Posts Tagged ‘Townsend’

Conservative Caucus, GOP Minority Fight to Get Their Views Heard in Special Session

By Sean Whaley | 4:51 pm February 24th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Assembly Republicans, who haven’t had a majority presence in the Legislature in 25 years, are working with their Senate colleagues in the special session in an effort to get their views heard on how to solve a $900 million budget shortfall.

Senate Republicans, who are in the minority themselves in the upper house for the first time since 1991, nevertheless have some leverage in the budget debate.

The GOP caucus in the Assembly stands at 14 members, one shy of the number needed to block a two-thirds vote on fee or tax increases. Fee increases are very much a part of the discussion of how to balance the budget.

Senate Democrats, however, have only 12 of the 14 votes they need to approve such measures. So Republican support is essential if a tax or fee increase is to be part of the budget solution.

A two-thirds vote is also required to override a veto. Gov. Jim Gibbons has threatened to use his veto authority if a measure comes to him that does not fit in with his views on such revenue enhancements. Gibbons had indicated he will only support such increases if the affected industries agree to the levy.

A new wrinkle for the 23 GOP lawmakers in the two houses, however, as the special session moves through its second day, is a subset of Republicans who want to bring their own plan forward on how to balance the budget, a plan that would not rely on fees or taxes but cuts.

The effort is a work in progress.

Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, said her caucus recognizes the number disadvantage and the need to work with Senate Republicans to gain leverage.

“Pete Goichoechea, (R-Eureka) and I attend quite a few leadership meetings to make sure our voices are heard,” she said. “We’re very focused on cuts right now. There are a lot of pieces that seem to be coming together. We’re really trying to figure out what the whole package is.

“We have not come to any consensus, particularly on the new fee and revenue items in the budget,” Gansert said.

Gansert said the caucus is interested in taking a look at Nevada’s collective bargaining law to see if it can at least be altered to require public employee contract negotiations to be subjected to the state Open Meeting Law. The process involves taxpayer money and the public should be involved in the process, she said.

Gibbons, who saw a couple of his budget-balancing proposals fall by the wayside today, amended the proclamation calling the Legislature into special session to consider Nevada’s collective bargaining law, among several other items.

Gibbons’ proposal to raise $50 million by revising the mining tax deduction, and a plan to use traffic cameras to catch uninsured motorists that reportedly would have raised $30 million, were both rejected by lawmakers.

Both these issues were problematic for some in the GOP caucus, so seeing them taken off the table simplifies the ideological concerns, at least for the time being. Their elimination also creates an $80 million gap in the budget plan, however.

Gansert said she retains strong support in the caucus for her service as minority leader, despite a comment by Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, that Gansert is too willing to compromise with Democrats. Hambrick’s comment was reported in the Reno Gazette-Journal on Tuesday.

Assemblyman Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said his caucus is benefiting from a national shift to the right in the political climate.

“So the pendulum swings, and just because you are low today doesn’t mean you won’t be high tomorrow,” he said.

The last time Republicans had a strong presence in the lower house was in 1995, when there was a 21-21 split requiring a power-sharing arrangement. Lynn Hettrick, now a deputy chief of staff to Gibbons, was GOP co-speaker in that session.

In a twist of political irony, Hettrick’s present-day successor, Gansert, has contributed to a rift in GOP leadership by joining Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio in endorsing Brian Sandoval over Governor Gibbons in the GOP gubernatorial primary.

A source on the Gibbons’ campaign team acknowledged that Gansert and Raggio’s support of the governor’s opponent along with Raggio’s recent support of Sandoval’s proposal to sell and lease back state buildings in order to generate revenue – a plan the Governor strongly opposes – has infuriated Gibbons and contributed to the recent war of words between the governor’s office and Raggio as budget talks have progressed.

Despite the contentious tone between the governor’s office and Republican legislative leadership and the numbers disadvantage, Assembly Republicans are trying to remain involved, Hardy said. “We still get to ask questions. We still have a voice.”

Hardy said the Senate GOP caucus has been willing to listen to Assembly Republicans, but he acknowledges there are no easy answers to the current fiscal crisis.

“It’s not so much good ideas right now (but) which is the least of the worst ideas,” he said.

Hardy praised Gansert’s leadership, calling her performance “excellent.”

While there is a view by many Republicans that the current budget problems should not be solved through the imposition of new fees and taxes, Hardy said his own position is to accept such solutions if they are acceptable to the affected industries or interest groups.

Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, said the Assembly caucus has been encouraged to participate in the leadership discussions on how to solve the budget gap.

Senate Republicans, because of the two-thirds vote requirement for tax and fee measures, retains some level of power in the discussion, he said. The Assembly has not had that luxury.

“I told them just because you don’t have the numbers doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the solution,” Townsend said. “But just saying “no” is not being part of the solution. Saying “yes” to everything is not being part of the process either. Jump in and explain the things that are important to you. You may win a few.”

Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, a fiscal conservative who would like to see Nevada adhere to a state spending cap, said balancing the budget with new taxes and fees is not the answer.

The state should use 2001 as the base year and then allow for growth based only on inflation and population growth, he said.

“We’re not going to do that in the special session, but that is what my goal will be,” Gustavson said.

“We are working with Senate Republicans on the budget,” he said. “We met with them last night and had a long discussion. They have a little more pull than we do, obviously.”

Every agency, including public education, will have to take a cut to get the state out of the current crisis, Gustavson said.

Raggio, Gansert Getting Pushback from Conservative Caucus

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:03 am February 24th, 2010

As expected, Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert is getting pushback from many of her conservative, staunchly anti-tax members (hello, John Hambrick and Ed Goedhart – for two).

