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August 23, 2014

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New speaker touring state, showing magnitude of state budget problem to locals, laying groundwork for tax plan

Speaker-elect John Oceguera appeared this morning before the Las Vegas City Council, an unusual, if not unprecedented, scene for a legislative leader to brief a local government on the state budget mess. Oceguera went through a PowerPoint presentation, which I have posted at right, which paints a dire portrait of the fiscal nightmare awaiting lawmakers in February.

Oceguera seemed to be laying the groundwork for a case to raise taxes – he talked near the end about broadening the tax base – and it’s a case he is making across the state. He has used the PowerPoint before the Reno City Council and plans on touring Southern Nevada municipalities and Clark County before embarking on a rural tour.

Oceguera pointed out how Nevada has the largest proportional deficit in the country, used Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford's chart unveiled on “Face to Face” showing the deficit is about $2.7 billion with disappearing stimulus and sunsetted taxes, showed all the cuts and then this slide:

“Nevada could concurrently make the largest budget cut in state history, create the largest tax increase in state history and not fill the shortfall.”

He also presented a five-point plan, vague though it may have been:

1. Government Spending Reform

2. Long-Term Government Reforms

3. Economic Development Strategy

4. Have Vision for Nevada’s Future

5. Revenue Enhancements

Yes, the last is governmentspeak for taxes, but he was open about it and talked about broadening the tax base.

A few of the councilmen fawned over Oceguera for coming, even after Mayor Oscar Goodman ridiculously told them not to ask questions. But not one, including the usually voluble mayor, asked Oceguera about plans, being talked about by Horsford and others, to take local government property taxes and use other methods to push part of the tax burden onto the locals.

Way to be brave, Las Vegas City Council. God forbid they should do their jobs and ask hard questions.

Have to give Oceguera credit, although some will see a two-fold political purpose here.

1. Gather momentum for a tax increase in 2011

2. Give Oceguera statewide exposure. Everyone talks about Rep. Shelley Berkley or Secretary of State Ross Miller for John Ensign’s U.S. Senate seat. But maybe Oceguera is shooting higher than Congress….

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