Guinn: Tax fight necessary for schools, state's future

ELKO, Nev. (AP) -- Despite an effort to recall him, Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn says he has no regrets about the record $836 million tax increase over two years that he signed into law this summer.

"There's not a thing I would change. ... Providing those dollars for education will be the salvation of the state in years to come," Guinn said in a speech at Great Basin College.

Guinn said Wednesday "people have a right" to seek a recall but he believes he still has the support of Nevada voters.

"I lost a few friends, gained a few friends," he said. He said the state had not raised taxes in more than 13 years and that new revenue was needed in the nation's fastest growing state to fund education as well as other important social programs.

"Millions of dollars would have had to have been cut," he said, adding that it would have meant cuts in K through 12 education as well as higher education.

Paul Killpatrick, president of Great Basin College, lauded the governor's support for higher education, especially his backing of the early childhood literacy program at the college.

Great Basin College is the only community college in the state that offers the literacy program and has received more than $470,000 in funding during the past two sessions of the Legislature, Killpatrick said.

Steve Houk, president of the GBC student government association, also applauded Guinn for his stance on education funding.

Guinn demonstrated great "integrity in not backing down or reopening the budget," Houk said to applause.

Guinn said the "battle is not over" when it comes to taxes and the state budget, although he has gone on record following this year's budget fight saying he would not be seeking new taxes when he proposes a spending plan for the final time in 2005.

He said the lack of a "broad-based" tax in this session's package will mean the state will be back in a "very difficult position" four to six years from now.

In a separate appearance Wednesday at the Mining Energy Solutions Conference in Elko, Guinn commended gold mining companies for stepping up to the plate and saying they were willing to help Nevada by paying additional taxes.

"We were in dire straits, and they said they would pay their fair share," Guinn said.

He told the audience at the Elko Convention Center that mining is important to Nevada "in so many ways.

"There is no doubt mining is a critical part of our economy," he said.

Russ Fields, president of the Nevada Mining Association, said mining Nevada mines provide 9,000 direct jobs a year, with average pay of $62,000 a year for the workers, and the industry paying $100 million in taxes per year.

Guinn said it's important to remember that mining is an international industry.

"We know they must be competitive with the international market, so that's why it's great to be here for a conference to talk about energy conservation and energy efficiency," he said.

"Saving energy is almost as good as finding gold for Nevada's mines."


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