Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

Tarkanian And Horsford Mix It Up In Feisty 4th Congressional District Debate

By Sean Whaley | 9:26 pm October 4th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Forget the tame, staid, policy driven debates seen in most races in Nevada so far this year.

The debate between Republican Danny Tarkanian and Democrat Steven Horsford for the new 4th Congressional District in northern Clark and several rural Nevada counties was confrontational from the get go tonight on the Ralston Reports television program.

State Senate Majority Leader and CD4 candidate Steven Horsford

Horsford, currently the state Senate majority leader from Las Vegas, and Tarkanian, son of UNV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, mixed it up in the first debate between the two candidates on issues ranging from state tax increases to who will best support the middle class in the House of Representatives.

The 30-minute debate tonight saw a lot of time spent by the candidates in denying characterizations made by their opponents, including an ad from Horsford using Tarkanian’s description of himself as a crazy radical.

Tarkanian said the description of himself was made sarcastically, while Horsford said criticisms of his support for taxes in his service in the Legislature failed to mention that Republicans, including GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, supported the levies as part of a bipartisan compromise.

Horsford said he has a track record as the head of the Culinary Training Academy, which trains people for jobs in the gaming and hospital industry in Las Vegas, in helping reduce Nevada’s highest in the nation unemployment rate.

“It’s what you’ve already done, not just what you talk about doing,” he said. “And that’s the difference between me and my opponent. I’ve actually spent more than 11 years, working in partnership with the private sector, with labor, with the community, helping people get the training that they need.”

In Congress, Horsford said he will push for infrastructure projects that will get the depressed construction industry back to work.

Tarkanian agreed that job creation is the top priority for Congress, but said Horsford’s track record in the state Legislature is one of passing job stifling tax increases instead.

4th Congressional District candidate Danny Tarkanian.

“As a majority up leader, all he did was impose additional taxes on the middle class, for one, let’s say the car registration tax,” he said. “While people can’t afford to pay for their homes, put food on the table for their families, he’s going to double the cost of car registrations for the average Americans.

“He passed a tax bill that doubled the license fee, the business license fees, for business,” Tarkanian said.

In Congress, Tarkanian said he will work to ensure the federal government does not continue to impose costly and burdensome regulations that impede job growth.

Horsford said the tax increases approved in the 2011 Legislature came with GOP support as a way to avoid Draconian cuts to public education.

He cited 25 months of continued growth in Nevada taxable sales as evidence that the tax hikes were not harmful to business.

Horsford defended using the term crazy radical, saying Tarkanian supported the anti-immigration law passed in Arizona even though it would have caused severe economic harm to the Las Vegas convention industry. He said Tarkanian wants to turn Medicare into a voucher program.

Tarkanian said he supported the right of Arizona citizens to deal with illegal immigration, but added that it might not be appropriate for Nevada. Tarkanian also said he has not endorsed the budget plan proposed by GOP Vice Presidential candidate and Rep. Paul Ryan to change Medicare to a voucher plan for younger Americans. He called it a “great start” to an important dialogue on the federal budget.

Tarkanian said Horsford has constantly misrepresented his positions in the race.

“The difference between him and myself was telling in the last statement that he said,” Tarkanian said. “He believes you can pay down the debt by raising taxes on individuals here in our country. Every economist will tell you, if you raise taxes on people in a recession you’re going to lose revenue. It happened when he did it in the state Legislature; it will happen if you do it in Washington, DC.”

Horsford said Tarkanian has never held elective office and so does not know how efforts at compromise work.

“He has never been elected to anything so he doesn’t understand that you have to work together to get things done,” he said.

“My opponent is not being very clear on his position on this, because what he is saying is that it is OK to end, change, modify Medicare, and then to give a tax break to those at the top,” Horsford said. “That is the proposal, and that is what will happen if he is elected to Congress.”

The level of vitriol in the campaign can be seen in ads running in the contest.

Horsford’s ad using Tarkanian’s own words calling himself “one of those crazy radicals” attempts to associate Tarkanian with the conservative Tea Party, including support for such concepts as privatizing social security and eliminating the federal Department of Education.

An ad run on behalf of Tarkanian, funded by the National Republican Congressional Committee, calls Horsford one of the 10 most corrupt candidates running for Congress. The ad cites in part a story the Nevada News Bureau first reported in August 2010 about Horsford seeking contributions from lobbyists and special interest groups for face time with Senate Democrats. Horsford abandoned the concept after it was disclosed by the NNB.

The 4th Congressional District, newly created as a result of redistricting based on the 2010 census, encompasses the northern part of Clark County and parts or all of six rural counties.

The district has a strong Democratic advantage, 131,173 active voters compared to 96,716 Republicans as of the end of September, but a recent poll by the Las Vegas Review-Journal gives Tarkanian a slight edge of 45 percent to 42 percent, in part due to his name recognition. There are also 47,000 nonpartisan voters in the district.


Audio clips:

Sen. Steven Horsford says he has a track record of job creation:

100412Horsford1 :14 that they need.”

Horsford says Tarkanian does not support the middle class:

100412Horsford2 :22 elected to Congress.”

Danny Tarkanian says Horsford supported taxes that hurt the middle class:

100412Tarkanian1 :23 fees, for businesses.”

Tarkanian says higher taxes in a recession won’t generate more revenue:

100412Tarkanian2 :14 in Washington, DC.”


Poll Finds Nevadans Divided On New Tax Proposal But Strongly Favor Education Reform Efforts

By Sean Whaley | 11:08 am September 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The results of a poll of Nevada residents conducted on behalf of the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN) show that 45 percent of those queried believe a 2 percent margins tax on business proposed by teachers will generate the revenues necessary to support public education.

But 49 percent say the new levy, if approved, would raise prices, increase the state’s already high jobless rate and hurt business, according to the poll by Public Opinion Strategies of 500 likely voters taken Sept. 19-20. It has a margin of error of 4.38 percentage points.

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

And when asked if money alone will improve Nevada’s public education system, only 22 percent agreed, with 73 percent saying the system also needs significant reforms.

