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April 24, 2014

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STATE GOVERNMENT:

To be clear, Gibbons is against tax increase

But to stimulate the state’s economy, he would consider a tax holiday

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Cathleen Allison / nevada appeal

Gov. Jim Gibbons answers questions Thursday in Carson City. Gibbons repeated his threat to veto any budget submitted to him by the Legislature that contains tax increases, and he criticized lawmakers for adding back $72 million in budget cuts he had proposed.

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Gov. Jim Gibbons’ news conference Thursday provided a nice summation of his first two years in office. He was forcefully anti-tax. He attacked the Legislature. He had the backing of five junior, conservative Republican assemblymen.

Mostly, though, it served as a forum for the governor to repeat his stance on taxes.

• “The budget I submitted was balanced ... without raising taxes.”

• “We’ll submit a budget amendment to balance the budget ... without raising taxes.”

• “I welcome the opportunity to sit down with all legislators on how to provide those core needs, but without raising taxes.”

He said all that in the first minute.

During the remaining three minutes he spoke Thursday, Gibbons repeated his no-new-tax mantra another five times.

Gibbons rode that stance to the Governor’s Mansion in 2006. Thursday showed he is hitching his reelection hopes to the same wagon.

Forget for a moment that he included in his budget one of the largest tax hikes in state history. The $200-plus million increase in the hotel room tax — approved in a referendum on an advisory question by voters in Clark and Washoe counties and passed by the Legislature — became law without his signature.

He attacked Democratic and Republican lawmakers for adding back some of his proposed budget cuts — about $72 million so far, out of a $6.1 billion budget.

“When you’re in a hole, you have to stop digging,” he said.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley defended those spending decisions as things “legislators couldn’t sleep at night if we let happen. The safety net would be so affected, people would die.”

It’s things like maintaining treatment for autistic children, providing mentally ill people with medication and keeping open some rural mental health clinics, she said.

The Economic Forum, made up of five business leaders, will meet today and set revenue projections for the next two years. Legislative staff estimates that the state will have to cut another $255 million, based on their projections. The estimate of the governor’s budget director, Andrew Clinger, is $516 million.

Gibbons said he will propose more pay cuts for state workers, teachers and higher education employees to make up for the shortfall.

“We want to stimulate the economy, not kill it,” he said. “We do not need to raise taxes to balance this budget.

“Now is not the time to raise taxes. Now is not the time to kill recovery of the state of Nevada by changing tax formulas. Now is not time to raise taxes on sales. Now is not the time to kill jobs in the state of Nevada by raising business taxes.”

Gibbons was asked if there was any point at which he would raise taxes — if the hole in the budget grew to $900 million, for example.

“It’s foolish to think that raising taxes is going to bring more revenue into the state during an economic recession,” he said. “It’s been proven time and time again.”

He then threw out the possibility of a tax cut. “If we want to stimulate the economy, we should think about a tax holiday — stop collecting taxes,” he said.

There was time for one more question: Would he veto a budget with a tax increase?

“If they send me a budget that includes tax increases, I will veto the budget,” he said. “Thank you very much. Thank you.”

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