Gibbons: Up for challenge of reinventing government
Gov. Jim Gibbons says he has successfully guided the state through the worst and is ready for the challenge of reinventing state government during the next four years.
“I think the great satisfaction is knowing we have led this state through one of the most difficult times in its history,” he said in an interview Tuesday.
He said with that experience and his vision for a smaller, more efficient government, he is the best choice to lead Nevada in the coming four years.
“I’ve held the line on taxes, made government live within its means. I’ve worked diligently, day in and day out, getting people back to work, creating jobs for people. I’ve done the core things to get government off the back of the working families of Nevada.”
He said he pushed to create Empowerment schools, to develop a broad energy plan for the state and improved the safety of Nevadans with his homeland security programs, including creation of the fusion centers.
He said the job isn’t done yet.
“The next period as the state recovers from the recession is going to be equally difficult, equally challenging.”
Asked how he would handle a potential budget shortfall of nearly 50 percent of the current budget, he said the state needs to “re-engineer” its government.
“Most of that shortfall has been caused by the decades of overspending,” he said. “We’ve got to meet the realistic expectations of the people and taxpayers of Nevada.”
Gibbons agreed the state has never exceeded the statutory cap limiting budget growth to inflation plus population growth. He said it hasn’t worked: “It’s allowed us to overspend government for decades.”
“Zero-based budgeting is a reality this time,” he said.
While “there is some indication Nevada may have turned the corner,” Gibbons said, that won’t convince him to expand the next budget.
“We will build a conservative, common-sense budget balanced without new taxes,” he said.
He said he will seek dramatic changes for state government in the next four years.
“We need a smaller, more efficient government that, yet, delivers the constitutional and legal requirements government is expected to provide,” he said.
That, Gibbons said, includes looking at the numerous boards and commissions the state has created, “merging and eliminating many of those boards.”
He said the same will happen with the state’s more than 200 agencies, combining and eliminating some “to get a more concise, limited chain of command.”
“Some agencies have to be looked at with a very close microscope to see if they are necessary,” he said. “We need less regulatory interference, a smaller, more efficient and effective government that lives within its means.”
Gibbons said those kinds of reform include public education.
“We have been spending billions of dollars in education and that money does not produce the results expected,” he said. “We have to make sure the money spent in education makes a difference in the child’s future.”
Gibbons, 65, said that means reforms to collective bargaining, and that the initiative he has proposed to require the collective bargaining process to be open to the press and public is a good start.
That could be a hard sell in the Legislature.
“It’s a difficult task when so many lawmakers are union members and supporters in the Legislature,” he said.
He said the budget and revenue study committee created by the 2009 Legislature is, in fact, “the tax-hike committee.”
“The proposed taxes they are relying on are going to damage this state well beyond this recession,” he said. “The economy will suffer a drastic downturn again.”
Gibbons said he wants to work with lawmakers in the upcoming session, much more like what happened in the February special session where he and leadership spent long hours behind closed doors negotiating.
“That showed you can move together, solve problems together,” he said. “It was very unlike the ’09 session, ’09 was partisanship at its worst.”
Gibbons, who is still trying to finalize his divorce by selling off some property to make a settlement payment to Dawn, said he hopes that issue doesn’t hurt him in the election.
“There may be people out there who judge this race on my divorce,” he said. “I hope they judge me on how the state is prepared for the future, how we have carried it through the most difficult time in history.”