Nevada Legislature: Gazing for Dollars

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - It's that time in the Nevada Legislature, when all thoughts turn to money, money, money. As the state continues a long slog out of the Great Recession, it's obvious to everyone there's no such thing as easy dough.

Shaking the couch cushions to eke out every last dime is only part of the challenge. Legislators also face tough decisions on how to divvy up the general fund pie.

Here are five things to know about the legislative agenda facing lawmakers when the 13th week of the 2013 session begins Monday:

CRYSTAL BALL GAZING

These fiscal fortunetellers won't be gazing into a crystal ball by candlelight, but the five members of Nevada's Economic Forum will be trying to predict the future nonetheless.

The forum, an appointed panel of independent fiscal and business experts, will hear detailed analyses from economists and state agencies on everything from global gambling, Nevada's housing market and job outlooks.

Staring at spreadsheets, they will then predict how economic trends will equate to dollars and cents for the state general fund.

Last November the forum predicted $5.8 billion in various tax revenues to fund state government. It will make a final forecast Wednesday. Gov. Brian Sandoval's $6.5 billion budget includes extending about $620 million in taxes that otherwise will expire June 30.

BEGINNING OF THE END GAME

Whatever the forum decides, its prediction must be used as the base for Nevada's two-year budget.

Any pet projects or programs exceeding the limit must identify a new funding source. That's when the fun begins and the Legislature gets down to the nitty-gritty of deciding how much money to spend on what.

Full-day kindergarten? Smaller class sizes? More English language learner programs?

All were identified as priorities for Republicans, Democrats and the governor. The question will be how wide can those programs be expanded and how to pay for it.

PASS AROUND THE HAT

Senate Republicans, bent on nixing a 2 percent business tax plan that will appear on next year's ballot, are proposing instead to impose a 10 percent tax on Nevada's gold and silver mine operators.

The measure hasn't yet been introduced in bill form, though that could come next week. Assembly Republicans are against the idea, arguing it would hurt Nevada's rural economies where mining is king.

Democrats, meanwhile, who at the beginning of the session promised a top-to-bottom review of Nevada's tax structure, have yet to produce a plan of their own. If one is forthcoming, it will likely be after the Economic Forum.

COMMITTEE HEARINGS, ROUND 2

A lot of bills died when they failed to pass out of the first committee by April 12 or the house of origin by last Tuesday.

Some survived by being re-referred to either the Assembly Ways and Means or Senate Finance committees. Others were moved along to the second house, where bills will get another hearing and sponsors, supporters and opponents will again rehash the merits or failings of proposed legislation.

For those, the stories have been written. What remains to be seen is if the endings will change as the tales are retold.

BUDGET BASTIONS

The money committees are the bean counters tasked with balancing the books, and every bill that has a hint of a fiscal note winds up in their laps.

By logistics alone, many will die.

As of Friday, Senate Finance listed "no actions yet for this bill" on more than 80 measures assigned for review. In Assembly Ways and Means, the number was near 100.

Those tallies don't include other bills that have been mentioned or discussed without resolution.


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