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June 30, 2015

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Democrats’ schism aggravates budget turmoil; Republicans remain relaxed

Kelvin Atkinson

Kelvin Atkinson

Brian Sandoval

Brian Sandoval

Sun archives

CARSON CITY — Even to a casual observer it would have been obvious — just from pure body language, that the Republicans came out ahead in the flurry of last-minute budget negotiations Tuesday morning.

Gov. Brian Sandoval left a meeting with legislative Republicans loose and relaxed, chatting with reporters about his optimism that his budget will make it through the Legislature.

The Republican lawmakers in the meeting restated their support for the governor’s budget and rolled their eyes at the difficulties Democrats were having. “It’s easy being in the minority,” one Republican senator quipped.

The Democrats, meanwhile, scattered through the building in turmoil. Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, in tears, complained to a lobbyist outside the building that he couldn’t support what his leadership was asking him to.

“They can’t tell me to vote for something I don’t like and then tell me I have five minutes to make up my mind,” Atkinson said after Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, told his caucus of the cuts they would have to accept as part of a deal he was working out with Republicans.

The meeting came just 12 hours after Oceguera broke the news to his caucus that the ambitious tax plan he had crafted with Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, was dead. That plan, which was supposed to not only save the state from the deep cuts to education and social services proposed by Sandoval but provide a more stable revenue footing, had kept alive the hopes of the Democratic caucuses.

They spent hours hearing testimony on plans to create a services tax and a margin tax on business revenue. They developed arguments for the funding they believe is needed to prevent painful cuts. And they promised constituents that they were doing all they could to pass an alternative to Sandoval’s budget.

But Tuesday morning, they were asked to go into a joint money committee meeting and vote for cuts, to get lawmakers a budget without the tax increases. They were crestfallen.

“They shot too high,” one observer said of Democratic leaders. “I don’t know how they bring their caucus back down now.”

The fallout included a near meltdown by the Assembly Democrats. Ten of the 26 are freshmen, who are experiencing for the first time the brutality of budget negotiations during which idealism often falls prey to reality.

Several, along with some veteran lawmakers including Atkinson, revolted.

Atkinson, a key vote on the money committee needed for Democrats to make the cuts they had planned Tuesday morning, outright refused to back the deal.

Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, an ambitious freshman, worked with others to rally a bloc of freshmen for a last-ditch effort to come up with a deal where the leadership had failed.

“Every session there’s been a big blowup,” Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said. “The difference this session is you have so many freshmen that they can form a more powerful bloc.”

The division in the Assembly caucus was foreshadowed earlier in the session when nine Democrats voted against Oceguera’s signature education reform bill.

The rift in the Democratic caucus forced a daylong postponement of the joint money committee meeting.

Oceguera and other leaders put a hold on budget negotiations as well, hoping to give members time to digest the death of the tax proposal and allow cooler heads to prevail.

“Everyone needs to take a deep breath,” Speaker Pro Tem Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said. “We went for a couple walks. We just have to keep talking. People are tired, frustrated. We all want to save the state. It’s really just about talking to people.”

Veteran lobbyist Greg Ferraro characterized the rift as typical of end-of-session budget negotiations.

“With 13 days to go, sometimes things have to fall apart before they can move forward,” he said.

By the end of the day, with emotions calmed, Democrats rescheduled their money committee meeting, plowing forward with the cuts.

But as Democrats try to piece themselves back together and negotiate again with Republicans, Sandoval calmly waits.

His senior staff is reworking the $6.3 billion budget, perhaps piecing together a small amount of additional revenue and looking for ways to address the top concerns of their opponents.

“We are still making adjustments within the budget,” Sandoval’s Chief of Staff Heidi Gansert said.

And the closer Democrats get to a Saturday deadline to forge agreement on an alternative to Sandoval’s budget, the less their chances of success.

“They have a balanced budget that they can adopt right now,” Sandoval reminded reporters. “I am optimistic. That’s what I’ve been saying from the first day.”

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  1. When will the Democrats realize that their days of largess at the expense of the taxpayers are over? The States are broke, the nation is broke and the die-hard liberals are still living in their foggy past of deficit spending and punitive taxation, all the way from DC down to City Hall.

    Kudos to Governor Sandoval for staying the course of trying to put the economy of our beloved Silver State back on solid footing.

  2. Of coarse the republicans are relaxed. They are dealing with a bunch of tax a spend politicians that have a loosing hand. Their strategy is poor. Their message is flawed. Their actions are not based on the reality of the earthly relm. Maybe they should go spend some time with the hobbits.

