Guinn speech draws applause for programs, silence for taxes
Gov. Kenny Guinn drew applause Monday for programs such as expanding kindergarten, Senior Rx and help for the mentally and physically challenged.
But lawmakers were much more reserved as Guinn in his third State of the State address laid out the taxes he wants them to pass to pay for those programs.
“Everybody wants to go to heaven and nobody wants to die,” said Assistant Minority Leader Josh Griffin, R-Henderson.
Guinn seemed somewhat upset at the reaction. He left the Legislature immediately after the speech, answering only a couple of questions for reporters.
“Nobody likes new taxes,” he said. “But we certainly need the revenue. This is not a political issue. This is a ‘save Nevada’ issue.”
Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, and Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, all agreed with Guinn’s priorities for the roughly $300 million in enhancements he put in the budget. Almost all that money will go to education and Human Services programs.
Titus and Buckley, however, said they won’t support his proposed amusements tax.
“I thought it was more threatening to Republicans who said they wanted more cuts,” Titus said of the tone of Guinn’s speech.
He said cutting programs that serve needy children would be “heartless” and that not passing taxes to balance the budget would be “political cowardice.”
“I appreciated the governor taking quite a large pot shot at a certain Republican for suggesting we could save money by cutting 25,000 children off of health insurance,” said Buckley — a reference to comments by Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, that more than $400 million could be cut from the existing budget.
Beers said after the speech his argument is that “the experience of other states has been that the debate is not driven by budgeting. It’s driven by taxing.”
“We need to be aware as we do this that we may not get all these taxes. As we go we need to be thinking about where we may make cuts.”
Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said no one likes cuts or taxes and that some of the governor’s plan — especially the gross-receipts tax on business — are going to be “difficult to sell.”
But he agreed there is a proven need for more revenue for the state.
“I’ve been chairman of the Senate Finance Committee for a long time and I think it would be difficult to cut very far,” he said. “This is not an excessive proposal.”
Perkins said what might be cut, how much new revenue should be raised and where would be the “balancing act” worked out by the Legislature over the next four months.