Posts Tagged ‘Grady’

Lawmakers Show Another Party-Line Split On Sandoval’s Urban County Property Tax Shift For Higher Education

By Sean Whaley | 2:17 pm May 7th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Members of the Legislature’s two money committees reviewed Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget for higher education today in preparation for making final decisions on how to fund the state’s public university system for the next two years.

Members of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees reviewed a 20-page document setting out alternatives to Sandoval’s budget, which would reduce state support to the Nevada System of Higher Education by $162 million.

The document was initially made public, then withdrawn when legislative staff said the information was not intended to be released. The information was later provided by a lobbyist electronically and posted by political commentator Jon Ralston.

It shows various options that will likely generate partisan votes by the money committees when they do take final action on the higher education budget. But one element of a funding plan, implementing higher student fees, may see broader support.

Students could see a 13 percent  per credit hour “surcharge” as part of the funding plan, raising the nearly $157 charged for university undergraduate courses now to $200 by 2013, a 27 percent increase. Fees for other levels of courses would rise by the same percentages.

But it was a proposal by Sandoval to divert nine cents of property tax from Clark and Washoe counties to help support the state’s two universities that produced the most spirited debate of the session. The transfer would put $120 million in local revenue into the two institutions. The rationale from Sandoval is that Clark and Washoe counties derive an economic benefit in having the institutions house in their communities.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said it should be all or none. Either all 17 counties should be asked to contribute local property tax to higher education or none should, he said.

Asking for a motion, Democrats on the two committees voted to oppose Sandoval’s recommendation of shifting money only from Clark and Washoe. Republicans supported the governor.

The vote created another hole in the Sandoval budget following votes earlier this week to add nearly $700 million in funding to public education by the same two panels. Those votes were party line as well with Republicans opposed.

Horsford said it is an issue of fairness.

“I for the life of me don’t understand how only two counties are responsible for having to fill the budget hole of the higher education system which is a benefit of all Nevadans and all counties,” he said.

“It’s either all in or none,” Horsford said.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said he does see the logic of the Sandoval plan because of the economic benefit to Clark and Washoe counties from the presence of the two universities, but added he would be willing to consider applying the tax shift to all counties.

That proposal did not get much support from rural lawmakers, however.

“I guess the problem I have; in several of the rural counties that I represent are just really close to going bankrupt,” said Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora. “And if that happens the state is going to have to take them over of course. White Pine County and some of those other counties are really hurting.”

Horsford replied that some other rural counties have huge reserves.

“Clark and Washoe counties are not doing all that great either,” he said.

Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, said some rural counties are at the maximum property tax levy allowed by law and could not afford the shift.

“Where do the counties get the money to not only pay this but the other things that we’re looking at pushing down to them when they can’t raise their tax if they wanted to because of the cap,” he asked.

Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said Washoe County is at the tax cap as well.

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, said the property tax shift is being proposed because Nevada is “cheap.”

“We’ve been stuck in a paradigm for years in this state and the paradigm is we’re cheap,” he said. “That’ right. We don’t want to pay. And the reality is, that we think that because we’re cheap, people will come. I’ve got to tell you, people don’t come to places that are cheap, they come to places of value.”

Democrats earlier this week released details of a tax plan they will pursue to restore $920 million in cuts to education and health and human services programs, including $120 million to higher education.

But Sandoval and GOP lawmakers have already rejected the plan. Democrats cannot raise taxes without Republican support.

Audio clips:

Sen. Steven Horsford says the property tax shift to higher education should come from all counties or none:

050711Horsford :13 counties, or none.”

Sen. Dean Rhoads says some rural counties are on the verge of bankruptcy:

050711Rhoads :21 are really hurting.”

Assemblyman Tom Grady says some counties cannot raise their property taxes to compensate for the shift:

050711Grady :15 of the cap.”

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin says the property tax plan is being proposed because Nevada is cheap:

050711Conklin :23 places of value.”

 

 

GOP Caucus Discusses Expansion of State Sales Tax, Reduction of Business Taxes

By Sean Whaley | 4:55 am August 24th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea said today Nevada voters should be asked to expand the state sales tax to include food purchases as a way to raise revenue and broaden the tax base.

But any such revenue hike should be accompanied by a reduction in the state’s regressive business taxes, he said.

Asking voters to apply the two percent state share of the sales tax to food could bring in half a billion dollars over the two-year budget, he said.

Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said he believes new tax revenues will be needed to get a balanced budget in the 2011 session, but that any revenue increase should come in tandem with reductions in the modified business tax.

Goicoechea, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said he believes the state will be able to get by with less than $1 billion in tax increases.

“But I do believe we’re going to have to have some revenue increases, and I would hope they come in the way of reforms,” he said.

Goicoechea said it is unfortunate the sales tax expansion idea was not put before the voters in the upcoming November election.

Goicoechea said he is willing to look to expanding the sales taxes to services as well, but that any such expansion would have to cover all services uniformly. In the initial discussions on a services tax there are already groups clamoring to be exempted from such a levy, he said.

“If you’re going to put a sales tax on services, then no exemptions, everyone gets to pay,” Goicoechea said. “But let’s balance it with reducing some of these other very regressive taxes on business.”

Drastic budget cuts will also have to be a part of any balanced budget, he said.

The expansion of the sales tax while reducing the overall rate was proposed earlier this year by the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

Several members of the GOP caucus running for re-election this year had mixed reactions to Goicoechea’s suggestions.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said tax reform is fine as long as it is revenue neutral. Goedhart said the NPRI proposal to broaden the sales tax to include food and services is a good starting point.

The overall 6.85 percent sales tax rate could then be reduced to about 3.5 percent, and the state could also do away with the modified business tax, reduce or eliminate the insurance premium tax and significantly lower vehicle registration fees, he said.

The expanded sales tax would then allow the state to begin growing its way out of its fiscal problems, Goedhart said.

As chairman of the Nevada chapter of Americans for Tax Reform, Goedhart said total government spending on services in Nevada is about $40 billion, which puts the state in the middle of the states in spending per capita. The Legislature should have no trouble finding $3 billion in savings out of $40 billion in total spending to balance the budget, he said.

Goedhart pointed to excessively high public salaries such as those earned by firefighters as one example of where spending reductions can be made.

Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, said any specific tax proposals are premature, and that the idea of going to the voters for an expansion of the state share of the sales tax to include food would not help in the upcoming biennium.

Since the proposal is not on the ballot for November, it would not be able to go to the voters until 2012, he said.

But Grady said with a shortfall that could be as high as $3.5 billion, “everything is on the table.”

“I agree with Mr. Goicoechea we’re going to have to look closely at zero-based budgeting,” he said.

But if the Legislature gets to the point where it can’t fund education or prisons, then it will have to find money elsewhere, Grady said.

The Legislature needs to wait to see what proposals the new governor will have, and it needs to know how short the budget is before there is a discussion of taxes, he said.

Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, said Goicoechea’s proposals are not new but come from the NPRI study on expanding the sales tax released earlier this year.

“We need to look at the NPRI study at least as a starting point,” he said.

But the Legislature also has to keep in mind that the Nevada economy is suffering and businesses are not in a position right now to create new jobs, Hambrick said.

“We need to provide some relief,” he said.

Goicoechea has joined Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, in saying taxes will very likely have to be part of any plan to erase a $3 billion shortfall in what is expected to be required to provide government services and education for the next two years.

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, has not weighed in publicly on the tax discussion. Oceguera is expected to become speaker in the 2011 session.

The two leading candidates for governor, Republican Brian Sandoval and Democrat Rory Reid, have rejected the idea of balancing the state budget with tax increases.

Goicoechea said the critical issue for the 14 Assembly Republicans in the November election is picking up at least one or two more seats to take away the two-thirds majority now held by Assembly Democrats. A two-thirds vote is required to raise taxes, and without at least 15 members the Assembly Republicans will wield little power in those discussions.

Budget discussions and the all-important debate over redrawing state political boundaries make it critical for Republicans to have enough members to have a place at the negotiating table, he said.

“You don’t want to be on your back when you’re waging a fight which you are if you are irrelevant and under 15 (members),” he said.

Seats Republicans see as potential take-aways include the open District 40 seat in Carson City and the District 13 seat in Henderson now held by freshman Democrat Ellen Spiegel, Goicoechea said. Republicans also want to hold on to the District 13 seat in Las Vegas that is now open with the departure of Republican Chad Christensen, he said.

Goicoechea said he is encouraged by some of the voter registration trends and the large number of nonpartisan and minor party voters who may support Republicans in November.