The Nevada State Education Association is currently circulating petitions to take the proposed new tax to the Legislature in 2013, but a legal challenge to the proposal remains alive in Carson City District Court.

The poll found that 59 percent of those surveyed said the amount of taxes they pay is about right, with 22 percent saying taxes are too high.

And 58 percent said the governor and Legislature should raises taxes if necessary to avoid cuts to education and health care, while 32 percent said spending should be cut instead.

RAN began conducting the semi-annual poll in 2009, and many of the questions have been asked each time. In this way, the poll can give not only a snapshot of current conditions, but it can also identify trends by comparing results from earlier polls.

Poll information is then shared with RAN members, the public and state legislators so that the concerns of our state will be considered when policies are shaped in Carson City.

Among the other findings in the latest survey:

- Gov. Brian Sandoval is popular, with 62 percent approving of his job performance. But only 45 percent say the governor understands their problems, and only 33 percent say the Legislature does.

- A majority of those surveyed, 52 percent, say the state should not freeze the defined benefits offered to public employees through the state retirement system, while 41 percent say a freeze should be implemented to save money.

- The survey found that 48 percent of respondents believe that Nevada should opt into the Medicaid expansion provided for under the Affordable Care Act, while 44 percent say the state should opt out because of the cost and because the neediest residents are already covered.

- Asked about the conservative Tea Party Movement, 26 percent of respondents said they had a strongly or somewhat favorable view of the movement, with 35 percent saying they have strongly or somewhat unfavorable views.

Public Opinion Strategies (POS) is a national political and public affairs research firm. Founded in 1991, POS has conducted more than five million interviews with voters and consumers in all fifty states and over two dozen foreign countries.

Prevailing Wage, Taxes Focus Of State Senate 18 Debate

By Sean Whaley | 8:27 pm September 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Democratic state Senate candidate Kelli Ross said today that she is the “union” candidate in the District 18 race in Las Vegas, while Republican Scott Hammond said he will listen to but not vote in lockstep with labor in the Legislature.

The two candidates in the newly created Senate seat in northwest Las Vegas debated on Jon Ralston’s Face to Face television program. The Senate contest is one of five viewed by both parties as critical to controlling the 21-member house in the 2013 legislative session.

Democrats now have an 11-10 edge in the Senate.

Kelli Ross.

During the debate, Hammond, currently a member of the Assembly, said he would seek to reform Nevada’s prevailing wage law so that public construction projects could be built more cost effectively and generate more jobs. Paying less would stretch public construction dollars further, he said.

He pointed to the Phoenix, Ariz., area, where prevailing wage rates are $14 an hour compared to $42 an hour in Nevada.

“I think we need to reform that, look at putting it back on to something that is the standard market, and I think we’re going to see significant savings there,” Hammond said.

Ross said she would oppose any move to reduce the prevailing wage, a wage set for construction workers hired for state and local government projects. The prevailing wage guarantees a qualified workforce, she said.

“Not only would it not save money it would even hurt the middle class that much more,” Ross said. “When you’re paying a prevailing wage you’re guaranteeing that you’re going to get a job done, get a job done on time and get the job done right.”

State law requires the state Labor Commissioner to survey contractors who have performed construction work during the past year in order to determine the prevailing wage rates. Prevailing wage rates are required to be paid on all Nevada public works construction projects such as schools, libraries, roads and government buildings costing more than $100,000.

Scott Hammond.

Ross acknowledged that most of her endorsements are labor groups, and she said there is not a labor position she is aware of that she would oppose in the Legislature.

“Yeah, I am the union candidate,” she said. “But I’m also the candidate that is there for the people. I am born and raised in Nevada. These people know that I’m going to do what is right for them, and what is going to bring our middle class up to the standards that it should be.”

Hammond said he will listen and try to respond to union concerns.

“But I’m not going to be beholden to the union organizations,” he said.

The debate also delved into the issue of taxes, and Hammond’s support for extending a package of sunsetting taxes supported by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval in the 2011 session. Hammond said he has not yet decided whether to support extending the sunsets in the next two-year budget as proposed by Sandoval to avoid further cuts to education.

Hammond said the tax extension in 2011 also resulted in the complete elimination of the state business tax for small Nevada employers.

“The reason why I haven’t made up my mind is because I still want to see what the Economic Forum is going to tell us in the next couple of months,” he said.

The forum estimates the tax revenues that will be collected by the state for the next two-year budget.

Ross said she supports the tax extension, but called it just another Band-Aid that does not solve the state’s long term revenue issues.

In a discussion of education concerns, Ross said the current public funding formula shortchanges Clark County at the expense of rural and Northern Nevada. It needs to be changed so Clark County taxpayer money stays in the south, she said.

An interim legislative committee recently endorsed revisions to the public education funding formula to compensate for such issues as poverty and non-English speaking students, factors found more often in Clark County than elsewhere in the state.

Hammond said the formula can be reviewed, but giving parents more choice in where their children attend school, including expanding charter schools, will improve student achievement.

Senate District 18 has a Republican advantage, with 39.9 percent of the voters registered GOP compared to 37.6 percent for Democrats as of the end of August.


Audio clips:

Senate 18 candidate Scott Hammond says Nevada’s prevailing wage law needs to be reformed:

092512Hammond1 :10 significant savings there.”

Senate 18 candidate Kelli Ross says the state’s prevailing wage law helps the middle class:

092512Ross1 :10 job done right.”

Ross says she is the union candidate but also the candidate of the people:

092512Ross2 :13 it should be.”

Hammond said he will listen to but not automatically support labor concerns:

092512Hammond2 :16 the union organizations.”



Nevada State Administrators Get Budget Details In All-Day Planning Session

By Sean Whaley | 3:28 pm March 15th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s top state administrators gathered together in meeting rooms and via the internet today to hear first-hand about Gov. Brian Sandoval’s initial plans for his 2013-15 budget.

The all-day meeting called “Budget Kickoff” was intended to provide instructions to state administrators on how to begin preparing their spending plans for the new two-year budget that will take effect on July 1, 2013.

