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December 20, 2014

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Gibbons, Sandoval spar over lease proposal, tax plan

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Gov. Jim Gibbons attacked a plan being pushed by fellow Republicans Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio and gubernatorial rival Brian Sandoval to have the state lease back its buildings in exchange for an up-front, immediate cash payment from private investors.

“Nevada will end up paying rent and other expenses for the buildings,” Gibbons said in a campaign press release that called it an "impulsive" idea. “Sandoval’s lack of leadership experience is clearly showing.”

Sandoval's campaign responded with its own press release Friday, saying Sandoval's plan to close the gap was preferable to Gibbons' plan.

"I believe the vast majority of Nevadans will think my idea is better than raising more than $100 million in new taxes, laying off thousands of teachers and cutting vital programs for foster children, mental health patients and senior citizens," according to the statement.

Raggio proposed the idea during a legislative meeting Thursday in Carson City, crediting Sandoval.

While Raggio and Gibbons have never had a close relationship -- during the last legislative session, they barely spoke -- Nevada's longest serving senator has, until now, told critics to "respect the office."

It now appears relations are openly hostile.

Gibbons has attacked the Legislature for its 2009 tax increase, which Raggio supported. Raggio on Thursday responded by saying that if Gibbons really thought the higher taxes caused the state's problems, he would propose to repeal them.

Gibbons, in his press release today, referred to ex-judge Sandoval as "Raggio's law partner." Sandoval has taken a job with the influential law firm Jones Vargas, where Raggio is a partner. Gibbons, meanwhile, has found that campaign money has dried up, as the establishment abandonded him after giving him its backing four years ago.

Gibbons includes raising $50 million for the state from reducing the deductions that mining companies can take. The mining tax is split between the state and counties, so $100 million in additional mining taxes would have to be raised for the state to get what Gibbons spelled out.

Conservative tax watchdogs and the mining industry have called it a tax increase. Gibbons has said it is not. Instead, he called it a clarification of the deductions.

Sandoval has proposed his own plan to balance the state's budget, which includes taking $100 million from Clark County construction funds to pay for school operating costs. His plan also includes cuts for state workers, teachers and university employees and some cuts to operations. Sandoval has said that he did not want to raise taxes and did not want to borrow money.

It's unclear how the plan to leverage state buildings to raise money is different from borrowing.

Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, the only Democrat in the race, has yet to release how he would specifically deal with the shortfall, other than to say he opposed the cuts to education and would not raise taxes.

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