Hambrick said he believes Republicans have a few other opportunities to pick up Assembly seats in November. They include the open Assembly 31 seat in Sparks, the Las Vegas 5 seat held by Democrat Marilyn Dondero Loop, and the Henderson 29 seat held by Democrat April Mastroluca, he said.

___

Audio clips:

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea says taxes will be part of budget debate next year:

082310Goicoechea1 :15 that we have.”

Goicoechea says a tax on services has to be across the board with no exemptions:

082310Goicoechea2 :10 taxes on business.”

Goicoechea says key for Assembly GOP is to pick up seats in November election:

082310Goicoechea3 :30 go to session.”

Glimmer Of Hope For Tax Revenues, Looming Challenges In Next Budget Cycle

By Sean Whaley | 8:04 am July 27th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The major funding gaps Nevada and other states have been forced to address in their current budgets will continue in the next cycle even as tax revenues finally begin to show signs of life, a national report released today says.

Signs of “delicate” revenue improvement will be offset by the loss of federal stimulus funds, posing ongoing challenges to lawmakers in 2011 and beyond, says the report from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

“State Budget Update: July 2010 (Preliminary Report)” presents the organization’s latest look at the state fiscal situation. Based on data collected from legislative fiscal directors in late June and early July, the report provides complete or partial information on 49 states, including Nevada.

States faced a collective budget gap of at least $83.9 billion during enactment of their Fiscal Year 2011 budgets, according to the report. The aggregate figure is slightly less than the original forecast made in NCSL March State Budget Update, which was $89 billion. More gaps are expected in the next two years.

Nevada had the largest percentage gap of any state for fiscal year 2011 that began July 1 of $1.8 billion, or 45 percent of its general fund budget, according to the report.

The Nevada Legislature filled the gap with program cuts and $780 million in new taxes, most of which will sunset after this budget cycle unless extended by lawmakers next year.

In Nevada, the Legislature also had to meet in special session in February to cut the previously approved two-year budget to reflect even lower revenues than projected just nine months previously. A total of $800 million in cuts and targeted fee increases were approved to balance the spending plan, which had already seen significant reductions imposed during the regular 2009 legislative session.

“State lawmakers are going to need extra stamina to push through this next round of budget challenges,” says William Pound, executive director of NCSL. “It will be a long march before state revenues return to their pre-recession levels, not to mention other hurdles lawmakers have to clear.”

The report’s conclusions come as no surprise to Nevada officials.

Nevada Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said the challenges facing the state next session are enormous. Lyon County, which Grady represents, is seeing unemployment of more than 18 percent, he said.

“I think it is going to be extremely painful,” Grady said. “We’ve got some real tough decisions that we’re going to have to make in the 2011 Legislature.”

The entire budget will have to be reviewed line by line, Grady said.

One bit of good news for Nevada is that the overall rate of decline in the two major general fund sources, gaming and sales taxes, appears to have slowed. It is expected that actual collections for the fourth quarter for a majority of the general fund revenue sources will be at or above the forecasted amount, according to the report.

Nevada state Budget Director Andrew Clinger reported earlier this month that state revenues are now projected to come in at about $100 million more than estimated by the end of the 2011 fiscal year on June 30, 2011.

This additional revenue will help Nevada deal with the loss of $88.5 million in federal revenues that had been counted on by the Legislature from an extension of enhanced Medicaid funding. The report shows that at least 25 states assumed an extension of this enhanced FMAP funding for their 2011 budgets. It now appears the extension will not be approved by Congress.

“For the first time in a long time we’re seeing some slight improvement in the state revenue situation,” said Corina Eckl, NCSL’s fiscal program director. “But glimmers of improvement are tarnished by looming problems.”

Those problems include the loss of federal stimulus funds, which total nearly $2.2 billion in the current Nevada budget but which will not continue in the new spending plan.

“States are in a tenuous fiscal position, teetering between delicate revenue improvement and the end of the federal stimulus funds,” Eckl says.

The upcoming two year budget, which the Nevada Legislature will begin to address in February, remains a challenge, according to the report. Nevada did not provide a forecast for a budget gap in the next two fiscal years, but the report shows the state is already in fiscal trouble.

Gov. Jim Gibbons requested that agencies reduce their already reduced 2011 appropriations by 10 percent when calculating their budget requests for 2012 and 2013.

“Even with those reductions, total general fund agency requests would total approximately $5.95 billion for the 2011-2013 biennium,” the report says.