State administrators were briefed today on the 2013-15 budget plan. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Agencies are expected to see flat budgets compared to the current spending plan after Sandoval surprised many around the state on Tuesday by announcing he would extend an expiring package of tax increases into the next budget cycle to avoid any further cuts to education and critical social services.

In announcing his intentions, Sandoval said: “I’m not going to pit kindergartners against senior citizens. I’m not going to pit higher ed students against people that need essential services.”

Agencies are also being directed to prepare their spending proposals using the new Priorities and Performance Based Budgeting process required as a result of legislation approved in the 2011 legislative session.

While the next budget won’t take effect for more than 15 months, the planning process begins early. Sandoval must submit his proposed budget to the Legislature by January 2013 in advance of the February 2013 legislative session.

“You know how difficult the last couple of sessions have been, and you understand the depth and the breadth of the cuts to state spending,” said Heidi Gansert, Sandoval’s chief of staff, in introductory remarks to the assembled administrators. “You’ve also heard about the positive economic news in recent months. Sales tax collections are up. Gaming revenues are improving. Unemployment is slowly declining. All signs that Nevada’s economy is turning the corner.”

But Medicaid caseloads have tripled over the past decade and new costs are looming due to mandates from the federal health care law, she said. The ballot proposals being circulated to raise taxes are not an option as far as Sandoval is concerned, Gansert said.

By continuing the sunsetting taxes, no Nevadans will pay any more in taxes in the next budget than they are now, she said.

“The governor has said we will grow our way out of this recession and we will, it’s just going to take more time,” Gansert said.

She had some good news for state employees, noting that the unpaid furloughs, 2.5 percent salary reductions, frozen merit pay increases and the elimination of longevity pay are all under review for the next budget for restoration if possible.

Janet Rogers, an economist with the Budget Division, said the national economy is improving, but slowly, and Nevada is lagging behind.

State Budget Office economist Janet Rogers talks about the economy as Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp looks on. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

“In the train that represents the national economy, Nevada is the caboose,” she said. “During the recession, for those of you who have been here, know, we had the largest employment drop of any state, the highest unemployment rate, the highest foreclosure rate and we were the last state to enter the recovery.”

State Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp talked about the potential impacts of the health care reform law, saying it will have a significant effect on the state’s Medicaid population.

The federal government is expected to pick up the costs of Medicaid recipients eligible under the law, but an influx of enrollees among residents who are already eligible for the health insurance program for low income, disabled and senior citizens is also expected, and these costs will have to be covered in part by the state, he said.

Nevada’s Medicaid caseload has increased from an average of 117,627 recipients in fiscal year 2001 to 285,732 in fiscal year 2011.

“Now the overall impacts of the health care reform aren’t clear,” Mohlenkamp said. “We don’t know what the number is going to be but we do know it’s significant, and we’ve done some broad estimations in our budget preparation.”


Audio clips:

Sandoval Chief of Staff Heidi Gansert says the Nevada economy is improving:

031512Gansert1 :23 turning the corner.”

But Gansert says it will take more time to grow out of the recession:

031512Gansert2 :06 take more time.”

Budget Office economist Janet Rogers calls Nevada the caboose on the national economic recovery train:

031512Rogers :22 enter the recovery.”

State Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp says the new health care law will have big impacts on Nevada’s Medicaid program:

031512Mohlenkamp :11 our budget preparation.”



Report Outlining Tax And Spending Decisions By 2011 Legislature Now Available

By Sean Whaley | 3:30 pm December 6th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A report outlining the actions taken by the 2011 Legislature to finalize Nevada’s two-year, $6.2 billion general fund operating budget that took effect July 1, including approval of $1.1 billion in additional revenues, has been published by the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

The Nevada state Senate in session, 2011. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

Gov. Brian Sandoval initially proposed a $5.84 billion general fund budget that relied heavily on local government revenues to balance out, a decision that was later called into question in a Nevada Supreme Court decision.

The $6.2 billion general fund budget is actually less – but only by about $100 million – than the 2009-11 spending plan.

When all revenues are counted, including federal funding, the current two-year state budget totals $15.9 billion, down from $16.5 billion in the 2009-2011 budget.

The Nevada Legislative Appropriations Report for the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years summarizes the actions of the Legislature in funding public education, corrections and other agency budgets. Prepared by the Fiscal Analysis Division, it also contains sections on tax revenues.

The final spending plan was augmented by revenue increases totaling nearly $1.1 billion over the 2009-11 budget, with $513 million of the total going to the general fund and $556 million to public education.

Sandoval’s original budget did not propose to continue a number of tax increases approved by the 2009 Legislature that were to sunset on June 30, 2011. But in an agreement with lawmakers late in the session, the tax sunsets were removed for two more years to help balance the budget.

The agreement came after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that $62 million taken from a Clark County water fund in the 2010 special session to help balance the previous budget was unconstitutional. This ruling raised doubts about the legality of a number of proposals in Sandoval’s budget to use local tax revenues to help balance the state budget.

The bipartisan agreement to extend the taxes for two more years came as part of an overall deal to approve major reforms to public education and public employee benefits.

One of the major pieces of the tax agreement was to keep the tax rate for the modified business levy at 1.17 percent of wages, bringing in $237 million over two years. The first $250,000 in wages was completely exempted from the tax, however, as a break to Nevada small businesses.

Another $283 million is being generated by maintaining a 0.35 percent sales tax increase for the current two-year budget to help support public education.

The report shows that 37.5 percent of the general fund budget is directed to public education, down from 39.9 percent in the previous budget. Higher education is receiving 15.3 percent of the total, up from 15.2 percent in the previous budget. Human resources spending totals 31.2 percent, up from 29.1 percent in 2009-2011. The remaining 16 percent is divided among other agencies, including corrections, public safety and the constitutional offices.

The report also shows a reduction in the number of state positions. In fiscal year 2011, which ended June 30, there were 18,431 approved positions in state government, not including the higher education system. For the current year, the number of approved positions is 17,856, a reduction of 575 jobs.

