CARSON CITY — Democratic legislative leaders intend to release Friday a figure for how much they believe needs to be raised in new taxes to balance the budget, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley said Monday.
Gov. Jim Gibbons has proposed a two-year budget of $6.17 billion, which is 9.1 percent less than the $6.8 billion budget backed by the Legislature in 2007.
During her weekly press conference, Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said that legislators intend to add revenue to the Nevada System of Higher Education budget proposed by Gibbons.
The 36 percent or $473 million cut proposed by the governor in his budget for higher education simply will not do, nor would a 20 percent cut, she added.
Chancellor Jim Rogers said last week that he thought a 5 percent cut would be appropriate since it would be more in line with the reductions proposed for other agencies.
But Buckley said legislative leaders, including Republicans, told Rogers in a private meeting that higher education must be cut by more than 5 percent.
“We basically said, as much as we would like to give higher education a 5 percent cut, to do it would mean a 30 percent reduction in the Health and Human Services budget,” Buckley said. “We have to treat all the budgets equally. We cannot decimate one to help another.”
She would not give an exact figure on how much would be restored to the higher education budget under the proposal. She also would not talk about what specific tax increases will be proposed by legislators.
Also on Monday, a joint Senate-Assembly committee agreed to remove a 25,000- child cap on enrollment in Nevada Checkup, a health care program for poor children. Gibbons proposed the cap in his budget as a cost-saving measure. There is a waiting list of more than 3,000 children whose parents want to enroll them in the program.
They also rejected Gibbons’ proposal to merge the Commission on Tourism and the Commission on Economic Development, a step Gibbons thought would save $6,000.
And they decided to restore a program established by Buckley that provides prenatal care to pregnant women.
Daniel Burns, Gibbons’ communications director, reiterated that the governor will veto any tax increase. He said Buckley needs to be sure she has at least a two-thirds majority in both houses to override his veto. Democrats hold an 28-14 edge in the Assembly and a 12-9 advantage in the Senate.
“Here we are in the ninth week of the session and we are still unable to tell people whether they are going to raise your sales taxes, your business taxes, your gas taxes and the Legislature costs $125,000 a day,” Burns said. “If she is so sure she has support to raise taxes when people are being thrown out of their homes, thrown out of their jobs or having their wages cut, then she should be able to adjourn the session early and save $125,000 a day.”
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.