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January 30, 2015

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Let Sandoval take heat for budget, Democrats say


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval speaks at the Republicans’ election-night party Tuesday at the Venetian.

Sandoval and Raggio

Sandoval and Raggio, Seg. 2

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Election 2010 - Republican Party

Sharron Angle arrives with her husband, Ted, to give her concession speech at the Republicans' election-night party early Wednesday at the Venetian. Launch slideshow »
Steven Horsford

Steven Horsford

Democrats in the Nevada Legislature say they’re tired of being the white knights called to “save” K-12, public safety and health and human services from budget cuts — and taking the hits for passing tax increases to preserve those services.

So here’s the message they are sending to Republicans and Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval: It’s your turn to govern.

“It’s incumbent on the governor to present a budget plan, and build support in the Legislature for that plan,” Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said. “He ran for governor, not us.”

In 2009, Gov. Jim Gibbons was a nonentity during budget discussions. He dug in his heels with a pledge not to raise taxes, submitted a budget, which included a 37 percent cut to higher education, and then walked away.

Democrats declared that Gibbons’ budget would not stand. They cobbled together the necessary Republican support, increased taxes and undid many cuts Gibbons proposed.

Now they want the onus on Sandoval, who defeated Democrat Rory Reid while promising not to raise taxes. He must submit a budget to the Legislature in January.

“We will do what we have traditionally done — review the budget that’s presented to us by the governor,” Horsford said. “I think you will see a very concerted effort to work in a bipartisan manner, make state government more efficient and more accountable to voters.”

Some observers said the best scenario for Sandoval would be if Democrats kept their two-thirds majority in the Assembly and Democrats gained the two seats necessary for a tax-approving, veto-proof majority in the Senate — that way, he could propose a budget without taxes, have Democrats raise enough taxes to save the state and shrug his shoulders.

But Assembly Republicans won two seats, and Senate Republicans won one.

“The governor will present a balanced budget without new taxes,” said Heidi Gansert, a former Reno assemblywoman, his transition team leader and presumed chief of staff.

Asked whether the 10 percent cuts that agencies submitted Oct. 15 in anticipation of the need to scale back spending were acceptable, she said Sandoval had not reviewed those cuts “in-depth.” She had no comment on whether they were acceptable.

The Republican caucuses — headed by Mike McGinness of Fallon in the Senate and Pete Goicoechea of Eureka in the Assembly — are sure to take their cue from Sandoval, who won by 12 percentage points.

Sen.-elect Sheila Leslie, a Democrat who was termed out as a Reno assemblywoman, delivered a message similar to Horsford’s.

“It’s their governor, it’s their turn to govern,” she said. “It’s their plan. We’re not going to play the game of ‘meet our demands or we won’t work with you.’ We’re not going to play that game again. We’re willing to work toward compromise solutions.”

For all of last session, legislators saw the magic number as two-thirds in both the Assembly and Senate, the number of seats necessary to increase taxes and override gubernatorial vetoes. Pragmatic Republicans responded by saying they could support a tax increase only if a number of conditions were met: reform public employee retirement, health care and collective bargaining.

In that battle of wills, Democrats clearly blinked, unable or unwilling to draw out the legislative process with lengthy special sessions.

The special-interest groups that populate Carson City when the Legislature is in session were satisfied with the budget that was passed in 2009, including public employee unions and the largest business group, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.

But when Horsford was asked what message he had for K-12, higher education and health and human services advocates who believe more money was necessary, he had a bleak message:

“I would encourage those concerned about impacts of the budget to make their positions known to the new governor as he begins to prepare his budget,” Horsford said. “It’s his job to present a budget. It’s the Legislature’s job to review, amend and approve the budget. The Legislature has a role here. Gov. Sandoval has a responsibility to present a blueprint for the state.”

Assembly Democrats struck a softer tone, believing that once settled into office, Sandoval would be open to compromise despite the Republicans’ campaign promises.