But revenues expected for the two years are expected to total only about $5 billion, or nearly $1 billion less, than the initial budget instructions would require in spending.

Without a forecast, the precise size of the budget gap facing Nevada for the next two years remains uncertain, but it will be significant. Gibbons estimated in early June the difference between spending requirements and revenues will be $3.4 billion.

Nevada’s actual spending and revenue collections for Fiscal Year 2010, which ended June 30, won’t be known for several months. Revenues for the year are not yet complete, and agencies have 60 days after the close of the year to finalize spending totals.

Nevada’s revenue estimates for the coming two years will be forecasted by the Economic Forum, a panel of appointed private sector fiscal experts, late in 2010.

____

audio clips:

Assemblyman Tom Grady on budget challenge in 2011 session:

072610Grady1 :27 the 2011 Legislature.”

Grady says balancing the budget won’t be easy:

072610Grady2 :8 and Means meeting.”

Support, Questions, Rejections Follow Call To Broaden Nevada Tax Base Using Expanded Sales Levy

By Sean Whaley | 1:15 pm June 3rd, 2010

CARSON CITY – A proposal to simplify, broaden and stabilize Nevada’s tax base by expanding and reducing the sales tax to include services from haircuts to legal advice is generating some support and plenty of questions from lawmakers and interest groups.

The proposal, presented Tuesday by Geoffrey Lawrence of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, would be revenue neutral and would lower the 6.85 percent state sales tax rate to 3.5 percent. As part of the proposal, the insurance premium tax and the payroll tax paid by businesses would be eliminated as well.

The NPRI proposal would even include food purchases as taxable items, but would also provide tax relief to residents up to the federal poverty line.

One potential challenge to the proposal is that voter approval might be required depending on how such a plan was drafted.

Lawrence, a fiscal policy analyst for NPRI, said his plan is intended to counter what is expected to be a call for a broad-based business tax by at least some members of the Legislature in 2011.

Lawmakers are facing a $3 billion shortfall and are awaiting a study of their own on how to respond to the anticipated revenue shortfall. The study by Moody’s Analytics funded by the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee is due to lawmakers later this year.

Lawrence said his plan would stabilize and broaden Nevada’s tax base without further burdening Nevada’s taxpayers, and would also “strengthen our economy by eliminating the job-killing modified business tax.”

The NPRI study found that a corporate income tax is actually one of the least stable tax instruments available to state governments, and is significantly less stable than any tax instrument currently employed in Nevada. Adding a corporate income tax would therefore make the state’s tax structure more, not less, volatile, Lawrence says in his  report titled, “One Sound State, Once Again: Comprehensive fiscal reforms to again make Nevada strong, prosperous and free.”

The study also calls for spending reforms, including a priority-based approach to budgeting and limits on spending increases tied to inflation and population growth.

Several lawmakers commenting on the report have questioned its usefulness given that it is revenue neutral at a time when the Legislature is anticipating a $3 billion hole in the next budget.

But the proposal is a long-term approach to resolving the state’s revenue and spending issues and is not meant to be a quick fix, said Lawrence. A broader sales tax would bring in increasing revenues at the 3.5 percent rate as the Nevada economy recovers.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said he likes the approach, which follows a flat tax model that he and many voters would support.

“I think most Americans are tired of all these loopholes and exceptions,” he said. “The twisting of tax regulations to benefit a powerful constituency or lobby.”

A straight 3.5 percent tax on consumption would be a stable form of revenue, Goedhart said. There should be no exceptions, he said.

His one objection to the proposal is the provision to provide tax relief to low income residents.

“The cost of government applies to everyone,” said Goedhart, a member of the Assembly Taxation Committee.

Goedhart said such a plan in Nevada could serve as a role model nationally and help generate support for a similar change to the federal income tax.

The Legislature also needs to impose spending controls and look at other reforms, from prevailing wage laws to meaningful changes to the state health insurance and public employee retirement plans, he said.

Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, said the study contains valuable information the Legislature can use as it tries to resolve its budget problems next session. But details would have to be spelled out in legislation before any such proposal could win his support, he said.

There are a number of sales tax exemptions currently, such as the one for farm equipment purchases, said Grady, a member of the Assembly Taxation Committee. Surrounding states have exemptions for farm equipment and not offering the same here would put Nevada companies at a disadvantage, he said.