The Nevada System of Higher Education saw a bigger percentage decline, from 7,166 professional and classified jobs in 2011 to 6,789 positions this year, a reduction of 377 jobs.

Nevada Taxable Sales Show Gains In August

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 10:31 am October 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s economy continued to show some signs of improvement in August, with taxable sales rising by 5.7 percent over August 2010, a report released today shows.

The report from the Nevada Department of Taxation also shows a 5.2 percent increase in taxable sales in the first two months of fiscal year 2012 that began July 1.

Clark County posted a 3.5 percent increase, while Washoe County showed a 2.1 percent gain.

Major categories showing increases in August included motor vehicle and parts dealers, up 11.4 percent; food and beverage stores, up 4.1 percent; furniture and home furnishings, up 9.4 percent, and bars and restaurants, up 5.7 percent.

But the construction industry continued to lag in the report, showing a 5 percent decline in taxable sales compared to August 2010. General merchandise stores were also down, by 0.6 percent.

Purse shopping. / Photo: Ben Schumin via Wikimedia Commons.

Fifteen of 17 Nevada counties reported an increase in taxable sales in August. Only Lincoln and Lyon counties reported year-over-year declines.

The state general fund share of the taxes generated from taxable sales is about $1.5 million above the forecast for the first two months of the fiscal year.

Differences Between Major Party Candidates In CD2 Race On Display At Reno Debate

By Sean Whaley | 10:54 pm August 17th, 2011

RENO – The two major party candidates running in the 2nd Congressional District special election to replace Dean Heller stuck to their talking points in a tame hour-long debate here today.

But the verbal jousting in front of about 150 people at the California Building in Idlewild Park still managed to illustrate the contrasts between Republican Mark Amodei and Democrat Kate Marshall.

Marshall, the Nevada state Treasurer in the midst of her second term, said she would protect social security and Medicare while seeking to balance the federal budget. She also pointed to her successes as treasurer, making money on the state’s investments in every quarter she has been in office.

Nevada state Treasurer and Democrat CD2 candidate Kate Marshall. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau.

“There is only one candidate here who will protect your social security and Medicare, and that is me,” Marshall said.

Amodei,  a former state Senator who served in several sessions of the Legislature, said he is a candidate who does not think the federal government is too small, that there aren’t enough regulations and that there isn’t enough taxing and spending. Amodei said his legislative experience will allow him to tackle the tough issues facing the country the day after the Sept. 13 special election.

“I hope you take a look at who has worked for 24 years in the private sector to earn their living,” he said. “When you’re worried about unemployment, you’re worried about foreclosures, you’re worried about the economy, I think it’s a good thing to have somebody who comes from the private sector.”

Marshall touted her advocacy of Senate Bill 75 passed in the 2011 legislative session, which will allow the treasurer’s office to invest school funds in start-up businesses to create jobs, and criticized Amodei for proposing what she said would have been the largest tax increase in Nevada history as a lawmaker in 2003. The tax bill that was ultimately approved included a payroll tax, which means businesses that hire new employees pay more tax, she said.

“It’s no wonder our unemployment rate is the highest in the nation,” she said.

Amodei said his tax proposal was designed to head off the possibility of an income tax in Nevada. It was also intended to prevent a tax on gross receipts. Amodei also noted he opposed a $781 million tax increase in 2009.

Former Nevada state Sen. and CD2 GOP candidate Mark Amodei. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau.

Also participating in the hour-long debate were American Party candidate Tim Fasano and independent Helmuth Lehmann, both of whom argued that they were better choices than the establishment party candidates.

Fasano said the two major party candidates are “out of the same cloth” and voters who want change should vote for him on Sept. 13.

“I will stand for the rule of law,” he said.

The special election was made necessary when Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed former Rep. Dean Heller to the U.S. Senate to replace Sen. John Ensign, who resigned. The district encompasses 16 of Nevada’s 17 counties and part of Clark County.

The district has a more than 30,000 Republican voter edge, but there are also more than 60,000 independent voters.

Audio clips:

GOP candidate Mark Amodei says his 24 years of private sector experience are a big part of his qualifications for Congress:

081711Amodei :22 the private sector.”

Democrat candidate Kate Marshall says she will work to balance the budget while protecting social security and Medicare:

081711Marshall :32 and that’s me.”

NDOT begins field test of car tracking technology for potential new tax

By Anne Knowles | 9:51 am July 22nd, 2011

RENO – The Nevada Department of Transportation says technology it is testing to track car mileage as part of a potential new tax system would not violate drivers’ privacy.

NDOT is in the second phase of a multi-year study of the Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax, which would replace the existing fuel tax and be levied based on the number of miles a car travels rather than the amount of gas it consumes.

During the first phase of the study, completed last year, NDOT looked at many aspects of the VMT tax, including various workable technologies and a number of policy issues. Based on public feedback, the agency concluded that privacy was the number one concern.

“What we heard out of phase one is how important privacy was, the tracking of vehicles, so in phase two we got rid of that element altogether,” said R. Scott Rawlins, deputy director of NDOT at a public information meeting held on July 21.

“No one wants Big Brother watching them,” added Alauddin Khan, NDOT’s chief performance analysis engineer working on the project.

NDOT, in cooperation with the University of Nevada, Reno, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is now in the process of conducting a field test with 25 drivers in Las Vegas whose cars have been equipped with sensors connected to the automobile’s existing on-board diagnostics port. (All cars manufactured since 2003 have so-called OBD ports, which most automobile mechanics now use for computerized diagnostics.)

The Chevron gas station at the corner of Maryland and Tropicana in Las Vegas has been equipped with wireless technology that reads the cars’ odometers each time drivers in the test group come in to fill up their gas tanks.

Drivers can pump the gas and leave, without any human intervention, while the sensor sends their car’s odometer data to a computer inside the gas station. Drivers can also choose to collect a receipt inside the station to keep track of their mileage and tax.

The NODT study is not testing the collection of the fee, which could be handled in a number of ways, including at the point of purchase or on a monthly or even annual basis.

The technology costs about $20 per car in this trial phase, according to UNLV assistant professor Alexander Paz, who is part of the team developing the system. Paz said the technology would be less expensive in a wider roll out.

