The good, the bad and the ugly for taxpayers | NevadaAppeal.com
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The good, the bad and the ugly for taxpayers

Chuck Muth
For the Appeal

The good news is that Gov. Jim Gibbons won the tax-hike debate this year. He promised voters on the campaign trail last year he wouldn’t raise their taxes and (gasp!) kept his promise after being elected.

Truth be told, there were some minor fee increases in the final budget, and the governor failed to veto a tax-hike proposal for Washoe County, but in the large scheme of things, these technical violations of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge were de minimus.

Without a doubt, had the governor not drawn a line in the sand on tax hikes before and during the session, there would have been tax hikes this year. Taxpayers should keep this in mind in 2008, because the push for tax hikes will be exponentially greater in the 2009 legislative session.

Voters should demand that candidates for legislative seats sign the same Taxpayer Protection Pledge that Gov. Gibbons signed – and if they don’t, strongly consider voting for someone else who will.

The bad news for taxpayers was on the spending front. The governor’s proposed budget back in January called for a huge 18 percent increase in spending. The final overstuffed budget boosted spending by more than 20 percent.

If the Legislature keeps spending like this, future tax hikes will be inevitable. That’s why some 140,000 Nevada voters signed the TASC petition last year – the ballot initiative championed by state Sen. Bob Beers which would have limited the growth of government spending to the combined rate of inflation, plus population growth.

Had TASC been in place this year, the budget would have been allowed to grow by “only” 13.5 percent.

The ugly news is the fact that Sen. Beers himself ended up voting for the $7 billion budget, which shattered his own cap. So much for walking the walk. So fiscal conservatives need to ask each and every candidate running in legislative races next year whether they’ll promise to vote against any future budget that exceeds the combined rate of inflation, plus population growth. And if not, consider voting for someone else.

In addition, every candidate should be asked if he or she supports the following additional measures to further help put the brakes on the Tax-and-Spend Express:

1. The creation of a Nevada version of Ronald Reagan’s Grace Commission to identify significant spending cuts in the current budget.

2. The creation of a “Tax Me More” fund for voluntary contributions toward highway construction and other government “needs.” People who calls for tax hikes on everyone else should be invited to first put their money where their mouths are.

3. The establishment of a Web site detailing state government spending, which, similar to an ongoing project at the federal level, will allow taxpayers in Nevada to “Google” government spending.

4. Elimination of union-only Project Labor Agreements on government construction projects so that non-union companies can bid on contracts and potentially save taxpayers a considerable amount of money.

No, taxes weren’t raised in 2007. But to keep it that way in 2009, some serious decisions about real spending cuts will need to be made. Don’t hold your breath – hold your wallet. Tightly.

• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a limited-government public policy organization.