High Court Clears Way for End of Tax Impasse

In a stunning decision today, the Nevada Supreme Court cleared the way for an end to the state's budget impasse.

The governor took the legislature to court after two special sessions had failed to produce a balanced budget or pay for state schools. He asked the court to give the legislature a deadline to complete their work - but he got a good deal more.

When the court received the case last week, Chief Justice Deborah
Agosti framed it in terms of tension between the provisions, or the
two-thirds vote on taxes and only a simple majority on spending
measures.

Some may have hoped the Court would address that conflict directly.

Few expected it actually would.

In a brief statement before issuing the written decision, Agosti gave little indication that it had.

Agosti reminded everyone the Court was bound to make decisions on
points of law - not public opinion.

The public reaction came as soon as everyone reached the final
page of the decision.

By a six-to-one vote, the two-thirds requirement was set aside.

"We order the Legislature to fulfill its obligations under the Constitution of Nevada by raising sufficient revenues to fund education while maintaining a balanced budget," Chief Justice Deborah Agosti wrote in a 16-page ruling.

The Court was ordering the Legislature to complete its work with
only a simple majority rule.

By contrast, the governor's response was brief and subdued. It was, he said, time to move on.

The governor could get his wish in the next few days.

Guinn, who favors higher taxes, praised the decision and said it "leaves no doubt that legislators must finish their work without
further delay."

The lawmakers are expected to meet again on Monday. If their leaders can come up with a compromise on a tax plan in the meantime, the long session of the 2003 legislature may finally be at hand.

"It is essential we come to a conclusion, hopefully early next week," Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said.

Though many of their supporters expressed anger and frustration at the court ruling, the leader of the Assembly Republicans -who had been holding up approval of a tax plan - doubted there would be an appeal of the court's decision.

Lynn Hettrick says the group's attorney advised them the state Supreme Court was the final aribiter of the state's constitution.


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