weather icon Overcast

Conservative Nevada lawmakers pitch alternate budget

CARSON CITY — A group of conservative Nevada lawmakers Monday proposed an alternative to Gov. Sandoval’s $7.3 billion general fund budget that they say will fund the governor’s priorities without raising taxes.

“It allows the sunsets to sunset,” said Assembly Majority Whip Jim Wheeler, R-Gardnerville. “We look at living within our means.”

Wheeler, one of about 12 conservative Assembly members who attended a midday news conference along with Republican Controller Ron Knecht, said the measure is intended to “start the discussion on living within our means instead of raising taxes.”

The “Balanced Plan for Growth” proposes a $6.92 billion two-year general fund spending plan, an amount $391 million less than the governor’s measure.

“We believe it is not only possible to accomplish our goals using Nevada’s existing revenue base, but we feel strongly that it is our responsibility to do so,” Knecht said in a statement.

Sandoval’s budget calls for $1.1 billion in new or extended taxes, largely to fund new education initiatives. The cornerstone of his proposal is restructuring the state’s business license fee from a flat $200 per year to rates tied to gross receipts. Under the governor’s plan, license fees would range from $400 to up to $4 million annually depending on the type of industry and gross receipts. No business currently receives gross revenue warranting the highest tier rate.

Critics argue the business license fee proposal is similar to an initiative position rejected by voters in November. The governor’s office disagrees, countering his plan imposes different, lower rates based on industry type, as opposed to the 2 percent margins tax that was on the ballot.

Nevada voters “made it clear that they wanted their representatives to govern and improve the quality of our schools without raising taxes,” Wheeler said.

Supporters said the alternative budget would require only a majority of votes in each chamber because it doesn’t contain a tax or fee increase. The governor’s plan needs a two-thirds majority — or 14 votes in the Senate and 28 in the Assembly — for passage.

They called their measure a “work in progress,” and conceded a revenue shortfall of roughly $46 million would need to be filled.

The alternative budget would put money earmarked for such things as class size reduction, full-day kindergarten and early childhood development into a Student Achievement Block Grant and let school administrators decide how best to use the funding.

It eliminates many aspects of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and abolishes grants to regional development authorities. In addition, it would eliminate GOED’s Catalyst Fund used to entice businesses to move to or expand in Nevada, and shut down the Knowledge Fund, a program designed to encourage research, innovation and commercialization in Nevada.

The alternative budget also recommends increasing state employee contributions to their retirement, suspending rate increases to Medicaid providers, allowing temporary “sunset” taxes enacted in 2009 to expire and extending suspension of deductions for mining companies when calculating net proceeds taxes.

While proponents say they have support for the plan, they have an uphill climb and little time given the 120-day legislative session is at the midpoint. Both the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees have already begun closing state agency budgets.

Serious consideration would require the support of Republican leadership in the Senate and Assembly. Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, is a key backer of the governor’s plan. He said Monday he has not seen any details of the Assembly GOP proposal, which would have to be drafted into bill form.

Roberson, chairman of the Senate Revenue Committee, has scheduled a Tuesday vote on Sandoval’s business license fee measure, Senate Bill 252.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Find her on Twitter: @SandraChereb

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
RJ Politics Podcast with Deval Patrick - VIDEO
2020 Presidential Candidate Deval Patrick joins hosts Rory Appleton and Steve Sebelius on the RJ Politics Podcast.
Tom Steyer on Donald Trump and the economy - Video
Tom Steyer joins the RJ Politics podcast to talk about his campaign presence in Nevada and how he plans to take Trump on when talking about the economy. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas City Council Votes On Homeless Ordinance - Video
The Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday will discuss expanding on a controversial camping and sleeping ban aimed at deterring the homeless from bivouacking on city streets to include hours when public sidewalks are being cleaned.
Biden meets with Vegas Latino community - VIDEO
Presidential candidate Joe Biden met with members of the Latino community at Rancho High School. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Henderson, other Nevada cities consent to refugee resettlement - VIDEO
Henderson will continue to welcome refugees for resettlement, according to a December letter from Mayor Debra March. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg Speaks At Black Empowerment Event - Video
Pete Buttigieg speaks at a black empowerment event to talk about his Douglass plan.
Joe Biden at the national hospitality workers union.
Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to members of the national hospitality workers union during UNITE HERE's town hall on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 at Culinary Union Hall in Las Vegas. @bizutesfaye
Elizabeth Warren at Culinary Union
Elizabeth Warren speaks at a Culinary Union town hall in Las Vegas on Dec. 9, 2019.
Secretary of Education visits Henderson school
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited students at Pinecrest Academy in Henderson to talk about college planning on Dec. 4, 2019. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump dropped from Terry Fator’s show on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
Fator has edited out one prominent figure: President Donald Trump, a focal point of Fator’s regular stage show and also Christmas show over the past 3½ years. The Trump puppet, with his pop-up hairpiece, has been sidelined from both shows until further notice. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Accused murder mastermind Frank LaPena is granted a pardon - VIDEO
A onetime Las Vegas casino bell captain who spent 25 years in prison as the accused mastermind in a notorious 1974 contract murder won his last legal battle for freedom Wednesday when the state Pardons Board granted him a conditional pardon restoring all his civil rights. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Middle: Nonpartisan voters and the 2020 election
How will the growing segment of nonpartisan or independent voters — those who have not registered with either political party, or who have left partisan politics behind — vote in 2020?
Teachers union files initiative to raise Nevada’s gaming tax

An initiative to raise the top tier of the Nevada gaming tax, sponsored by the Clark County Education Association, would raise an estimated $315 million per year.