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July 29, 2015

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Dems mum on remedy for budget shortfall

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Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford and Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, both Democrats, discuss the budget in Carson City earlier this session.

Democratic legislative leaders continue to decline to provide specifics about how they'll fix the state's fiscal mess.

Instead, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford and Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, both Las Vegas Democrats, held a press conference today to discuss the schedule for how budget deliberations will proceed.

After holding hearings in February and March to determine what can be cut, which tax incentives can be done away with and what the state can't do without, they'll know how much money the state needs, then they'll begin working on the revenue side, they said. A tax increase seems inevitable.

State government has a shortfall of $2 billion or more. Gov. Jim Gibbons released his budget two weeks ago, calling for a 6 percent pay cut for teachers and state workers, as well as a 36 percent cut to the state's higher education system.

His budget has been roundly criticized, by Democrats as well as the business-friendly Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. Buckley and Horsford said they'd release a revenue plan April 17.

Not releasing a plan now insulates them from criticism, at least for the time being, while buying them time in case the federal government's stimulus plan comes through with significant money for Nevada, as expected.

Horsford and Buckley said they aren't releasing a plan now because they want a transparent, thoughtful, deliberate process. Most observers think they likely have some plan in mind already, however.

The two leaders also proposed a renewable energy initiative and legislation to lessen the continuing spike in foreclosures.

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