Guinn asks teachers, Neal to abandon tax petitions

Gov. Kenny Guinn on Tuesday asked state Sen. Joe Neal and the teachers' association to drop their petition drives seeking tax increases.

"Instead, I invite them to join me at the table and find economic solutions for the good of all of us - not just for today, tomorrow, next week and next year but for the long-term good of our state," said Guinn.

He made the statements in a Las Vegas speech to the Nevada Taxpayers Association luncheon, which was attended primarily by businessmen who would pay the proposed taxes.

But the teachers association made it clear it intends to file and circulate initiative petition anyway.

And Neal said Guinn is a little late, because the governor and Legislature refused to discuss his proposed 2 percent gaming tax increase during the 1999 session.

He said he too will push forward with the initiative calling for a 5 percent gaming tax increase.

Guinn said his administration is conducting a thorough review of state government, deciding what services the state should provide and what its priorities should be. He said those priorities should be decided by all the parties affected.

He said the goal is to develop recommendations to the 2001 Legislature that will meet the needs of the state and its people.

"Together we have begun the important task of deciding what our priorities are and what all Nevadans demand as essential services from state government," he said. "But now we face a problem. We face an onslaught of individual efforts that would decide independently what Nevada's priorities should be and how we will pay for them."

Both Neal, D-North Las Vegas, and Ken Lange, executive director of the Nevada State Education Association, said they are willing to talk with Guinn - but that they want more than talk.

"We put 2 percent on the table during the last session and that was turned down," said Neal. "Neither the governor nor the gaming folks would come to us and discuss any kind of compromise."

He said that forced him and others who believe gaming doesn't pay its fair share to file their initiative petition calling for a 5 percent increase.

"We were forced to go the constitutional route, and now they want to compromise," said Neal.

He said the governor and gaming leaders are going to have to make a deal.

"We haven't heard any solutions coming forward out of the governor's office and we haven't heard any solutions coming from the business community," said Lange, adding that he doesn't understand the talk about setting priorities.

"I think it ought to be a foregone conclusion that kids and teachers are a priority for the state of Nevada," he said.

Lange said the initiative petition is "the beginning of a dialogue, not the end." He said the association has carefully researched and developed a proposal that will be detailed later this month and which fairly imposes a tax program needed to generate $150 million-$200 million a year for education.

"The petition is designed to put money into classrooms for programs that help students do better," he said.

Guinn argued that the initiative petitions will divide the state.

"The effects of these efforts pit our major industry against taxpayers and the business community against educators," he said. "It is divisive, it is destructive and it will tear apart our state."

He said Neal and the teachers should join his staff and lawmakers to develop an economic plan "that will extend beyond the next biennium and provide a sound platform for the economic future of our state."

Guinn's policy and fiscal staff are working on a fundamental review of state agency operations, programs and budgets. That committee has been charged with determining how effectively the state is providing appropriate services and how wisely taxpayer dollars are being spent.

In May, Guinn has called a statewide Fiscal Forum to develop a more accurate picture of state needs and resources.

He said all that will culminate in a state of the state address next January that presents a plan "forged by consensus and created out of a process that is inclusive, not divisive."

"We're more than willing to talk," said Lange. "But there has to be a boundary out there that says, beyond good will, somebody will go forward to make sure the kids of this state get what they need."


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