Guinn’s legacy includes both tax and refund | NevadaAppeal.com

Guinn’s legacy includes both tax and refund

Nevada Appeal editorial board

It has to make Republicans wince to read Time magazine’s profiles of the nation’s five best governors and see Gov. Kenny Guinn lauded for the biggest tax increase in Nevada’s history.

Ouch.

But let’s try again to put the 2003 legislative session into perspective. With Nevada growing like a weed and consistently falling farther behind in nearly every social-program listing imaginable, it was inevitable that taxes were going to rise.

The questions were: Whose taxes? How much?

Guinn set the framework and his advisers did their homework. Not many legislators went into that 2003 session with the idea that taxes weren’t going to be raised. And there wasn’t much chance the increases would fall short of a record – there had never been so many people in Nevada wanting government to do so much.

Much of the philosophical debate was whether raising tax rates would counterproductively drag down Nevada’s economy, which was just beginning to rebound.

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As Guinn said in the Time piece, “People say, ‘Well, growth ought to pay for growth,’ but I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t.'”

The only way growth will pay for growth is if you tax it. Even then, it almost never catches up.

One may still debate how much rising taxes might have slowed Nevada’s economic expansion, but the evidence suggests that two years later state coffers were brimming with enough revenue for Guinn to hand back $300 million to Nevada residents.

Guinn’s eight-year tenure will be remembered for many accomplishments (Time mentions his Millennium Scholarships, fight against Yucca Mountain and privatization of the workers compensation system), but enough about the record tax increases.

How about the biggest refund in state history?