre-session hearings.
Also scrutinized were Guinn’s K-12 public education spending plans; his effort to more fully fund colleges and universities; a proposed new Las Vegas mental health hospital and other state building projects; and costs of an all-day kindergarten plan.