Tuesday, May 24, 2011 | 10:59 a.m.
While budget negotiations between legislative Democrats and Republicans have failed to yield a deal, Assembly Democrats may have more of a problem with a revolt from within their own caucus than their inability to swing Republican votes.
Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, and Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, are openly refusing to back the deal Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, has crafted to bring the budget to a close without a tax increase.
The rift has forced the indefinite postponement of a joint money committee meeting scheduled for this morning. Democrats had planned to start cutting some of the $968 million they had hoped to add to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget after realizing they would not be able to find the votes to pass a tax increase.
Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, is said to be attempting to form a bloc of freshman lawmakers to help bridge the divide. One source said she is working to bring the two factions of Assembly leadership together.
But another Republican lawmaker said she is reaching out to Republicans as well, frustrated with the inability of leadership to reach a deal.
Emotions are running high as leadership works to bring a budget deal to a close before Friday, which would give them enough time to override Sandoval’s promised veto of a budget that includes either tax increases or an extension of 2009 tax hikes set to expire.
“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, visibly upset.
Leaders are hoping the delay of the money committees will give lawmakers time to calm down before negotiations resume.
The rift in the Assembly, as well as the efforts by freshmen lawmakers to exert some control illustrates the toll term limits have taken on the Legislature this year, removing from the mix many experienced lawmakers.