The third phase of the NDOT study, planned for next year, would test the technology in as many as 1,500 vehicles.

Citizens who attended the public meeting expressed their concerns with the program.

“A lot of my questions had to do with the security of the data and how they were going to record mileage that would end up being truly anonymous,” said Ron Nichols, a Reno resident who was one of a handful of area residents at the NDOT gathering. “So I saw a potential big issue with data privacy.”

Nichols said the technology being tested allayed some of his concerns, but he said he was still uncertain how the data would remain anonymous.

He and others who attended the meeting also saw another potential pitfall to the VMT.

Will drivers be taxed twice for miles driven in another state? If, for example, a Nevada driver travels into California, buys gas there and pays that state’s fuel tax, would the driver also pay VMT tax on those miles when they return to a gas pump in Nevada?

“If I fill up in Wendover and my odometer reads 10,000 miles, then I drive all over the country and come back and my odometer reads 20,000 miles, how will that work?” asked Nichols. “It would have to be implemented countrywide,and the chances of that are zero.”

“My main interest is if you do a lot of traveling, how is this going to add up?” said Steve Keller, a retired Reno resident who drives to his second home in Monterey, Calif., twice each month. “Where’s the fairness in that?”

Rawlins said concern over double-taxation could be mitigated by a reporting system much like the system used today by long-haul truckers. But he and others conceded that for a VMT tax to work, it would likely have to be implemented nationwide.

Because of that, Rawlins said a viable VMT system is at least ten to 15 years away from reality.

More than a dozen states are looking at the VMT, and NDOT is part of the Mileage Based User Fee Alliance, a group comprised of officials from the states that are considering the tax. The Obama administration, however, recently backtracked on support of the VMT, so its future is unknown.

The NDOT field test is costing $400,000 and is being paid for by federal dollars and in-kind donations from UNLV. It will conclude in October with a report expected in early 2012.


Audio clip:

NDOT’s Rawlins predicts a workable VMT tax is at least a decade away:

072111Rawlins2 :10 fifteen years out”


Gov. Sandoval Signs, Vetoes Stack of Bills on Deadline Day

By Sean Whaley | 5:57 pm June 17th, 2011

CARSON CITY – On deadline day for Gov. Brian Sandoval to act on the remaining bills from the 2011 legislative session, measures extending existing taxes for two more years, authorizing the creation of a toll road around Boulder City and banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving were all approved.

Gov. Brian Sandoval signed dozens of bills into law by a deadline today./Nevada News Bureau file photo

Also approved was a controversial bill allowing adults-only bars that have smoking to serve food. The measure was opposed by anti-smoking opponents, but welcomed by tavern owners who testified their businesses were suffering from the vote-approved Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act.

“Every session we hear legislators bemoan the fact we’re at the top of all the bad lists and the bottom of the good lists,” commented Michael Hackett, consultant for the Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition, when the bill was approved by the Legislature. “Obviously, that’s still acceptable for most legislators.”

Sandoval also signed the last of three major campaign reform bills sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller, which will make major changes to reporting of contributions to candidates and banning some questionable campaign practices.

Secretary of State Ross Miller saw all three of his major campaign finance reform bills signed into law by Gov. Sandoval./Nevada News Bureau file photo

“It’s a substantial victory for voters today and the final piece of our campaign and election reform package has been enacted now,” Miller said. “So I think voters can anticipate significant improvement in the next election, one that will be visible to them in terms of transparency and disclosure.”

Among other reforms, the bills require electronic filing of campaign contribution and expense reports so the public can easily search the information. They will also improve disclosures by third party groups that run campaign ads.

“That’s probably the biggest complaint that we get in our office every election cycle is that the public doesn’t know who is funding the TV ads or the mailers that they get in the mailbox, Miller said. “This will significantly improve those disclosure requirements.”

Sandoval signed dozens of bills, but vetoed several others, including Assembly Bill 578, which Republican critics said would lead to the creation of a full-time Legislature, and Assembly Bill 301, which addressed the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons.

The veto of AB301 was criticized by the ACLU of Nevada.

“We are surprised and disheartened that the governor vetoed a bill which would have created easily understandable, reliable laws,” said Dane Claussen, executive director for the ACLU of Nevada. “Gov. Sandoval rejected an opportunity to clarify our voting laws not just for the voting public, but also our county officials and clerks.”

He also vetoed a controversial bill that was amended in the last minutes of the legislative session to include a transmission line for NV Energy.

“To increase utility rates on Nevadans struggling to emerge from a severe economic recession would result in the imposition of an unnecessary and unfair burden on our recovery,” Sandoval said in his veto message.

In one unusual decision, Sandoval allowed a bill relating to pet cemeteries to become law without his signature.

“Although I have not been involved in the drafting or the subsequent passage of this bill, when my office conducted our internal review, it became clear that a member of my family may be affected by SB191 becoming law,” he said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Sandoval also signed the major bills establishing the state budget for the two years beginning July 1, as well as four major education reform measures that were part of a package agreed to in exchange for extending a 0.35 percent sales tax increase and a higher payroll tax rate for the state’s largest businesses.

The $620 million tax extension bill, which will include the higher revenues through June 30, 2013, wasn’t all bad news for anti-tax advocates, however. It also eliminates the payroll tax for 70 percent of Nevada’s businesses, those with payrolls of less than $250,000 a year. The taxes were approved by the 2009 Legislature for two years to balance the current budget. That had been set to expire June 30 until the tax and reform package was agreed to by Sandoval and most lawmakers.

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says the three campaign finance bills are a substantial victory for voters:

061711Miller1 :16 transparency and disclosure.”

Miller says bills make many reforms, including new disclosure requirements for third-party groups:

061711Miller2 :17 those disclosure requirements.”


Budget Deal Announced Today Includes Extension Of Taxes, Major Reforms

By Sean Whaley | 5:03 pm June 1st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval and legislative leaders from both parties announced a budget agreement today that will see tax extensions and restorations of funding to public and higher education in exchange for significant policy reforms in education and collective bargaining.