The NPRI research is solid and gives lawmakers a starting point for a tax discussion next session, Grady said.

Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, said the proposal as presented wouldn’t bring in more money even though the state is facing a major revenue shortfall. He also questioned whether such a major change to Nevada’s tax structure could be accomplished in the 120-day session when so many other pressing issues are also on the table.

Add in redistricting and all the new lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly and the task would be challenging, he said.

“It would be a major undertaking,” said Schneider, a member of the Senate Taxation Committee. “I just don’t think, with the way our session is designed, that we can get that work done.”

A special session would probably be the best way to tackle such an issue, but whoever is governor in 2011 probably won’t want to call lawmakers back in for such a task, Schneider said.

Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, questioned how a revenue neutral tax proposal would help solve the state’s budget problems. The budget for the next two years would typically be in the $6.5 billion range, but is expected to be about $3 billion short, he said.

In talking to voters, Aizley said he is asking what services they want protected and what cuts they are willing to accept. Most people wanted education protected, he said.

Aizley, a member of the Assembly Taxation Committee, said he would also need details of what services would be included in an expansion of the sales tax.

“People don’t know the implications,” he said. “I would not say yes to a services tax until it was spelled out what those services would include.”

Aizley also rejected the NPRI call for what he described as a “zero based” budgeting process for state agencies to use. It is time consuming and labor intensive to review every single program every two years when it is clear many programs will have to be continued, he said.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said it is encouraging that even a fiscally conservative group like NPRI is in agreement that the state needs to consider revising its tax structure. But any tax plan that is revenue neutral is not realistic given the $3 billion budget hole facing lawmakers next year, she said.

Leslie also suggested the proposal is not really broadening the tax base, since it is just expanding an existing levy to services such as haircuts or tax preparation.

“I don’t think it is broadening the tax base so much as it is taking out the volatility by taxing more things,” said Leslie, a member of the Assembly Taxation Committee.

By eliminating the payroll tax as part of the plan, it could be argued the tax base would actually be narrowed under the NPRI plan, she said.

“It would reduce the burden on business and increase the burden on the rest of us,” Leslie said. “I think the middle class already pays its fair share.”

The idea of taxing services has been discussed before, both in 2003 and 2009, she said. Such proposals always run into roadblocks when the groups to be included in the tax object, Leslie said.

Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, said she welcomes NPRI to the tax discussion, noting that for a long time the conservative voices in Nevada have suggested that no changes are needed.

But Pierce, who also serves on the Taxation Committee, said sales taxes are regressive and the state already has one of the most regressive tax systems in the nation.

“Making our tax system more regressive is not an improvement,” she said. “I’m not entirely opposed to looking at a sales tax on some services, but not as a substitute for a broad-based business tax.”

Nevada needs to look at how other states that adequately fund their programs and services raise tax revenue and then model itself after those states, Pierce said.

Carole Vilardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayer’s Association, said the proposal needs a great deal of fleshing out so that policymakers can know the implications of what such a change would mean to the state’s tax structure.

Any change to one portion of the sales tax rate, the 2 percent that goes to the state general fund, would need voter approval, she said. Vilardo also questioned whether such a proposal could have an effect on those portions of sales taxes pledged to pay off bonds.

“When you talk taxes, the devil is in the details,” she said.

Ensign to Headline Churchill County Republicans’ Lincoln Day Dinner

By Elizabeth Crum | 7:39 pm February 18th, 2010

Lahontan Valley News reports.  Other candidates for statewide offices will attend including Brian Krolicki, Danny Tarkanian, Sharron Angle, Mark Amodei, Chad Christensen, Mike Montandon, Brian Sandoval, and Steve Martin.  Assemblymen Pete Goicoechea and Tom Grady are also expected to attend as are a number of Churchill County office holders and candidates.  The event is Saturday night at 6 p.m.

Gibbons, Lawmakers Meet to Discuss Budget in First “Open Door” Session

By Sean Whaley | 2:40 pm December 21st, 2009

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons and nine state lawmakers from both political parties spent about an hour today informally discussing potential solutions to the state’s budget shortfall, including a discussion of state employee furloughs versus pay reductions.

The first “open door” meeting proposed by Gibbons to discuss solutions to a current $67 million shortfall in the state general fund budget was productive, according to two of the lawmakers who attended.

The meeting was not open to the general public, and it disbanded before an invitation to the media to attend the last 15 minutes of the get-together could be accommodated.