“When the governor talks to the budget office, the fiscal guys, it’ll take 20 minutes to realize what the problem is,” new Assembly Speaker John Oceguera said. “When you take $3 billion out, even hard-core Republicans cannot stomach what those cuts are.”

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, and likely chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, agreed. Asked if the state’s budget could be balanced without more revenue, she said, “I don’t know how we would.”

She said she has looked at the 10 percent budget cuts, which represents a fraction of the expected $3 billion budget hole.

“I know what it means to K-12, I know what it means to seniors and the disabled population,” she said. “Ten percent cuts are devastating to real people. How we get through this only cutting, I’ve yet to have any conversations with anyone who can demonstrate to me how we can.”

Sandoval did not return requests for comment. A senior adviser maintained that he planned to present a balanced budget without additional taxes.

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  1. Constitutionally, it is the Governor's responsibility to propose a budget, so that part of the article is not news.

    What Patrick R. Gibbons from NPRI and the other right-wingers who comment here on budget matters will not concede is that taxes for some must be increased if the basic social services that are needed to keep crime from increasing are to be continued or improved. You can't cut the pay and salaries of more Nevada families as a roadmap to making Nevada a better place to live.

    Everyone who has lived here for most, if not all of their lives, be they Democrats or Republicans, knows this. Ask Sens. Townsend and Raggio. Ask Govs. Bryan and Miller. We almost cut hearing aids and care for veterans who lost limbs in wars last legislative session. If Sandogibbons sticks to his campaign promises, and the Republicans fear the Teabaggers enough to do the wrong thing, then seniors and the disabled will suffer first and worst.

  2. Wait just a minute? Why are we cutting K-12 education and services for the elderly when we are still giving pay raises or not rolling back COLA's and step increases? We have firefighters who make more than the president, HVAC repairmen that make six figures....and during the middle of the bubble Nevada ranked 19th to 22nd in tax collection per capita. Worse still, our legislature has been trying to sustain that bubble spending.

    Why are we cutting services when we are still providing golf courses, tennis courts and gun ranges to wealthier people? Its called prioritizing, lets try it!

    Why on earth do we need to spend more money when we haven't even looked at trying alternative ways to deliver services - like turning to the private sector to see if they can do the job for less? Heck, lets give the public sector a chance too, let them bid for the job, maybe they'll find new things to cut WITHOUT harming services.

  3. William Hilton...
    You, sir, are RIGHT ON THE MONEY.
    And, right on CUE; Pat chimes in!!!
    "Let's privatize EVERYTHING. We don't NEED Government. Heck, we don't NEED anything. Get rid of EVERYTHING. Our quality of life WILL NOT SUFFER!"

  4. We should privatize all the public restrooms and stop handing out free TP - make the users pay or walk and we'll all get rich, because there is no where for them to walk.

  5. Mr. Mag

    Think about this for a second. Must the government physically provide the service or can it just provide the capital that is missing from the private sector? (note: the economic reason for any government activity is that the private sector cannot efficiently provide the service).

    After all, our government funds private sector research WITHOUT actually doing the research itself. Are you suggesting that government funded private sector research means we have no government?

    Why must the government have in-house landscapers, auto mechanics, HVAC repairmen etc etc etc? What is the pressing social need for that?

  6. Mr. Hilton. You are on target but if you expect us to take you seriously stop the name calling right out of the gate. I did not vote for Mr. Sandoval but I have no need or desire to call him names. He deserves a chance, he was elected. Try acting like an adult instead of a teenager if you want people to take your ideas and thoughts serious.

    Patrick_R_Gibbons, think before posting. We are talking STATE BUDGET here. I don't see the state paying firefighters, for tennis courts or golf courses.

    I would rather not see taxes raised but bottom line is Nevada is one of the least taxed states in the country yet everyone wants this state to provide everything to them. You can not have it both ways. Take a side. Support your selfs or get taxed.

    Maybe it is time to become the hard-line state. Stop expecting things from the government, be the state of self sufficient people.