The agreement came on the 115th day of the session, and virtually guarantees that lawmakers will adjourn the 2011 session by Monday as the constitution requires.

“Nevadans deserve leadership, stability and consensus, and I believe this budget and reform package provide all three,” Sandoval said at a press briefing attended by numerous lawmakers, lobbyists and other interested parties.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, called the agreement fiscally responsible and a true compromise that “protects the most essential funding for our schools, our community colleges and universities, and services for our most vulnerable.”

Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, head of the Assembly GOP caucus, said the deal is the best that could be achieved among the two houses and parties.

“None of us got everything we wanted,” he said. “But the bottom line is we hung together.”

Faced with a recent Nevada Supreme Court decision that threw his budget into turmoil, Sandoval reluctantly agreed to extend higher business taxes on the state’s largest employers for two more years to bring in nearly $300 million. The budget deal also includes a reduction in tax exemptions for the mining industry that will bring in another $24 million to the state general fund.

In all, the two-year state budget that begins July 1 totals $6.24 billion. This does not include another $265 million in other revenue that will go directly to the state’s public schools system bringing total spending to about $6.5 billion.

Sandoval decided to agree to extend sun-setting taxes because of the court ruling issued last week over the decision by the Legislature in 2010 to sweep a$62 million local government water fund. The court said it was impermissible. While opinions on the effect of the ruling differed, ultimately $481 million in anticipated revenue was eliminated from Sandoval’s proposed budget. The ruling forced lawmakers and Sandoval into intense budget negotiations.

Until Sandoval opted to relent on the tax issue, Republicans had held firm with him opposing new revenues to increase funding to public education, higher education and health and human services programs.

In exchange for extending the sun-setting taxes, Sandoval and Republican lawmakers won a number of reforms, including the elimination of teacher tenure and ending the seniority system used in the public schools for layoffs.

“These reforms do not hurt good teachers,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas. “If you are a good teacher, you have a job.”

The reforms also include the complete elimination of the modified business tax for 70 percent of the state’s smallest employers. This group currently pays a 0.5 percent rate based on payroll.

Other reforms include the elimination of health care benefits upon retirement for new state hires. The state currently subsidizes health insurance for retirees. The change effective Jan. 1, 2012 will save an estimated $275 million over the next 30 years.

There are also reforms to the state’s collective bargaining law, including a provision allowing agreements to be reopened in cases of fiscal emergency and eliminating bargaining for supervisory public employees. There will also be a study on how to deal with the $10 billion unfunded liability of the Public Employees’ Retirement System.

The governor will also get to appoint the superintendent of public instruction.

One area that remains an issue is construction defect reform.

Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said Assembly Bill 401, proposed by Oceguera, is not real reform. The construction industry is expected to oppose the measure, he said.

“It does absolutely nothing,” Hickey said.

Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said the budget bills implementing the spending plan should be introduced tomorrow. A final joint money committee hearing set for later today will put the few final minor finishing touches on the budget, she said.

But even with the increased funding, Leslie said the 2011-13 spending plan is not one she is proud of, or believes adequately funds important social and education programs.

“We’re eliminating programs like a senior outreach program,” she said. “We have the highest suicide rate for seniors in the country, and we eliminated the one outreach program for senior mental health that we have.”

It does eliminate the unacceptable securitization of the insurance premium tax proposed by Sandoval as a way to generate $190 million in additional funds for the budget, Leslie said. It also eliminates the use of the school bond reserve funds.

One bit of bad news for Nevada’s economic future was mentioned in passing in the budget compromise. Nevada’s forecast for revenue from unclaimed property was revised downward by nearly $34 million. The reason is the relocation of a division of Citibank now located in Southern Nevada.

The state’s unclaimed property fund has benefited from the Citibank presence because money belonging to the company’s customers from around the world ends up here when the owners cannot be identified. The company turned over $36 million in unclaimed property this year. With the relocation, this revenue will no longer flow to Nevada.

Reaction to the budget and reform deal varied.

Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Mesquite, said: “I think neither one of us ended up real happy with the situation. I think we’re both pleased we have come to a consensus. They didn’t get their $1.2 billion tax package; we’re really happy about that.

“We had five reforms we wanted. We didn’t get all of them,” he said.

Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, said: “The Republican Assembly caucus had certain goals and priorities in mind and we stuck to them, but unfortunately through no fault of the governor he was handed a devastating blow by the Supreme Court’s ruling and he had to pick up the pieces.

“I had personally hoped for a little more depth in construction defect and collective bargaining reforms,” he said.

Nevada News Bureau Editor Elizabeth Crum contributed to this report

Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says the budget deal is the result of leadership and consensus:

060111Sandoval :12 provide all three.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says budget deal is bipartisan and fiscally responsible:

060111Oceguera1 :18 our most vulnerable.”

Oceguera says work is still needed on reforming the state’s revenue structure:

060111Oceguera2 :12 state forward, thank-you.”

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford says the reforms to teacher tenure won’t harm good teachers:

060111Horsford1 :13 a great job.”

Horsford says Nevada policy makers came together while facing the biggest fiscal challenge of any state:

060111Horsford2 :13 to the plate.”

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea says not everyone got all they wanted in the deal:

060111Goicoechea :15 resolve this issue.”

Sen. Sheila Leslie says the budget is not one she is proud of because of the necessary cuts to important programs:

060111Leslie :12 that we have.”

Gov. Sandoval Taking Two Pronged Approach To Addressing Potential $656 Million Budget Shortfall

By Sean Whaley | 5:35 pm May 27th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Sandoval administration is pursuing two paths in an effort to resolve a potentially massive budget shortfall, seeking clarification from the Nevada Supreme Court on the case that created the issue and working with lawmakers on potential additional revenues should they be necessary.

Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Gov. Brian Sandoval, briefed a number of interested parties on the developments since the state’s high court dropped the potential budget bombshell on the Legislature yesterday.

“The Supreme Court, in a rather dramatic decision, presented us with a math problem,” he said. “They didn’t present us with a crisis, and they didn’t present us with something insurmountable.”