Gibbons left to attend another engagement after about an hour of discussion.

Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns said the governor appreciated the open dialogue with the five Democrats and four Republicans and said there was agreement to continue the meetings on a regular basis.

“The important thing was to have a starting point for a dialogue, which seemed to go very well today,” he said. “The second thing is, make sure your dialogue includes the exchange of ideas. Everyone got a chance to speak.”

Burns said the furlough and pay reduction discussion came up because not all state employees are now being required to take a furlough day as required by the 2009 Legislature to help balance the budget. Key correctional positions are exempted, for example, creating an inequity with other state employees, he said.

Gibbons had proposed a straight pay cut for all employees instead.

“It is not fair to have a certain segment that doesn’t have to take a furlough or some sort of pay reduction, and a certain segment that does,” Burns said.

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, who attended the meeting via videoconference from Las Vegas, said he welcomed the chance to talk directly with Gibbons.

“I needed the opportunity to lobby him to have a special session in order to clear the decks so we can get the Race to the Top money,” he said.

Some lawmakers have called on Gibbons to quickly call a special session so a Nevada law prohibiting the state from receiving the federal stimulus funds to improve student achievement can be repealed and an application can be submitted next month.

Gibbons has so far rejected the call for an early special session, saying Nevada is better off applying for the second round of funding in June.

Coffin said he also pushed for a legislative change at a special session to allow the state to use $160 million in borrowed funds to help get through this fiscal year rather than next year. Only $30 million in the loan from a local government investment pool can be used this year without the change.

Some lawmakers have proposed accessing the borrowed funds now rather than making immediate budget cuts to balance the budget.

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said the meeting provided good interaction.

“It opened a line of communication which is good to see,” he said. “There have been times when the Legislature and the executive branch have not talked that much.”

Settelmeyer said he agrees that it is better to wait to call a special session so that the Race to the Top issue and the budget problems can all be addressed at the same time.

Settelmeyer said he is concerned about the inequities in the application of the one-day-a-month furlough requirement. The fact that the furloughs do not apply to all employees equally was an unintended consequence the legislation failed to recognize, he said.

Settelmeyer said he would rather see staff prepare a list of all the new programs approved by the Legislature over the past 10 years so they can be evaluated as to whether they are necessary.

“Are they all necessary or are there some programs we could do without?” he asked. “I don’t want to see any more cuts to state employee salaries across-the-board.”

Other lawmakers attending the meeting included Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas; Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington; Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka; Assemblyman John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas; Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson; Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, and Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson.

Assembly Republicans Taking Voluntary Pay Cuts Equal to State Employee Salary Reductions

By Sean Whaley | 3:46 pm December 16th, 2009

CARSON CITY – Republican members of the state Assembly said today they are following through on a commitment made in January to take salary reductions equal to the pay cuts imposed on state employees as a result of the 2009 legislative session.

Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, who also serves as the Assembly minority leader, said checks equaling a 4.6 percent reduction in pay for each Republican member of the Assembly will be sent to the state every six months. Since lawmakers are not in session, pay is received only for attending interim legislative meetings, and it made more sense to cut a check twice a year rather than on a more frequent basis, she said.

Suggestions in news reports earlier this month that lawmakers were not sharing in the pain of pay cuts is not the case for Assembly Republicans, Gansert said.

“We pledged early on to take any pay cuts state employees had to take,” she said. “It has just been an accounting issue for us.”

Checks were being sent today by Assembly Republicans to the state general fund.

“We believe it is important for elected leaders to match the sacrifices being asked of others,” Gansert said. “We shouldn’t ask anything of state personnel that we are not willing to accept for ourselves.”

Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, agreed, saying: “We are all in this together. State government must make painful cuts during these times and we all need to do our part to share the sacrifice.”

The 2009 Legislature approved a one-day-a-month furlough plan for most state workers as a way to help balance the budget. The unpaid day off equates to a 4.6 percent pay cut that began July 1.

Lawmakers get paid for the first 60 days of each legislative session held in odd-numbered years, but are paid only for attending sporadic meetings in the interim. The current pay for attending a legislative meeting is $146.29.

Some lawmakers are on more interim committees and attend more meetings than others.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported Dec. 16 that only one lawmaker, Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, had taken a pay cut and returned $526.65 to the state.

But Gansert said all 14 Assembly Republicans are committed to taking the pay cuts as well.