Democrats Decry Assembly Republican Tax Plan

Nevada Budget Crisis
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Democratic legislators are strongly critical of a proposed Republican budget that would take tens of millions of dollars away from state agencies and offices including welfare and Medicaid.

"This is nonsense,"Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said after reviewing the numbers on Saturday.

Lawmakers also are working on a possible alternative tax plan worth about $798 million that remains in the Assembly, but Republicans insist they won't back any plan greater than $704 million.

Meanwhile, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco denied a preliminary injunction late Friday that sought to block lawmakers from passing a tax plan without a two-thirds vote.

That came hours after a panel of federal judges let a Nevada Supreme Court decision stand that set aside a state constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds majority vote on tax increases.

In a unanimous decision, the seven justices found they have no jurisdiction and any appeal of the state Supreme Court ruling should be directed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, said he would petition the Nevada Supreme Court for reconsideration and possibly appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hettrick denied Assembly Republicans were using stall tactics to prevent a budget from being passed.

"The court's decision is a constitutional issue,"he said."It has nothing to do with the budget impasse. Our votes are being diluted."

Hettrick said the Democrats now have his budget proposal, and can end the stalemate if they follow his roadmap. Hettrick and a group of Republican holdouts want to cut 3.2 percent from the state's $5 billion budget that has already been passed.

The Republican adjustments range from nothing to 6 percent. For example, the Republicans believe that $608.1 million is enough to fund Medicaid, instead of the $633.5 million already approved.

They would budget $208 million for University of Nevada, Reno and $219 million for University of Nevada, Las Vegas, rather than $241.1 million and $256.5 million respectively. The Community College of Southern Nevada would get only $139.9 million under the Republican plan versus the budgeted $148.8 million.

Welfare would have to make do with $158.4 million. It had been budgeted to receive $168.5 million. Mental Health would receive $232 Million on the Republican plan instead of the budgeted $244 million.

The Republican proposal fully funds K-12 education, including teacher raises.

"This is not going to break any of the agencies,"Hettrick said, dismissing Democratic claims that the cuts would ravage state agencies.

But Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said the plan"doesn't look like its doable,"and the cuts were too extreme to pass with a two-thirds majority.

The Legislature has already passed tax increases this week totaling $75 million in a piecemeal approach to funding the budget.