  3. Hey, Stivers...
    maybe you should spend some time with a teacher.

  4. People do tend to be happiest when they are most ignorant. Therefore, Republicans and conservatives in general are the happiest people on Earth.

  5. The dumbing down of Nevader...
    We've hit a HOME RUN for our KIDS...

    All the TeaNuts, from Almond to Filbert to the RockNut, weigh in with "TeaTalk, Nevader Style"...

    "The Democrats would rather see programs like Medicare,Medicaid and Social Security go broke rather than fix them."

    "The States are broke, the nation is broke and the die-hard liberals are still living in their foggy past of deficit spending and punitive taxation"

    "Things can get a bit testy when your running out of money at the same time your trying to pay off constituencies."

    "if you believe in big tax increases then give money, support and your votes to people who also proudly believe in big tax increases in public." (?)

    "The taxes proposed by Horsford and fellow Democrats would be have chased new and existing businesses from the State."

    WELL DONE, TeaNuts!
    Just like they scripted it for ya... Well done INDEED!


  6. Only in politics is the failure to increase a budget by $900,000,000 considered a "cut".

    Lets see, there are 2.6M people living in NV, and the collected tax revenue is $6B. That's $2,307 per person. And you can't properly run the state on that? Seriously?

  7. Have a talk with your children...

    "Well, kiddo's, you lost today. The big people up in Carson City have decided it's OKAY to de-fund your Public Education. That means bad things for your school. But don't worry! You really don't NEED to be 'educated', per-se... you can become any kind of IGNORANT FOOL you want! This IS America, after all! And, LUCKY FOR YOU, we live in a VERY IGNORANT PLACE! This is the 'Land Of Opportunity' for ignorant, uneducated workers!

  8. I know 4 teachers here in town. 2 of them are stupid. Can't believe they ever graduated high school much less made it this far in life without someone thinning the pool.

    the other two are very articulate caring people that truly care about the kids and probably do a very good job.

    Too bad both of them are young teachers and will probably loose thier jobs because their union says seniority is king. The school system as it is here is doomed to fail. The kids were stupid when they were flush with cash.

    Funding is not the problem!

  9. I think someone is full of B O L O G N A!!!

  10. I can't stand people saying that funding isn't the problem with education. The reality is that with Sandoval's budget we'll have 45 kids in HS classes and up to 35 in 5th grade rooms. The only result of these increased class-sizes will be more dropouts and fewer companies moving to Nevada because we have devalued education. Look at the Bay Area and despite very high taxes high tech companies are based there...why? A VERY EDUCATED WORKFORCE with world-class universities. If low taxes were the answer then Nevada would have some of the lowest unemployment in the country. Give up your No New Taxes garbage as it is simply selfishness at the cost of our children.

  11. No one has addressed that even when education here is fully funded the kids still performed poorly. All i here about is funding and class sizes. When the class sizes were small...poor performance...fully funded...poor performance.

    Good money after bad. The program sucks. Sure if you make the classes bigger in a terrible program it will get worse. No argument here. My problem is why put good money after bad.

  12. " A welcome sight would be to see the next Microsoft or Dell start-up here then have high tech business growth follow but to lure high tech businesses away from any of the states mentioned would be a hard sell and you would need to offer tax incentives/abatements to these companies which many in your field apparently are against."

    Ha ha ha ha ha!!!
    Ho ho ho ho ho!!!
    He he he he he!!!

    Thanks for the KNEE SLAPPER, EH122...
    Funny, funny stuff!

    That WAS a JOKE, right???

  13. Raise taxes on mining.

    Get a team of attorneys to sue over education, prison funding, health and safety funding. Do fold to this GOVO.2

  14. Tanker. Ur right. Sandovol already fixed that problem and has had someone going through the deductions. Too bad even the dems dream bill didn't tackle minning just everyone else. Where is the bill from the dems who control both houses in the state to start the ball rolling on taxing those mine companies I wonder?

    Think you'll be waiting a long time on that one. Wonder what Dirty Harry would say about that?

  15. Its time for the people of this state to call their legislator at 1-800-978-2878 and demand that the foreign mining corporations pay their fair share in taxes. So many of their expenses are written off that its not fair to the citizens of this state. Nevada's working families are losing their jobs due to the efforts of Republicans who want to make sure that the taxes these families pay go straight into the pockets of Canadian and European corporations who take our gold, silver, and money back to their lands at a net deficit to us. Call today and demand that their taxes be raised instead of what republicans are planning-raising taxes on Nevada's working families!!