For months Nevada politicians have said "everything is on the table" when it comes to solving the state's budget crisis.
On Saturday it was obvious Nevada citizens took the politicians at their word.
More than 600 residents crammed into the Sawyer Building near downtown Las Vegas to make demands or suggestions and to plead their cases to nearly two dozen legislators seeking input on how to close a budget shortfall estimated at $871 million.
Some made poignant pleas to avert more cuts to schools, avoid further layoffs and to maintain services that keep the mentally ill safe and prisoners off the streets. Some urged lawmakers to resist raising taxes.
Others brought ideas that were edgy, impractical, controversial and sensible. A few ideas, including a proposal to allow residents to register vehicles several years at a time, clearly intrigued leaders looking for solutions they can deliver during an upcoming special session of the Legislature.
"The solutions are really easy," said retiree Fred Griggs of Las Vegas. "What is difficult is getting enough people in Carson City to agree enough to push them through."
It was Griggs who came up with the vehicle registration proposal that got the attention of Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas.
"I thought that was a really great idea and one that, honestly, I had never thought of before," Horsford said.
Valley High School student Zhan Okuda-Lim got the attention of Assembly speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, with a pitch for an education rainy day fund, an idea Buckley backed during the 2009 legislative session only to see it vetoed by Gov. Jim Gibbons.
Okuda-Lim lamented cuts the education system has already sustained and said a fund that would sock away money in good times for use in bad could prevent future crises.
"It makes no sense to build programs in good times and destroy them when times are bad," Buckley said. "That is foolish and it wastes money."
Other ideas were long shots, at best, but the folks pitching them still got their three minutes to make a case.
Real estate investor Ed Uehling of Las Vegas broached the notion of taxing prostitution and marijuana and reducing tax breaks for churches.
"It could produce huge amounts of money in this state," he said.
Horsford led the meeting that included the residents and Democratic and Republican lawmakers. A similar meeting was held in Reno with Northern Nevada residents and lawmakers. Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns said the governor won't be hosting a similar event.
Many of the estimated 150 people who spoke in Las Vegas called for higher taxes on the mining and casino industries, although leading legislators and Gibbons have repeatedly stated they won't raise taxes during the special session.
Additionally, a mining or personal income tax would take years to implement and require changes to the state constitution.
Still others said they think Nevada has enough taxes and urged lawmakers to cut their way to a balanced budget.
"I like the fact Nevada is a low tax state," said Robbin Roby, who works for a federal government contractor. She recalled a time when sales tax was 3 percent, as opposed to today's rate of 8.1 percent in Clark County.
"I've seen my taxes increase and my quality of life decrease," Roby said.
"If you raise taxes on businesses, those businesses that are on the border of going under, they will go under," said Janice Carkeek, a retired General Motors worker.
Several times during the meeting, which lasted from 9 a.m. to 3:40 p.m., residents gave testimony that clearly moved legislators and members of the audience.
Special education teacher and Gulf War veteran Susan Guillams took leaders in the room to task for tolerating the notion of cuts to the state's strained education system and mental health services.
"If your vote doesn't support mental health and doesn't support teachers, my vote doesn't support you," she said.
Terri Shuman teared up describing her life since being laid off from a job as a permanent substitute teacher.
"As I paid my light bill, the gas went out," she said. "As I paid the gas, the car insurance expired."
She said she received unemployment for two weeks, only to be told she had to return the money.
"Please don't ask for anything more from us; we have nothing else to give," she said.
Others came making offers to provide more.
Terry Lindemann of Family Promise of Las Vegas, a group that helps homeless families find shelters in churches, synagogues and other houses of religious faith, called on the state to avoid duplicating services for people who are already getting them from private non-profits.
"If Nevada state welfare services really knew what we are doing, some of those services could be cut out of their budget," she said. "Our families don't need food stamp benefits when they are in our program."
Several other speakers warned leaders to avoid cuts that could wind up costing more money than they save.
For example, Gerald Simmons, a Clark County School District building inspector, said cuts that cram more kids in classrooms can cost money by requiring that new exits be built to keep in compliance with fire codes.
Simmons also said slashing maintenance budgets in the short term leads to neglect of facilities that results in higher repair bills later or more frequent replacement.
"You save money here, it is going to cost you over there," Simmons said. "People don't realize it."
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861.