Time's Up For Legislature To Deal With Taxes

By: Ben Kieckhefer - Associated Press
By: Ben Kieckhefer - Associated Press

The clock ran out early Tuesday on Nevada lawmakers before they could vote on the largest tax increase in state history, scuttling a compromise plan by Senate and Assembly leaders and pointing the Legislature toward its third special session in as many years.

Gov. Kenny Guinn was expected to promptly call a special session on taxes following Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio's announcement that he wanted the tax plan pulled - about 15 minutes before a required 1 a.m. conclusion to any bill-passing.

The Senate session was formally adjourned at 1:21 a.m. and the Assembly shut down at 1:25 a.m.

"It'd absolutely be unfair not only to the senators here but to the public as well to try to hurry through a (tax) bill with that importance, with all the amendments that we'd like to discuss," Raggio, R-Reno, said. Senators then rushed through several other major bills before shutting down.

The Republican governor scheduled a 10 a.m. Tuesday announcement. Raggio and Sen. Ray Rawson, R-Las Vegas, said they expected to head back into session later in the day.

Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas said Guinn should have called an immediate special session, with no break for the legislators.

"I think you just need to get it done," she said, adding, "You start back at ground zero."

"Right now, it's kind of hard to say what happened," Guinn told lawmakers who walked over to the governor's office to inform him the session was over.

"The governor expected them to get their work done in 120 days," said Greg Bortolin, Guinn's press secretary. "I wouldn't call it a train wreck, but it's definitely a derailment."

The leaders' compromise $869 million, two-year tax plan, including 15 new and increased taxes, was first packaged together and introduced Monday morning.

"We don't want to walk away having voted on something we didn't know what it said," said Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas. "We were very close to doing that and I'm glad somebody pulled the reins."

"It's clear there's not support where we are now" on taxes, said Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville.

Lawmakers spent the 120-day session's final hours in closed-door tax dealmaking and negotiations that will continue up to and throughout a special session. It was unclear early Tuesday whether the Republican-controlled Senate or Democrat-dominated Assembly had the needed two-thirds majority for passage of any tax bill.

Bleary-eyed lawmakers applauded the ceremonial close of the 2003 session, but appeared despondent that the major issue facing them remained unresolved.

"We're just getting started," said Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, his gray hair unkempt.

Some sort of $860 million-plus tax package is needed to fund an estimated $5 billion two-year budget.

While most of the spending measures won final approval Monday night, the K-12 education budget must be reviewed and approved in a special session.

Several other major issues remained unresolved, including approval of SB191 - legislation required to implement federal No Child Left Behind education requirements.

Bortolin said the issue may be part of a special session proclamation, which specifies exactly which issues are to be considered.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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