Nevada Senate Republicans file promised lawsuit to block divisive Democratic tax extension

A new lawsuit could blow a $100 million hole in Nevada’s recently passed budget. 

The suit, filed by state Senate Republicans on Friday, takes aim at a divisive revenue-raising maneuver used to balance the budget without GOP input. 

It arrives more than two months after outnumbered legislative Republicans first vowed to challenge Democrats’ decision to extend a payroll tax that had been set to sunset this month. 

GOP lawmakers have long argued the move was unlawful, citing a state constitutional provision that requires a two-thirds majority vote for any measure that “creates, generates, or increases any public revenue.”

Democrats, who remain a single vote shy of a supermajority in the state Senate, pushed ahead anyway, pointing to a May opinion from legislative attorneys that said the tax could be extended with a simple majority vote.

That missive seemingly preserved a nine-digit income stream vital to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s first-ever spending plan.

Now, the fate of that budget may be left to a judge.

This month's Pints and Politics included State Senator Nicole Cannizzaro and Minority Leader Senator James Settelmeyer. The event was moderated by RGJ political reporter James DeHaven at Craft Wine-n-Beer in Midtown on Tuesday Feb. 26, 2019.   (Photo: Andy Barron/RGJ)

This month's Pints and Politics included State Senator Nicole Cannizzaro and Minority Leader Senator James Settelmeyer. The event was moderated by RGJ political reporter James DeHaven at Craft Wine-n-Beer in Midtown on Tuesday Feb. 26, 2019. (Photo: Andy Barron/RGJ)

“We have checks and balances for a reason and eroding the two-thirds requirement is an unprecedented disregard for the constitution and creates a dangerous precedent,” state Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer said in a statement announcing Friday’s suit. “While there was ample money to fund education and other vital programs, Sisolak and (Senate Majority Leader Nicole) Cannizzaro acted recklessly and their behavior created an unnecessary constitutional crisis at the expense of over 23,000 small business in Nevada.”

Settelmeyer, R-Minden, later told the RGJ the suit would not have an immediate impact on state spending because of some $175 million in funds left over from earlier budget decisions.

"In no way shape or form does this lawsuit — when it’s successful, and it will be successful — jeopardize any state program or education funding," he said. 

It remains unclear if lawmakers would have to go into a special session to rework the budget in the event a judge strikes down the tax extension.

Neither Sisolak nor Cannizzaro immediately issued statements in response to the court filing. 

Sisolak in June told reporters he trusted legislative attorneys’ opinion on the tax maneuver’s legality.

Source: https://www.rgj.com/story/news/politics/2019/07/19/gop-suit-could-blow-hole-nevadas-budget/1783478001/

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