Republican legislative leader suggests sales tax on food

CARSON CITY — Voters should be asked to impose a statewide sales tax on food to help fill a swelling budget deficit, the Republican minority leader in the Assembly suggested Monday.

"I believe that we should have had a 2 percent sales tax on food on the ballot this fall," Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said on KRNV-TV’s Nevada Newsmakers.

Tax on food not intended for immediate consumption is banned by the Nevada Constitution. Amending the constitution requires passage by voters in two successive general elections.

Nevada faces a $3 billion deficit for the two-year budget cycle that begins July 1. Goicoechea said state programs and services will face "significant cuts" but also reiterated a previous statement that new taxes are likely, given the dire projected shortfall.

Nevada’s two main gubernatorial candidates — Republican Brian Sandoval and Democrat Rory Reid — have said they will not raise taxes .

Democrats have a 28-14 majority in the Assembly and a 12-9 edge in the state Senate. Goicoechea said his goal as minority leader is to narrow, if not strip, the Democrats of their super-majority status in the lower chamber and give the GOP caucus "enough clout" in budget negotiations to be relevant.

It will be up to the winner of November’s gubernatorial race to present a budget for lawmakers to consider when they convene in February.

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