Perkins, Hettrick say Sunday’s talks "fruitful"
Heading toward their final day before the start of a new fiscal year with the governor poised to take them to court, the opposing sides in the Assembly battle over taxes finally began to make some progress Sunday.
“The path we’ve taken today and the meetings we’ve had have been somewhat fruitful,” said Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson.
“I think the pending deadline has had some weight,” he said after adjourning the lower house for the night.
“Nobody’s jumping and agreeing to anything, but, yes, there’s talks going on,” said Hettrick. “There’s progress.”
Neither would reveal details of the talks, but Hettrick said one approach he could accept is to adopt a 3 percent reduction in total spending “and give some flexibility to the governor in how to accomplish that.”
That reduction would lower the $860 million shortfall over the coming two years to just more than $700 million, which Hettrick said several members of his caucus have said they will support.
The number is important because Gov. Kenny Guinn has said since the Legislature started in February the state needs $704 million more over the biennium to maintain existing services and cover growth and inflation.
“I’ve said all along at $704, I think the votes are there,” he said, adding that he would still oppose that much of a tax increase.
Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said the 3 percent cut and leaving the details to the governor and Interim Finance Committee have been discussed.
She attributed Sunday’s spirit of cooperation to “a growing realization of the impact of not resolving this tomorrow.”
If they can’t resolve the tax battle by midnight tonight, Guinn plans to petition the Nevada Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus ordering them to fund the budget Tuesday morning.
The Senate has already passed a tax plan that would generate more than $860 million. But the Assembly has failed to get the constitutionally mandated two-thirds majority to pass a tax increase three times — always falling one vote short at 27-15.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Legislature, under the constitution, is required to fund the budget,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno. “That lawsuit doesn’t apply to this house because we have passed a bill funding the budget.”
Both houses reconvene at 10 a.m. today.