Coalition supports Nevada gov’s tax plan |

Coalition supports Nevada gov’s tax plan

Associated Press

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — The casino industry and the state’s largest union are joining with Nevada police and firefighters to fund a grass-roots effort to back a broad-based business tax to solve the state’s fiscal crisis.

Gov. Kenny Guinn projects a $704 million deficit in fiscal 2004-05, and has proposed a $1 billion package of tax increases to cover the shortfall and fund some new programs.

The Committee to Keep Building Nevada backs the governor’s call for new tax revenue.

The coalition’s effort is being coordinated by veteran Nevada grass-roots political consultant Gail Tuzzolo, who plans an immediate direct-mail pitch to generate support for a broad-based business tax.

“I think the groundswell is out there and it’s up to us to capture it,” Tuzzolo said. “In a grass-roots campaign, success depends on the power of your message, and we have a strong one.”

Tuzzolo said backers are seizing on three of the state’s critical needs to emphasize the need for new business taxes: schools, prescription drugs for the elderly and safe streets.

The coalition’s first effort will be a 100,000-piece flier, a $50,000 pitch to Nevada voters. The fliers, which should be in residents’ mailboxes early next week, tout a campaign for safe neighborhoods.

The flier also says that “big out-of-state corporations pay nothing to Nevada on the money they make in Nevada.

“But they charge us the same prices they charge in states where they pay millions in taxes,” the flier adds.

Tuzzolo expects to mail at least one more piece of direct mail, a number she expects to increase as the coalition adds other groups and businesses that support its aims.

“We’re going to pound away at the phones and at relationships to grow our coalition,” she said.

The Committee to Keep Building Nevada is operating on contributions from The Nevada Resort Association; the Culinary union, representing about 50,000 maids, food-service workers and bellmen; the Nevada State AFL-CIO; the Police Protective Association and Professional Firefighters of Nevada.

In a related development, the leader of Nevadans for Tax Restraint has asked the attorney general to investigate why Guinn’s proposed budget increase for the next fiscal year outstrips population growth and inflation.

Dan Burdish, chairman of the organization, said Guinn has submitted a budget request to increase spending in the 2003-04 fiscal year by 21 percent over current year figures.

In making his request for an investigation, Burdish cited a state law that requires the governor to submit budget information that shows the cost of continuing each program at current service levels.

According to Burdish, the governor needs to increase spending by only 6 percent in the next fiscal year to keep current level spending. He based that assertion on population growth of 3.6 percent and annual inflation of 2.4 percent.

“It just doesn’t work,” added Burdish, a Las Vegas businessman. “Something is fishy.”

Greg Bortolin, Guinn’s spokesman, defended the governor’s proposals.

“The 21 percent increase is one way of looking at it, but all most of the additional money does is maintain services at existing levels,” he said.

Attorney General Brian Sandoval said Nevada governors have wide latitude in budget calculations, and Burdish was making “an unconsidered attempt” to link the civil law on budget information to a criminal violation “which simply cannot be done.”