Gov’t affairs chair briefs supes on upcoming session |

Gov’t affairs chair briefs supes on upcoming session

Sandi Hoover

Sen. John Lee from Clark County, chairman of the state Legislature’s Government Affairs Committee, assured Carson City officials Tuesday that although the state is facing grave budgetary problems, it is not the Legislature’s intention to hurt cities and counties.

“The state is still reeling … and we’ve got some issues we need to handle,” he said, offering a few ideas for ways revenue shortfalls might be resolved.

One of the issues the Legislature will need to address is the property tax issue.

“The value of homes needs to be brought up more quickly,” he said.

Another issue is sales tax.

“Whether we bite it all off this session or the next, we have to deal with it,” Lee said.

Some of the ideas that have been discussed, he said, are taxes on candy, gum, sports drinks and water.

“That’s like a sin tax on eating,” he said.

Lee said there were also ideas for turning over certain state functions to local entities such as parole and probation and the community college systems, which he believes could be better managed at local levels.

“We’d have to send you the money,” he said.

Lee also urged more cooperation between local and state governments.

“We’re going to try to see about working better with all communities. We’ll have a five-person committee which will be much more powerful,” he said.

As for the north/south division, he said it’s just a matter of the people from the southern part of the state not knowing those from the north.

“They don’t know you. We’re not there to hurt you, you just need to get to know us,” Lee said. “And as for partisan politics, we’ve got to stop that Republican-Democrat crap that goes on” and everyone “needs to start utilizing (their) representatives” and “take a proactive approach.”

Mayor Bob Crowell acknowledged that there is a “state vs. local” and an “us vs. them” mentality.

“That doesn’t mean we have to be enemies. We should put away our partisan and geographical differences,” Crowell said.

“I don’t know what you’re going to do about taxes. In 1981, we moved to a sales tax base, so we were hamstrung in being able to diversify,” he said.

He suggested the state might need to provide more incentives to local governments on the manufacturing side to allow communities to better diversify their tax bases.

Lee, who is visiting every city and county government in the state to bring his presentation, said the state and county sometimes feel “worlds apart.”

He said that although the global economy is starting to come back and the U.S. is recovering a little, there will likely be more peaks and valleys before a turnaround.

“Construction is turning around quite slowly, and will take another couple of years to recover,” he said.

He said he does not foresee additional furlough days for state employees.

Supervisor Robin Williamson called Lee’s visit “extraordinary,” adding that the partnership would be necessary due to the large percentage of Carson City’s population being state workers.

Supervisor Molly Walt agreed.

“Forty percent of our employee base is government jobs, so a lot of that is going to impact Carson City,” she said.