Friday, Feb. 21, 2003 | 9:30 a.m.
CARSON CITY -- Rep. Jim Gibbons returned to familiar surroundings Thursday night, using a law he pushed as an assemblyman to provide a warning to those who think raising taxes is the only option.
Gibbons, R-Nev., addressing the Nevada Legislature, invoked Winston Churchill's remark that "a nation trying to lift itself into prosperity by raising taxes is like a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself up by the handle."
The fiscal conservative won approval as an assemblyman for his Tax Restraint Initiative -- a measure requiring a two-thirds majority vote for any tax increase.
"No citizen in this great state, or in any state for that matter, should fall for what has been presented as a false choice," Gibbons said. "The debate is not, I repeat, is not about having to pass massive tax increases so that we can preserve the helping-hand of the federal government."
Later he said: "As families all across Nevada realize, you base your spending on how much you earn, you don't base your earnings on how much you want to spend."
Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn, who has proposed a $1 billion tax plan to get Nevada out of current deficits and a coming $704 million shortfall, shifted in his seat and appeared to offer up just polite applause.
After the speech Gibbons immediately ducked into the Assembly Caucus Room to brief reporters without shaking Guinn's hand. Guinn entered the room a few moments into the press conference, and the two friends, whose wives sat together during the speech, greeted each other awkwardly.
During the press conference Gibbons boasted about his past tax initiative, saying "it should be difficult for a government to raise taxes."
He said Nevada should prioritize its spending and cut where it can before asking anyone to raise taxes. Asked whether Guinn had already done that, Gibbons said, "I think that case has yet to be made."
Gibbons also said the governor's tax plan is "one on which we will have to agree to disagree."
"The congressman is entitled to his opinion, as I am entitled," Guinn said later, declining to give further comment on the speech.
During his speech Gibbons also championed Sen. Ann O'Connell, R-Las Vegas, a veteran lawmaker who has questioned Guinn's proposal, saying some "Nevada-born common sense in fighting for spending discipline" is needed in Washington.
"My next flight to Washington leaves Monday, and Sen. O'Connell, I'll save you a seat," Gibbons said.
Gibbons focused most of his speech on homeland security and the possible war against Iraq. The Assembly chambers were bedecked with flags, and the congressman introduced three medal-adorned soldiers from Nevada fighting the war against terrorism.
A member of the House Intelligence Committee and homeland security subcommittee, Gibbons questioned those who feel the threat posed by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is not imminent.
"I'm not sure if imminent isn't a French word," he remarked, to laughter and applause.
Gibbons asked those in the chamber to imagine a gunman walking into the room and firing a gun.
"Do you wait until the bullet is halfway between you and the gun to call the threat imminent?" Gibbons asked. "Of course not.
"If we wait until the bullet is fired, if we wait for Saddam to attack our friends and our allies with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapon, or if we wait for him to sell his weapons to terrorists so that they, as agents of Saddam, can deliver them right here in the United States, it is too late," he added.
In the press briefing, Gibbons, a Gulf War veteran, said the United States has waited 12 years for Hussein to abide by United Nations resolutions.
"How many more years can we wait?" Gibbons asked.
He also said that while there is a slim chance that Saddam will comply with United States' wishes, he added: "My faith in Saddam Hussein is about to zero."