A tax referendum wouldn’t help | NevadaAppeal.com

A tax referendum wouldn’t help

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

By Nevada Appeal editorial board

A referendum on the $836 million in tax increases approved by the Nevada Legislature – now wouldn’t that be fun?

About the time we started to recover from the special-session, holdout hangover blues, along come the Nevadans for Sound Government with a petition seeking a public vote on the whole contentious tax package.

We’re generally in favor of initiative petitions and think it would be darn interesting to see how people cast their ballots on such an issue, but there’s a distinct problem with this one.

A public vote in favor of the tax increases would confirm that the majority of the Legislature was acting in accordance with the public’s wishes. But what would a “no” vote do other than open the can of worms so recently closed?

If there were any black-and-white issues in the five-month debate over taxes and spending, we can’t remember them. Does anyone believe Nevada hasn’t grown, that its education and health needs haven’t expanded, that its economy didn’t suffer?

Those conflicting and confounding factors, among others, set the stage for an endless debate of where to ask for more money and where to spend less. Although a vote finally gained a two-thirds majority in both houses and brought a conclusion to the session this summer, no one should think the argument is over.

Taxes and spending will be a prime topic again when the Legislature convenes in 2005. Gov. Kenny Guinn has said he won’t be pushing for new taxes, but state forecasters also are looking at another potential shortfall.

We hope the debate will be framed by a financially fit Nevada, so it will be a matter of tinkering and tweaking, nipping and tucking. We hold two truths to be inevitable when it comes to Nevada government: it can always function more efficiently and cost-effectively, and it will continue to struggle to keep pace with population growth.

A referendum that repeals the tax increases – actually, an estimated $596 million of the whole package – doesn’t offer solutions. It simply would return the Legislature to square one and the state budget to a deep hole. Don’t make us go through that again.