On the Senate side, Raggio is also dealing with pesky legislators who will not agree to vote for anything that might tarnish their conservative creds.

(The LV Sun has a write-up here.)

And/but as Ralston asked this morning:  “How many times can Raggio and his lieutenant, Randolph Townsend, be the votes Majority Leader Steven Horsford needs to count to 14?”

We’re talking to peeps all day and will have pithy quotes and updates and maybe even a story for you.

In any case, Horsford and Buckley are moving forward:  bills to be intro’d shortly.  (Some say that will happen this afternoon.  Waiting for confirmation.)

Nevada Group Proposes Increase in Mining Tax to Help with State Funding Woes

By Sean Whaley | 11:06 am January 19th, 2010

(Updated at 3:43 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2010)

RENO – A coalition of Nevada labor and social groups said today it will ask voters to raise the mining tax to help fund a state budget gap that continues to widen during the current economic slowdown.

PLAN, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada,  filed a petition with the Nevada Secretary of State’s office  to amend the state constitution to require taxes to be paid on the gross, not the net, of the value of the minerals extracted by the mining industry.

If approved by voters in 2010 and again in 2012, the effect of the change would be to more than triple the amount paid by the industry to  state and local governments, said PLAN Executive Director Bob Fulkerson.

The proposal would also allow the Legislature to increase the rate paid by the industry above the current limit of 5 percent, he said. The group has until June 15 to collect the 97,002 signatures needed to qualify the measure for the ballot.

A mining industry representative said looking to one industry to solve the state’s budget problems has not worked with the gaming industry and won’t work with mining either.

Fulkerson said mining is singled out for protections in the state constitution limiting the amount the industry must pay to the state, so it is fair game for being singled out for a tax increase.

“No other industry has a constitutional protection but mining,” he said. “It is unlike other industries. You can play another hand of cards, or sell another car or build another house. With gold, when you take it out of the ground it is gone for good. We’re just asking the mining industry to pay its fair share.”

The alternatives of increasing class sizes and ending all-day kindergarten, as proposed by Gov. Jim Gibbons as ways to balance the budget, are not acceptable, Fulkerson said.

Tim Crowley, president of the Nevada Mining Association, said the industry already pays its fair share. The industry in 2008 paid $130 million in conventional taxes, such as sales and payroll taxes, which was a record, he said.

The industry also pays the special mining tax of 5 percent on the value of the minerals, which also generated a record amount in 2008 of $92 million, he said.

“We haven’t seen the initiative, and we will have to take a hard look at how it would apply to our industry,” Crowley said.

Some less profitable non-gold producing mining companies could be hit harder with the proposed tax increase, he said.

Singling out one industry for a tax increase has been shown to be a bad idea in the past, Crowley said. Mining is also a bright spot in the state economy in this period of recession, he said.

“We’re providing high paying jobs to 14,000 Nevadans,” Crowley said. “To pick any industry, especially one that is already paying an industry specific tax, is not wise tax policy.”

State Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, said he is always reluctant to see changes proposed to the state consitution.

“As hard as it is to get something into the constitution, it is twice as hard to get it out,” he said. “What is popular now may not be popular a few years from now.”

Townsend said the state needs to examine how it spends its existing revenues before seeking a tax increase.

“The question is, do we need the revenue,” he said. “Before we ask someone to pay more, we have to ask ourselves if we are spending our current revenues effectively. The answer to that is: not completely.”

Lawmakers Begin Selection Process for Revenue Study Stakeholder Group

By Sean Whaley | 1:20 pm October 20th, 2009
CARSON CITY – State lawmakers made the first step towards creating a “Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group” of residents to participate in a review of the state’s revenue structure today, declaring that the size of the panel will be no more than 19 individuals.

But the hard part is yet to come. A total of 72 names have been submitted to lawmakers so far to serve on the panel, and more are expected before nominations close Oct. 30.

Lawmakers charged with picking the members of the committee will meet again Nov. 16 in an effort to finalize the stakeholder group membership, which will represent areas of expertise from education and public safety to commerce and industry.

A list of nominees was released today, showing interest from a wide variety of individuals, from Frank Adams representing the Nevada Sheriffs’ and Chiefs’ Association to Reno Mayor Bob Cashell to MGM Mirage executive Alan Feldman.

Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, suggested the group not include elected officials for fear the work of the panel would become politicized.

But Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said many potentially qualified candidates would be excluded if elected officials were not allowed to participate.

The panel decided to let each lawmaker submit a list of preferred names without mandating any exclusions.

Geoffrey Lawrence, a fiscal policy analyst with the Nevada Policy Research Institute, questioned the purpose of the stakeholder panel. A study of the state and local government tax structure with an eye toward reducing volatility and maximizing efficiency has merit, he said.

But the stakeholder group is proposed to be drawn from the five major areas of state spending, meaning any revenue study could be compromised, Lawrence said.

“The group’s recommendations will likely include new government spending proposals,” he said.

The panel should include representatives who support private sector involvement in the provision of public services. Any stakeholder group needs to consider truly innovative solutions and not just seek to burden Nevadans with higher taxes, Lawrence said.

The stakeholder group is expected to work closely with the contractor selected to perform the revenue study, which must be completed by July 1, 2010. Lawmakers have selected four proposals for further consideration but a final decision won‘t come until next month. The budget for the study is $500,000 but some of the proposals have come in well below this amount including the favorite by Moody’s Analytics at a cost of $253,000.