Gibbons threatens budget veto
Gov. Jim Gibbons threatened Wednesday to veto the budget if lawmakers don’t give him certain things he considers top priorities.
The list includes funding for his empowerment schools program, funding the Nevada ChalleNGe National Guard program for wayward teens and funding for a homeland security Fusion Hub in Carson City.
And he said he wants to continue the current business tax rate of 0.63 percent of payroll, rather than letting the tax break approved two years ago sunset.
“I will not accept the budget if it does not have some of those moderate concessions,” he said.
Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, said the threat was a bad move.
“He shouldn’t have done that,” Arberry said. “It’s not necessary to draw a line in the sand. If there are issues, we need to sit down and talk about them. Not this.”
Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, vice chairwoman of Ways and Means, said the threat “isn’t helpful.”
“I find it surprising the Education First governor isn’t threatening a veto over inadequate education funding instead of inconsequential programs,” she said.
Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, described the threat as “baffling.” She said Gibbons is essentially threatening to shut down state government “because of a Fusion Center even law enforcement doesn’t want.” And, she said, most lawmakers support the idea of empowerment schools so accusing her of blocking that program makes no sense.
She said Gibbons should have had his staff ask her or Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, for the priorities he listed Wednesday, and that he should have done so a month ago, not 10 days before the end of session.
Gibbons offered somewhat of a compromise on the business tax rate. His proposed budget asks that tax be further reduced to 0.62 percent of total wages paid by businesses instead of letting it go back to 0.65 percent. It also calls for elimination of the branch tax on banks.
But he said on Wednesday he would give up on eliminating the branch tax and agree to the 0.63 percent rate if lawmakers agree to put that hundredth of a percent toward empowerment schools.
He said his schools plan needs to be funded to provide the extra support per pupil in those schools.
“I’m not ready to accept a minuscule, inconsequential program,” he said.
Between the business tax rate and the branch tax, that would generate $15.3 million for empowerment.
Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said there’s no way she can support the governor’s proposals.
“He says his priority is education. That’s not about education, it’s about helping his business friends.”
Gibbons said the ChalleNGe program is one of the “most successful alternative secondary education programs in the U.S.”
Titus described it as “a feeder for the National Guard, and we’re trying to get the guard home from Iraq.”
He also wants $651,493 to fund a Fusion Hub in Carson City to bring together homeland security intelligence collected in the Reno and Las Vegas centers. He said security issues are vital to Nevada’s economic health and a central collection point for all intelligence is critical to protecting the state.
Titus said law enforcement officials have said that isn’t necessary or wanted.
“Fusion Center,” she said. “It should be called a confusion center. It’s not needed.”
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.