Gibbons initiative helps fix state budget
We don’t know what Jim Gibbons’ future political aspirations might hold, but we do know the Nevada budget process needs fixing. And Gibbons’ “Education First” initiative launched last week is one way to begin fixing it.
The initiative, which needs 51,000 signatures to get on the ballot and will have to be approved by voters in two elections, would clarify the muddy waters stirred up by the 2003 Legislature when it had so much trouble mustering a two-thirds majority to raise taxes.
It was Gibbons who had led the charge to require a two-thirds majority for raising taxes. We, like most Nevadans, thought we clearly understood what it meant. But the Nevada Supreme Court tossed us a curve ball by ruling that a constitutional requirement to fund education was more important than the requirement for a two-thirds majority.
We won’t dredge up the obvious reasons the two aren’t necessarily in conflict. Suffice it to say education funding became a beach-ball to be bounced around by legislators who couldn’t agree on how much to raise our taxes.
Gibbons’ initiative says, fine, approve education funding first. If you’re going to kick around part of the budget, it will have to be something not required by the state constitution.
For proposing a solution, Gibbons, a Republican serving Nevada in Congress, was criticized by some Democrats for trying to pander to education interests (to set up a rumored run for governor) without proposing new sources of funding. Such comments made us a little queasy, because it reminded us of several self-serving debates last summer in the Legislature.
We believe Nevadans do place education as the top priority in the state budget. We also believe they want to know how much education spending is going to increase – and how the increase will be funded, either through higher taxes or reductions elsewhere in the budget.
Legislators showed last session they are rarely capable of doing that – or, more accurately, would rather play political beach-ball with the education budget – so we must conclude they need to have the process spelled out in black and white.
Support the “Education First” initiative. Be skeptical of people who see it as a political gambit, for they are saying more about themselves than Gibbons.