CARSON CITY - The Republican minority leadership in the Senate and the Assembly has called on critics of GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed budget to trade their "rhetoric for a plan."
The comments in a letter from Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, and Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, are in response to criticisms from Democrat lawmakers on various elements of Sandoval's proposed budget released Jan. 24.
Democrats have not yet offered an alternative to Sandoval's $5.8 billion general fund budget that includes many program cuts and also shifts the cost of some programs to the counties. Democratic leaders last week said they first have to assess the depth of the cuts in Sandoval's budget before offering an alternative.
In the letter released Tuesday, the two lawmakers said: "We ask them to join us in supporting the governor's vision of service before self - a vision that reins in spending, makes government more responsive and calls for shared sacrifice over individual gain.
"We hope they will join us, but should they oppose our efforts to reform government they owe it to you to provide a plan of their own," McGinness and Goicoechea said. "They owe it to every Nevadan to begin providing specific details of not just their plan, but also how they propose to fund it.
"Nevadans deserve an honest and open debate. We call on Nevada leaders regardless of ideology or party affiliation to spend a little less time on rhetoric and a little more time working together toward real solutions."
The lawmakers also suggested that Democrats are attempting to mislead the public about Sandoval's budget.
"Unfortunately some have chosen to dust off an old political strategy designed to confuse the public," they said. "By presenting a barrage of numbers from a variety of sources, they seek not to advance an agenda of their own but, to confuse the issue."
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, last week called some of Sandoval's budget numbers on public education funding misleading and understating the magnitude of his proposed cuts. He called the use of the numbers "trickery."
Horsford said Sandoval should use the legislatively approved budget as of the 2009 session, not the budget that was changed as a result of further cuts made in the February 2010 special session, for comparison purposes. Sandoval's budget cuts don't appear as severe when compared to the further reduced budget as a result of the special session.
Chief of Staff Heidi Gansert said during the hearing last week there was no intent to mislead, only to use the most current budget numbers.
Republican lawmakers are not unified, however, in support of Sandoval's budget. Long-time state Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, told the Las Vegas Sun on Tuesday that tax increases may be necessary to balance the spending plan.
He made his comments after hearing the effect of Sandoval's proposed cuts and program shifts on a variety of critical programs, from mental health courts to child welfare.
Democrats in the Senate would need support from three Republicans to get the 14 votes needed to raise taxes. Assembly Democrats would need the support of two Republicans to get the 28 votes they would need. A two-thirds vote would be required to raise taxes and override a governor's veto.
Newly elected state Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, has said Horsford does not have the votes in the Senate needed to raise taxes.
His comment came after Horsford in early January sent a letter to supporters and constituents suggesting the next two-year state budget is facing an attack from "extreme right-wing" interests who will use the current economic crisis to "dismantle our state."
All this has come before the 2011 legislative session even begins. The session gets under way on Monday.