Guinn Leaning Against Calling Legislative Session

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Gov. Kenny Guinn is "strongly leaning" toward letting the 2005 Legislature deal with a cap on property tax increases rather than calling a special session on the issue now, a spokesman said Thursday.

Greg Bortolin added that Guinn, who got a request Monday from some Republican legislators for a special session, "isn't hearing enough of a justification of this issue for him to call a special session."

"The governor recognizes the steep rise in property taxes needs to be addressed," Bortolin said. "It's something that would definitely be considered for his budget recommendations" to the 2005 session, which opens in February.

To call a special session now could have a chaotic impact on the current campaign season, Bortolin said, noting that lawmakers up for re-election would have to suspend fund-raising for up to two weeks before and after a special session.

"With the election so close at hand, a special session would have an undue influence on the legislative process," Bortolin added, referring to pressure incumbent lawmakers might feel to posture in a way that wouldn't provide campaign-season ammunition for their opponents.

The special-session request came from state Sen. Ann O'Connell, R-Las Vegas, and Assemblyman David Brown, R-Henderson. They wrote that Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, also supports the session to impose a 6 percent cap on annual property tax increases.

O'Connell said the 6 percent cap, first proposed by Clark County Assessor Mark Schofield, needs to be implemented now. She said that waiting until the 2005 session may be too late to head off big tax increases for homeowners.

Enacting the cap now would also give local governments, which fund much of their budgets from property taxes, the opportunity to build a budget based on the new limits, O'Connell said.

Hettrick said if the Legislature waits until next year and tries to head off the big property tax hikes taking effect July 1, then rollbacks would be necessary, creating huge problems for county assessors and local government budgets.

Hettrick said a one- to three-day special session, at a cost of $50,000 to $150,000, would allow the cap to be put in place, protecting homeowners from big tax increases. It would also let local governments better plan their budgets without fear of future rollbacks.

The property tax issue could then be debated at length in the 2005 session without causing hardships either to homeowners or local governments, he said.

The proposed cap would limit the growth of a total property tax bill to 6 percent per year no matter how much of an increase in property value had occurred.

Currently there's a 6 percent growth cap on only about a third of the various tax rates that determine a property tax bill, the rates that support a governing entity's operating budget. Not covered by the existing cap are the tax rates for the support of such things as schools, bond redemption, state capital improvements or municipal pools.