Fresh Ideas: ‘No new taxes’ won’t stop Nevada’s freefall
For the Nevada Appeal
During the State of the State last week, Gov. Jim Gibbons evoked the inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.” I think the governor meant that the hard work of balancing Nevada’s skewed budget comes with the opportunity to “reinvent” state government.
The governor is proposing to balance the budget, almost
$1 billion in the red, by eliminating jobs and essential services. Calling budget carnage “reinventing government” does not reform government or help the Nevadans who are losing jobs, services or homes.
“As your governor, my job is no different than that of your family or your business.” At a time when the state of Nevada is floundering, our governor views his job as “the challenge of balancing the budget, checkbook in one hand, bills in the other.” Leading Nevada through rough economic times should be more than “Father Knows Best.”
This governor’s approach lacks leadership and common sense. The governor is proudly standing by his “no new taxes” campaign promise of 2006.
“No new taxes is not a cliche. To me it means more than that. It is a plan.” That “plan” was made in the good times, before the economic downturn, before the foreclosure epidemic, the Las Vegas exodus, and before Nevada’s unemployment rate surged to an unlucky 13 percent. That plan was made during the good times when Nevada’s tax base should have been broadened to help our state weather hard times.
Now, in the hard times, the services of government are needed all the more. Nevadans should be able to depend upon state government to provide a safety net, for the unemployed, the elderly, the disabled, the mentally handicapped, children living on the edge, families in crisis, and for public education. The likely cuts to social services will result in more costs to local government and more pressure on hospitals to treat the growing number of indigent.
Nevada is in freefall. Sticking to his no-new-taxes pledge is like a trapeze artist who won’t grab the safety rope because it will ruin the act.
In these dire times, all programs should be scrutinized and justified and all sources of revenue should be considered.
At next week’s special session, which should focus solely on the budget crisis, the governor and legislators should consider all options to balance Nevada’s budget, including possible sources of revenue to preserve the essential safety net for Nevadans in need. As Thomas Edison said, “What you are will show in what you do.”
• Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City, and a part-time resident of Baker, Nev. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues.