LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — During the 2019 legislative session teachers took to the streets demanding higher funding and pay raises from lawmakers and got their wish.
Approaching the 2021 legislative session, the state budget has dropped by an estimated $500 million from 2019 creating funding anxiety among educators in Southern Nevada.
Legislative leadership on both sides of the political divide agreed that funding education would be a priority in the state's biennium budget.
"We're definitely still taking the needs of teachers very seriously," said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro.
While agreeing education funding would be a priority, Cannizzaro was hesitant to support two tax increase initiatives pushed onto the legislative docket by the Clark County Education Association.
One would increase sales taxes, and the second would increase gaming tax.
"I think there are legitimate questions about whether those are the right mechanisms to move forward," she said.
Cannizzaro said the gaming industry has already been battered by coronavirus-related shutdowns and a drop in tourism.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said the sales tax increase would also fall onto the shoulders of people least able to afford it.
"Nevada already has one of the highest sales taxes in the country and so proposing to raise that again we don't necessarily think is appropriate, and we also think that it's regressive," he said.
By law, the legislature must consider the tax increases within the first 40 days of the session and pass them as written, or the tax increases will be placed on the ballot in 2022 for voters to consider.
Republican leaders, Senator James Settelmeyer and Assemblywoman Robin Titus, said there was little enthusiasm to pass the initiatives as written in that time frame.
"I don't think there is a desire for the majority party to actually vote on those" Settelmeyer said, "I think it's a situation where it will go to the voters."
Titus had her own reservations about the tax initiatives going to the ballot, saying the legislature needs to overhaul the state's tax system instead.
"Taking those tax increases to the ballot box is not a good way to solve our tax problem," she said. "My belief is that there hasn't been a really good overview of the entire tax structure for decades and I think that's really where we need to look. We can't just continue to plug the dam with our fingers."
The 2021 legislative session will begin on Feb. 1 in Carson City.