Guinn says money may be too tight for state worker raises

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RENO -- Gov. Kenny Guinn told the State of Nevada Employees Association Thursday he would sign a law providing them with collective bargaining rights but that it won't do them much good unless the state can raise more revenue.

"What good does collective bargaining do for you if there's no money in the bank to collective bargain for?" he asked the union's annual convention in Reno.

He also pointed out he not only supported 4 percent a year raises for state workers in the 2001 Legislature, but made it a part of the budget.

This next session, he said, there may not be any money to give raises.

"I'm not going to blow smoke at you and say there's going to be a lot of new money for salaries," he said.

But he told the nearly 100 state workers attending he's already made all the cuts possible without damaging services, and the state needs more revenue. He repeated his estimate that the shortfall will be about $240 million by the end of the two-year budget.

Guinn said the problem centers on the fact that Nevada's primary revenue sources -- gaming and sales taxes -- are susceptible to economic swings and their growth isn't necessarily tied to population growth.

"Whatever we do with our income streams, it's got to be tied to something that's going to grow as we grow," he said.

One argument he said won't stand up to scrutiny is that the state needs to reduce waste before increasing taxes. His administration has already reviewed state operations and done just that, Guinn said.

"Nobody's going to come to me and say you have to cut more," he said. "That's over. We've done it."

He didn't say directly he plans to raise taxes. He referred several times in his speech to "money that comes in but we don't get to keep any of that money."

The reference is to the contention by Guinn and some legislative leaders that local governments in the state are much wealthier than the state and either some of those funds should be shifted to the state or some of the programs now paid by the state should be shifted to local governments.

Guinn received a warm reception from employee association officials who praised him for including 4 percent raises in his budget last year. The group has endorsed him for re-election.


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