In a decision rejecting the Legislature’s right to use $62 million from a Southern Nevada water fund to help balance the current budget, the court intimated that as much as $656 million proposed by Sandoval to be used in the upcoming budget could be legally unavailable.

Erquiaga said the first course of action was for Sandoval early this morning to ask Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto to ask the court to clarify if its decision was narrowly focused on the $62 million clean water fund sweep, or if the decision should be interpreted more broadly to cover other proposed uses of local funds to help balance the governor’s proposed $6.1 billion spending plan.

“Again, did the court mean $62 million, or did the court mean to take the broadest interpretation possible, thus putting at risk an amount ten times that size, and really, forever changing the way we budget in the state of Nevada,” Erquiaga said.

“These revenue mechanisms have been used for anyone’s recent memory here,” he said. “All of the revenue mechanisms that the governor included in his budget except one have been used by prior legislatures. For the court to say you can’t use that kind of money anymore will forever change the way we budget.”

Erquiaga said that if the issue is only the $62 million water fund sweep, the Legislature can move forward with adopting Sandoval’s proposed two-year budget. Sandoval would like the court to act quickly on the clarification request so the Legislature can complete its work by June 6, the constitutionally mandated final day of the session, he said.

On the budgetary front, Sandoval has met with lawmakers from both parties and both houses to discuss the possible continuation of some of the tax increases set to sunset June 30 as a source of new revenue should it be needed to balance the budget, Erquiaga said.

About $679 million could be generated if the taxes were extended another two years. The taxes include a sales tax piece and a higher modified business tax for the state’s largest employers, but Sandoval will not support continuing all of the higher levies, he said.

So if $656 million is needed to balance the budget, Sandoval will look to other revenues, but not new taxes, Erquiaga said.

“If sunsets are called into play, you may be assured that the margin tax and the service tax are not,” he said.

These new taxes were proposed by legislative Democrats in recent weeks as a way to augment the budget.

As part of these tax discussions, Sandoval and Republican lawmakers are seeking a number of policy reforms as part of any such continuation, Erquiaga said.

Some of the reforms being discussed this session include changes to Nevada’s collective bargaining law, the elimination of teacher tenure, and others.

“It is critical to the governor that reforms be included in any final solution,” Erquiaga said.

He would not disclose the specifics of the reforms under discussion.

Charles Blumenthal, communications director for the Assembly Democratic Caucus, said legislative leadership is having productive discussions every day trying to work through the process and get a budget agreement.

Audio clips:

Sandoval Senior Adviser Dale Erquiaga says the Supreme Court presented the governor and Legislature a math problem, not a crisis:

052711Erquiaga4 :10 with something insurmountable.”

Erquiaga says Sandoval wants the court to clarify its intent:

052711Erquiaga1 :14 state of Nevada.”

Erquiaga says the revenue mechanisms used in Sandoval’s budget have been used before:

052711Erquiaga2 :16 way we budget.”

Erquiaga says policy reforms have to be part of any budget solution:

052711Erquiaga3 :05 any final solution.”


Governor Estimates $656 Million Lost In Budget Due To Supreme Court Decision

By Andrew Doughman | 11:54 pm May 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY — The state’s budget just took a $656 million hit, according to members of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s staff.

Following a Supreme Court decision earlier today, the governor convened the press at 11 p.m. to outline his opinion of how the decision effects funding streams used in the state budget.

“The problem is much worse than we thought,” said Dale Erquiaga, the governor’s senior adviser.

Erquiaga, Andrew Clinger and Lucas Folleta, the governor’s budget director and legal counsel respectively, would not speculate as to how they will replace the dollars they assume are lost in the state’s proposed two-year budget.

This morning, the court ruled in the Clean Water Coalition case that the state government could not take $62 million in local revenues to bolster the state budget.

Later this afternoon, Sandoval said he believed the case could have wide-reaching implications for his proposed general fund budget.

“The ruling raises questions about certain assumptions in the proposed executive budget, despite some having been used in the past,” he said in a statement. “As a former federal judge, I am cognizant of the legal issues.  As governor, I am forced to deal with their ramifications and I am responding by reworking the state budget.  I will announce a revised plan on Friday.”

Erquiaga said that the governor has kept legislative leaders appraised of the situation.

Erquiaga also said the governor and his staff plan to work throughout the night to find a solution to replace the lost revenue.

The governor, however, has already announced that he is considering extending taxes that are set to expire June 30. Doing so would bring the state an estimated $712 million, enough to offset the reductions due to the court decision.

In addition to the $62 million, the governor is assuming $594 million in lost revenue.

“The court’s decision forced us with this decision,” Folleta said.

The decision holds that the state cannot siphon money from a local funding stream, thus making the Clean Water Coalition money grab unconstitutional.

The governor’s staff spent the late afternoon and evening evaluating where the money in Sandoval’s budget is coming from and arrived at a “conservative” decision that the court’s ruling could endanger five other revenue sources.

“To take a less conservative approach, if the state were sued, revenue streams will have to be backed out,” Erquiaga said.

In addition to the $62 million lost due to the court’s decision, the governor’s office assumes these revenue sources would be lost if challenged in court:

  • Supplemental account for medical assistance to indigents: $38,427,584

  • Transfer from school districts’ debt service reserves: $247,420,312

  • 4 cent Clark and Washoe counties operating property tax: $52,994,482

  • 2.6 cents in fiscal year 2012 and 2 cents in fiscal year 2013 in Clark and Washoe counties capital projects property tax rate: $30,475,264

  • Room tax dollars: $225,455,400

Bills Sought By GOP Senators ‘Returned’ To Assembly As Tax Discussions Continue

By Sean Whaley | 12:00 pm May 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Republican state senators who are refusing to go along with a call by Democrats to increase funding for the state budget say bills they have sponsored are being held hostage as a result.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said Assembly Democrats, who have a 26-16 majority, “called back” seven Senate bills that had already been voted on and sent to the Senate for final action.

