Senate Democrats still can't get Republicans to budge on budget

CARSON CITY -- Democratic leaders in the Senate got their chance to lay out objections to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed budget cuts, but they didn't get the movement from Republican senators whose support they need to raise taxes in order to do something about it.

The Senate held an unusual "Committee of the Whole" meeting Monday night aimed at pressing Republicans to take positions on line-item funding cuts in Sandoval's proposed $5.8 billion general fund budget, which represents a 6.4 percent decrease compared to spending in the previous two years.

Democrats are looking for ways to raise taxes and bust the $5.8 billion spending cap but are running into opposition to Sandoval and legislative Republicans who oppose tax increases , which require two-thirds support to pass or clear a gubernatorial veto.

They're looking to identify any Republicans who might stray from the governor and support some sort of an increase, especially if the money can be diverted to K-12 or higher education.

To that end, Democratic leaders in the Senate and Assembly moved budget talks out of the so-called "money committees" and into "committees of the whole" in each chamber, which include the entire membership.

"We have got to get some indication of where people are," said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas. "I have got to get some indication where the body stands."

Republicans, however, described the process as a one-sided proceeding aimed at focusing debate on proposed cuts with little to no discussion about reforms that would stretch education dollars and acknowledgement that the recession battering Nevada means businesses and private citizens can't afford higher taxes.

"The fact is we have a finite amount of money," said Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno. "Like many, many states around the country right now we need to figure out how to spend that money in the ways that best accomplishes the goals we have as a state."