Court would throw out budget increases

The Nevada Supreme Court is absolutely the wrong place for the Legislature's battle over taxes to be decided.

Is it inevitable? We don't think so. Lawmakers can still arrive at a workable compromise, and state government can continue to operate in the meantime.

A dose of reality needs to be injected into the debate at this point, however. To whit:

-- The Supreme Court isn't empowered to impose any new taxes.

-- Although the state constitution requires a balanced budget, the court will be dealing with only part of the equation. Legislators set a general-fund budget, but not the school budget.

-- The state won't shut down overnight. It continues to collect taxes at the status-quo level. It's the increase in taxes, or imposition of new taxes, that's being debated. In a two-year budget, it will be a long time before the coffers run dry.

-- The most logical decision of the Supreme Court would be to hold that the portion of the budget already approved is unconstitutional, as it lacks the necessary revenues to bring it into balance.

It would also be the prudent decision, as we doubt justices want to get into the business of raising taxes. Nor should they even consider such a move.

The state constitution says a two-thirds majority of each house is required to raise taxes. It also says the budget must be balanced. Therefore, because there's been no two-thirds vote in the Assembly, the court shouldn't have much trouble telling the Legislature to reopen the budget and start whittling.

At that point -- with the budget up for debate again -- the logjam will be broken, we believe, and legislators can come together on an acceptable figure.

Nevertheless, we would like to see the budget dilemma resolved without resorting to the precedent-setting step of involving the Supreme Court. The Legislature has the authority to do on its own what the court would order.


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