Special session extended through Sunday
With no agreement in sight but leadership in both houses saying they are making progress, Gov. Kenny Guinn agreed on Friday to extend the special legislative session through 5 p.m. Sunday.
“I am issuing this proclamation based on my optimism that there is movement on a tax bill in both the Senate and the Assembly,” said Guinn.
The Assembly ordered a tax bill that would generate $866 million over the next two years — neatly covering the $860 million needed to balance the budget. It contains the list of increases both sides have pretty much agreed to including higher cigarette and liquor taxes, slot and gaming fees.
There is also a tax on live entertainment in the proposal, bank franchise fees and a real-estate transfer tax.
But the big element, generating more than $130 million a year once implemented, is a proposed 5 percent tax on net profits of all Nevada businesses.
Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, said lawmakers are making progress but simply ran out of time. He said the biggest problem is that the complicated legislation implementing the Assembly tax proposal won’t be finished by bill drafters until today.
Once he gets the legislation, Perkins said, he hopes to vote on it today.
“I want citizens all over the state to know how everyone stands,” he said.
He said net profits seems to be the only broad-based business tax acceptable to both the Senate and Assembly and that he believes it will win the necessary two-thirds majority in the Assembly. He said the debate now is in the Senate, where Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, is still trying to build the necessary 14 votes.
Raggio continued meeting into the evening with different members of the Senate trying to build the necessary support that will provide $860 million needed to balance the budget. He was unavailable for comment.
Perkins said having the Senate approve the plan first would help it get through the Assembly.
“I think our preference all along has been for this bill to come from the Senate,” he said.
When the bill arrives in the Assembly, he said, it’s still his intention to roll it together into one piece of legislation with the distributive school account and class-size bills which fund education. He said that is probably the best way to do it because, legally, lawmakers can’t pass public education funding without passing a tax bill — to do so would violate the constitutional mandate that the budget be balanced.
He also said putting everything in one bill would prevent the anti-tax faction from voting for education and opposing the taxes needed to pay for schools.
Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, who has argued all session the budget should be cut rather than taxes increased, said he still doesn’t think any increase in revenue is needed. He blamed the impasse on Guinn.
“He’s wholly responsible for this,” said Beers. “He proposed an outrageous increase.”
Beers, Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, and Ron Knecht, R-Carson City, have said since the start of the special session Tuesday they intend to block any tax plan that funds the current budget until that budget is reopened and cut back. They said they would push it to two or even three special sessions if necessary.