Senate Bills 89, 96, 111, 134, 225, 322 and 337 were requested to be returned to the Assembly, said David Byerman, secretary of the Senate. He said such requests are routine and are accommodated without requesting an explanation. Various reasons can prompt such a request, such as a reconsideration of a measure, he said.

All seven bills passed the Assembly unanimously on Monday. On Tuesday, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, including Cegavske, Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, and Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, refused to support a proposed budget relying on the extension of sun-setting taxes to add more than $700 million in funding.

The Assembly Ways and Means Committee today passed out a bill extending the sun-setting taxes on a party-line vote. But a two-thirds vote will be required in the full Assembly and then in the Senate to approve the measure.

Democrats in the Legislature need three GOP members of the Senate of 10 to vote to extend the sun-setting taxes. So far the Senate GOP caucus has remained firm in its opposition, holding with Gov. Brian Sandoval against any tax extensions or increases to fund areas of the budget.

On Wednesday, the seven GOP Senate bills were recalled by the Assembly leadership.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, who said he is working to win support from Senate Republicans for additional revenue for the state budget, acknowledged the bills were called back by the Assembly.

“I think the issue is the budget is the most important thing we have going right now,” he said. “Any policy bill is not that important right now. So we’re absolutely looking at holding all the policy bills until we have a budget.

“Call it what you will, I think what we’re doing is, there is nothing more important than getting this budget done so no policy bills are moving right now,” Oceguera said.

If the bills remain in the possession of the Assembly, they won’t see final approval or be signed into law by the governor, he said.

Oceguera said a lot of reform bills are caught up in the discussion over new tax revenue.

“Obviously if there is not reform on the tax side of things there’s not going to be reform on anything else either,” he said.

Cegavske said Republican senators are being punished for their opposition to tax increases but the bills are good legislation that don’t deserve such action.

Cegavske said failing to act on her Senate Bill 225 won’t hurt her personally, but it will harm the efforts of the American Heart Association.

“Yes my name is on it and if you want to punish me, punish me, don’t punish the American Heart Association,” she said. “Because it is truly a bill that will help them and there is nothing wrong with sending policy bills through while you are still debating budgets. There is nothing wrong with that.

“It saddens me that you would act in a manner that is unprofessional,” Cegavske said.

“It’s an angry attempt to say we didn’t like the fact that you voted against the sunset bills so we’re going to do something that affects you,” she said. “Well, it doesn’t affect me personally but it does affect the American Heart Association and what they’re trying to accomplish for the good of the citizens of Nevada.”

“One would hope we don’t need to go down such a partisan road,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville.

SB89 imposing reforms on homeowners’ associations is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon. SB96 making changes to the Guinn Millennium Scholarship is sponsored by Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City.

SB111, sponsored by Settelmeyer, would make changes to help children who are kept in protective custody. SB134 is sponsored by Rhoads and would make changes to the Elko City municipal elections.

SB225 sought by Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, would designate certain hospitals as stroke centers. SB322, relating to weight limits on vehicles, is being sought by Settelmeyer, Hardy and Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas. SB337 is being sought by Kieckhefer and Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, and would make changes to the donation of anatomical gifts.

None of the measures have anything to do with policy reforms sought by some Republicans in exchange for consideration of taxes, such as collective bargaining.

Audio clips:

Sen. Barbara Cegavske said Senate GOP bills are being held up as punishment for opposition to tax increases:

052611Cegavske1 :17 wrong with that.”

Cegavske said there is no reason the bills should not be passed while the budget is being debated:

052611Cegavske2 :24 all that way.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer said the Legislature should not have to go down such a partisan road:

052611Settelmeyer :04 a partisan road.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says the budget is the most pressing issue right now:

052611Oceguera1 :05 going right now.”

Oceguera says policy bills are not that important right now:

052611Oceguera2 :09 have a budget.”

Oceguera says the budget is the top priority:

052611Oceguera3 :09 moving right now.”

Oceguera says if there is not reform on taxes, there won’t be reform on anything else:

052611Oceguera4 :14 anything else either.”





Gov. Sandoval Rejects New Tax Revenue For Budget, Democrats Keep Hope Alive

By Sean Whaley | 10:00 am May 24th, 2011

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.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval emerges from a meeting with Republican lawmakers, remains opposed to extending sun-setting taxes to add more revenue to budget/Photo: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

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.

Budget Office Says Democratic Spending Plan Nearly $1 Billion Over Sandoval Budget

By Andrew Doughman | 3:56 pm May 23rd, 2011

CARSON CITY — Legislative Democrats intend to spend almost $1 billion more than Gov. Brian Sandoval requested in his $6.3 billion budget, according to a spreadsheet obtained from Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget office today.

The majority of the $968 million in spending replaces budget cuts in K-12 education, higher education and social services, which Democrats have long argued will eviscerate the state’s social safety net and destroy the state’s education system.

Throughout the past few weeks, the Legislature’s money committees have closed various state budgets, sometimes at levels higher than the governor recommended in his general fund budget. They finished that process this past Thursday and staff reviewed the numbers this weekend.

The majority of the expenditures come from $626 million in the K-12 budget, $205 million in higher education and $121 million for health and human services.

Democrats plan to pay for their budget with a $1.2 billion combination of extending 2009 tax increases, a business “margin” tax and transaction tax on services.

Extending the 2009 taxes would secure $626 million in funding for the Democratic budget plan, $342 million less than legislators would like to spend.

Since extending the taxes appears to be the most likely to pass, legislators may have to whittle away at their additions to the governor’s budget. They have scheduled a meeting tomorrow during which they intend to “reconsider” some of their earlier budget add backs.

Republicans and Sandoval have so far opposed the plan, and Democrats need at least several Republicans to join them to create a two-thirds majority to override a Sandoval veto of any tax plan.

Republican legislators on the Senate and Assembly’s money committees have also largely voted against the additions to the budget.

“Between Thursday and Monday, they [Democrats] realized they closed a budget that is totally unrealistic,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.

Kieckhefer had also requested the full expenditure list from the governor’s budget office. The $968 million number has not yet been finalized.

Representatives from the office of Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, declined to comment since they have not had time to review the governor’s numbers.