    If you are a construction worker, there is no more construction work here, time to move on now. No more checks for you since there is not and will not be any more work for you in this state unless you learn something new. Same with other fields from the bubble days. The bubble is burst, time to move on and find work, it is not here and the state support won't be much longer either.

  7. Vegaske,

    Any dollar spent on tennis courts and golf courses is a dollar that cannot be spent elsewhere - including rent, groceries, health care, or even welfare and social services at the state level.

    Or do you think the economy is not connected at all?

    Besides as a Dillans rule state, the state legislature can do with the municipal governments as they will - that means fund sweeps of non-essential services like golf courses for rich white people. So if we truly are cutting services for the needy and the state legislature doesn't put a stop to services for the wealthy then we have, in fact, messed up priorities.

    Finally, Nevada is NOT the least taxed state in the country. The Tax Foundation and Brookings Institution rank Nevada middle tier in tax collection per capita (state and local taxes).

  8. Think of this another way vegaske,

    Lets say the state gives the local government $500 million for schools in Year 1. The local government then spends another $500 million on luxury amenities for wealthy people.

    In Year 2, the State legislature is down on funds and can only give $400 million for schools.

    Should we raise taxes FIRST to back fill that lost spending or maybe look at the luxury amenities for the wealthy folk?

    You seem to think that tax dollars are non transferable and that the economy (and government budgets) is static and unconnected to any other part. This is wrong.

    The fact is, I am thinking about the issue, but with an understanding of not just government budgeting but of economics as well.

  9. The left-of-center Brookings Institution, of which Mr. Brian Greenspun is a board member, ranks Nevada 24th in the Nation for tax collection per capita.

    The conservative Tax Foundation provides a similarly high ranking.

    Those people who push for higher taxes ignore certain revenues in order to give make their more tax narrative work.

    Nevada also pays its government employees quite well - above the national average in fact.

  10. This is not about letting Sandoval take the heat he was asked on numerous occasions to produce his plan and he did not!
    His plan was to push it off on anyone but himself, you see you have to be careful of what you take over because you will be held accountable for it rather it's good or bad.
    If these offices were held by all republicans they would do all the cuts that he suggests so why would it be hard for a democrat to do the same, Just do as your Superior has asked and if there is a fall out just say vote your pocket book don't ask me to take the heat for there mistake there the ones making it very clear (Mr. Raggio displacment) that they are in control so let them have there control.
    If your told to cut twenty five percent from k-12 then do it you were merely following orders, your not the Governor.

  11. The Republicans now have what they claim they've been wanting for the past 20 months. Time to stop pissing and "no-ing" and show us what they've got.

  12. Mr Gibbons,

    First off I said one of the least taxed states. Read your own examples you provided links to. Per capita we are about in the middle.

    Something that site does not take into account and you do not take into account is that the TOURISTS that are not counted in those numbers pay the largest part of our taxes. Gaming tax, sales tax, room taxes. Most of us locals don't end up putting money into those taxes. Over half of all the taxes paid in this state come from tourists. As locals we pay very little in taxes.

  13. As serious as the budget problems are, I really have to laugh at parts of this story and associated comments.

    The Democrats retain control of the State Senate and Assembly, and their members are calling on them to just roll over and let the *minority* party do what it wants. The governorship remains Republican, so nothing changed in the big picture.

    If they actually do this, then they deserve to be voted out next time around. The national Republican Party might have been called the party of no, but here in Nevada, the Democrats will be called the party of "We don't care (unless you're talking about district lines!)"

  14. Vegavske,

    Sitting in the middle does not mean we are one of the least taxed it means we're average. Other sources put us slightly above average (Brookings did have us at 22nd in 2007 and 24th in 2008)

    Next, taxes paid by tourists are paid by us all in just a different way. Every dollar a tourist pays in room and sales and gaming taxes are dollars that can't be spent elsewhere - more food, more souvenirs, another show. It is money that is taken out of the private sector that could create more jobs, generate more revenue, increase private sector pay, etc. etc. etc.

