State Senate Fails To Approve Tax Plan

Nevada Budget Crisis
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Nevada's state senators decided Thursday that any attempt to pass tax increases was futile if their political counterparts in the Assembly wouldn't back the plan.

"The ball is now in the court of the Assembly,"said Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, who hoped to meet with Assembly leaders to try to resolve the deadlock.

"It still takes compromises. ... to achieve the end goal,"he said, before recessing the Senate.

Lawmakers awaited a ruling by Nevada's federal judges on whether a temporary restraining order against action on an $800 million-plus tax plan will remain in place.

The order came after the Nevada Supreme Court said the Legislature only needed a simple majority instead of a constitutionally required two-thirds majority vote to pass tax increases.

"We will be interested in any court decision that comes down,"Raggio said."I don't think it's going to change our process."

Republicans and Democrats want to pass a tax plan with a two-thirds vote to avoid future legal action. The two-thirds requirement was added to the Nevada Constitution by a public vote in 1996.

Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, said Thursday morning he was prepared to appeal a decision to either the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hettrick, who is leading a band of 15 Republican holdouts in the Assembly, said he's open to negotiating with fellow lawmakers. He said a $704 million tax plan could get the needed votes to pass in the Assembly.

Hettrick said $704 million remained the magic number if legislators want to end the deadlock immediately.

Gov. Kenny Guinn has said he'll sign whatever tax plan is passed with a two-thirds vote.

Legislators have haggled continually over the taxes needed to balance the nearly $5 billion two-year budget they passed in their regular session. Two special sessions since the regular session adjourned June 2 have proved fruitless.

"There's no such thing as a deal in this building,"said Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas."They don't want to vote for any taxes."

Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said she's ready to deal.

"We want to get this thing resolved,"she said."We need to break this impasse. Whatever it takes."

While the lawmakers have failed to cement a tax plan, they have made history during this latest special session.

"The longest special session prior to this was 20 days,"Nevada State Archivist Guy Louis Rocha said."This clearly makes it the longest special session in the history of Nevada. This special session has now eclipsed all others."