Gibbons still against more taxes, but suggests salary cuts for state employees
Gov. Jim Gibbons said Monday he is still against raising taxes unless the people or businesses paying the higher freight support the increase.
But he indicated he is willing to consider the idea of reducing state salaries to balance the budget.
“I’m willing to take a salary reduction,” he said, saying that would be a better option than layoffs. “It should start at the top.”
It would require a special session of the Legislature to reduce salaries. Gibbons said that decision won’t be made until after he and legislative leaders meet again Nov. 17 to discuss ideas on how to balance the budget.
“We’re in a very dire time,” he said.
He said he has gotten a mixed response to his Friday statement that “everything has to be on the table.” That was interpreted by many as a softening of his adamant opposition to raising taxes.
Gibbons said he supports raising revenues but doesn’t believe that necessarily means a tax increase.
“I said a year ago if the public had endorsed or supported a tax, I would approve it,” he said after the Board of Examiners meeting. “The guys paying the burden would have to approve the burden.”
He said, however, that lawmakers have the ability to raise revenues.
“If they believe an increase is necessary, they have the authority,” he said, pointing out that the two-thirds majority needed to pass a tax hike is the same number of votes needed to override him if he vetoed it.
Asked about temporary increases in taxes and fees, Gibbons said any increase would have to have a defined sunset in it.
“I don’t like the word temporary,” he said adding that “temporary” tends to become permanent unless there is a sunset in the legislation.
Republican and Democratic legislative leaders alike say they’ll work with Gibbons to find ways of dealing with the budget woes.
Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said after Friday’s session with the governor that the state is in “survival” mode and can’t cope with deep cuts that would be needed if gloomy revenue predictions from fiscal experts are accurate.
Raggio also said he wants no part of partisan wrangling over any budget solutions, including taxes, adding, “I’m at that point in my life that I’m going to do what’s right for the state of Nevada.”
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, said that while more cuts are needed, they must be made “in a methodical and deliberate way and not just slash the budget across the board indiscriminately.”
State agencies have requested $7.2 billion for the next two fiscal years, but state Budget Director Andrew Clinger said $1 billion may have to be cut from those requests unless revenues improve.
The funding requests reflect 14 percent reductions for most agencies. An additional $1 billion would mean increase the cuts to 33-34 percent, and Raggio said the state “could not survive at 34 percent or anything near that in our essential services.”
– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750. The Associated Press contributed to this story.