    You can't look at just a portion of the revenues and decide we're under taxed. Its just dishonest.

  15. Tax Foundation look at page 9 (the left-wing seems to ignore this stat all the time)

    Total tax collection per capita - stop ignoring it - page nine. That is 9.

  16. If you are wondering what page 9 says, it shows that Nevada's total state and local tax collection per capita ranks us 25th in the nation.

    25th in the nation does not mean our government doesn't collect enough taxes and it does not mean we underfund "essential services"

    Some people on the left continually manipulate the data by ignoring certain revenues because it doesn't fit their pre-determined narrative.

  17. The Tax Foundation report is not relevant to this discussion. The data is from FY2008. Stale.

    It really isn't a matter of 25th or 49th today. It is a matter of making ends meet. Things have changed dramatically. The bottom has fallen out of every major source of revenue the state has.

    The problem that Nevada confronts is that the sources of tax revenues from those who live in-state and those who visit (don't visit) has dried up. The tourists are taxed enough and those who visit spend less.

    This leaves the residents--sales tax and property taxes, and other fees, etc. Tough to ask for more from folks when personal incomes and property values are falling and unemployment/underemployment is sky high. Target those who can best afford it. In the absence of an income tax, it is tough to target a tax. Outside of continuing the increases that were passed in 2009 there is not a whole lot left. I would assume that any tax reform would be revenue neutral and be benchmarked to 2007.

    Since all the account reserves were cleaned out, the cupboard is empty. This just leaves cutting. Where do you want to start?

  18. The only problem I have with this column is the title. I think it is a bit deceiving.

    It seems that the legislature is willing to work with Governor, but expects him to lead. This is what I voted for and I think most people who vote either for Sandoval or Rory did so as well.

  19. "Vote adolf next time. He said what he was going to do before he came to power and he was still elected. This clown will cut everything and you stupid Nevadans put him in your office. If your a jew he might make you wear a star too if it is the law. Your state of Nevada is full of masochists."

    The only thing more distasteful than this comment is the Sun's refusal to remove it. Nevertheless, the Sun found it appropriate to remove a comment which said "so what" that was made on the Wendy's article. Something is really messed up here when someone can compare the Governor-elect to Hitler and the Holocaust and not get taken down.

    Mr. Sun tell me please the reasoning behind this?

  20. There is no indication that privatizing anything in Government saves money. Arizona has found the private prisons don't save money, but leads to murders by escaped convicts and no saving for taxpayers.

    Gibbons tells the same lie over and over again about Nevada's tax ranking. Nevada is 4Th according to next to Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota in business taxes. The "26Th" ranking is when you calculated taxes that target tourists. Room tax, rental car tax, entertainment tax, etc. Most people don't rent a car every day or stay in a hotel every day, or see a show everyday. Gibbons is a trained liar and shill for business weirdos. He regurgitates Cato Crap. He has no intellectual discipline other than to post links to the rouges gallery of libertarian loony websites.

    Private sector? AIG, Bear Sterns, BP, Madoff, Iowa egg farms...etc. they haven't done so well lately have they?

  21. Mred,

    I don't know how many times I have to explain this but any dollar that is taxed in one sector is a dollar that cannot be spent in another. Room taxes, gaming taxes, car rental taxes, those are dollars that are taken out of sales, hotel stays, shows,retail etc. Those are jobs, those are wages.

    Excluding taxes paid by businesses and tourists is dishonest - especially since you are constantly making the case that we are under funding the government.

    Next, why on earth would government do a better job than the private sector? Government gets its revenue by force, not by satisfying customers. Many government workers don't fear job loss because they're protected by seniority. They get pay raises regardless of how competent they are. Why on earth do they magically do the job to the best of their abilities?

    Finally, do you live in a cave or a self reliant farm? Because if you don't you deal with the private sector every day. Your home, your car, your gas, your appliances, your clothes, your food. The restaurants you enjoy, the movies you rent. Sure you can pick out the times when the companies mess up, but it can't stack up to the billions of times a year they make people better off.