CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval emerged from a meeting with Republican lawmakers today saying he is not willing to consider extending taxes set to sunset June 30 to provide more money for the two-year state budget.
Sandoval’s pronouncement, combined with a statement released later in the day by Senate Republicans saying they remain in firm opposition to any tax proposals to add money to the budget, put a planned joint money committee meeting to reconsider the two-year spending plan on hold for more than eight hours.
But after a day spent in closed-door negotiations, Democrats held firm to their plan to reduce spending only to levels that would be supported with an extension of the sun-setting taxes. Even so, Democrats ended up about $78 million short of the cuts needed to reach levels that could be supported by the sun-setting taxes.
Among the reductions approved by Democrats when the long-delayed meeting finally got under way were a 2.5 percent cut in school salaries saving nearly $120 million and a reduction in per pupil support saving another $85 million.
The votes on the roll backs in spending were party-line, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed. Republicans said the reductions were inadequate to conform to Sandoval’s proposed $6.1 billion spending plan.
There is no sign yet Democrats have convinced any GOP lawmakers to join them in extending the sun-setting taxes, which would bring in about $626 million in additional revenue over the two years of the budget that will start July 1.
The budget has to be substantially complete by Friday if lawmakers are to adjourn June 6, the constitutionally-mandated deadline.
“We have had plenty of time to thoughtfully prioritize spending and live within our means,” the Senate Republican statement against any tax increases said. “There is no reason to continue crafting a budget that state revenue cannot support. We should not wait until an unbalanced budget is vetoed; we should pass a balanced one now.”
The statement from GOP senators came as indications were that some Assembly Republicans were considering support for the extension of the tax package set to expire next month. This support would be dependent on significant policy reforms to collective bargaining and on other key issues.
Asked if there was a budget deal after an hour-long meeting with Republicans, Sandoval replied: “Not that I’m aware of.”
Sandoval said he has submitted a balanced budget and that extending expiring tax revenues is not an option he will accept.
Sandoval said he has discussed with Republicans the idea of using “triggers” whereby tax revenues that come in above projections could be used to increase funding to public education and other areas of the budget.
But Sandoval said he has not had talks with Democrats on the subject.
Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said triggers are on the table for consideration.
Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said he believes triggers would be an appropriate method of providing additional funding to core state services.
The idea that triggers based on bigger than anticipated tax revenue collections was bolstered with the release of the statewide taxable sales report for March showed a 9.6 percent increase over March 2010, the largest jump in the economic indicator in several years.
Assembly Ways and Means Chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said she does not believe there is a deal yet on the budget.
“This is the point in the session where passions run high,” she said. “We’ll just take it an hour at a time.”
Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, said after the morning caucus meeting: “There have been better meetings. … Either there’s no deal or there’s too many deals.”
Democrats had to cut their previously approved spending recommendations to get close to the amount of revenue that would be generated from a renewal of the sun-setting taxes. Democrats on the money panels had added $968 million more to these areas than existing revenues will cover over the past several weeks.
This requirement caused problems for Democrats within their own caucus however, with some lawmakers balking at any reductions in spending that have already been approved.
Sandoval has asked that lawmakers finish up by the constitutionally-mandated 120-day deadline. He has said he won’t call a special session right away if lawmakers don’t finish on time.
Nevada News Bureau Intern Andrew Doughman contributed to this report.