Early warning: No more tax increases

The start of the 2005 Legislature is still nine months away, but it's never too early to start reminding state agencies they shouldn't be expecting big increases in their budgets.

In fact, it might be worth sending a memo over to the University System regents, who last week in Elko saw a budget forecast calling for at least 11 percent more than the state's colleges and universities are getting under the current two-year cycle.

There was even talk of asking for a tax increase - which, as soon as Sen. Bill Raggio heard about it, he labeled a "dead issue." Good for you, Bill.

A large part of the reason we supported most of the tax increases approved by the 2003 Legislature was the reality of a growing population and Gov. Kenny Guinn's call to raise the standard of service for children, seniors and students.

Growth is especially evident in Nevada's schools, and it is sign of a strong future that the state's colleges and universities are accommodating more students while striving for excellence.

But the regents shouldn't need to be reminded the university budget received a 24 percent increase from the 2003 Legislature, that they also increased tuition and that they have made some questionable decisions in recent months that undermine the public's confidence in their ability to manage a $1 billion operation.

If they come to the 2005 Legislature to ask for another double-digit increase in funding, we predict they'll be told - either politely or firmly - no.

So they might as well start making those hard decisions now. Much of the increase being discussed is for new and enhanced programs. They're going to have to choose.

There's also a $200 million wish list for new buildings, which is the proposal that prompted talk of a tax increase. That timetable is too aggressive, unless new Chancellor Jim Rogers is able to rapidly turn up the jets on private fund-raising.

They need to come up with some ideas that don't involve returning to the well of taxpayer money and student tuition.


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