In his State of the State speech Monday, Gibbons said: “In this tough economy, we cannot ask our citizens to pay new taxes. They have nothing left to give. We cannot ask our businesses to pay more taxes. Many of them are struggling just to stay open ... I reaffirm my word to you tonight: As long as I serve as your governor, I will not raise taxes.”
Gibbons was asked by reporters after the speech whether he would consider raising fees to fill the $881 million deficit, as some legislators have suggested. He said he would not, citing his belief that “fees are taxes.”
The governor’s remarks indicate he either has a more nuanced interpretation of the revenue increases in his plan or isn’t aware of everything his administration has proposed.
The proposed increases, which the Legislature will consider during a special session this month, include:
• Higher fees for restaurants to fully cover the cost of health inspections. This would raise $550,000.
• An increase in the health insurance premiums paid by 12,000 poor families whose children are insured through Nevada Check Up. The proposal would increase fees from $25 to $75 per quarter for some families, and $80 to $180 for others, depending on income. This would raise $1 million.
• Raising by 8 percent the rates paid by veterans and their families at the nursing home for veterans in Boulder City. This increase was approved by Gibbons and the other two members of the Board of Examiners on Tuesday. It is expected to raise $350,000.
• Higher fees for birth and death certificates. Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden told a legislative committee this week that the state could raise about $368,000 by increasing the cost per certificate from $13 to $20.
• A one-time charge to prison inmates based on the electronic devices they own.
So much for "no new taxes"? Even Gibbons himself has admitted that fee hikes amount to raising taxes. So why is he only willing to raise taxes on the poor and middle-class?
This parsing over whether a fee is a tax, and what fee increases are acceptable to conservative constituencies misses the larger point, said Eric Herzik, professor of political science at UNR.
Even Gibbons doesn’t think state government is so bloated that you can cut $881 million from its budget, he said.
“This is splitting hairs. No new taxes, but these fees are OK? It shows that his no-new-tax pledge can’t get you there.”
DUH! Of course, Gibbon's "no new taxes" nonsense is just that: NONSENSE! Nevada has the smallest and cheapest state government in the entire country. And with last year's budget, the state has already cut its government to the bone. Must we now let the bone marrow get sucked dry?
Well, at least one Democratic legislator is stepping forward amidst this mayhem and showing some real courage.
“We’ve already cut too much,” [Assembly Member Peggy] Pierce [D-Las Vegas] said. “We have the smallest government in the country and it’s not even close.”
She noted Nevada has the second- or third-lowest tax burden and ranks among the worst states in a variety of indicators. “There’s a connection. This chronic underfunding of government, our regressive tax system punishes working people, and does not require many, many businesses to pull their load,” she said.
Finally, FINALLY, someone serving in Carson City has hit the nail on the head! As I said on Tuesday, we won't go anywhere but down in flames if we won't even invest in our basic infrastructure. Our social safety net is already dangerously close to nonexistent, our schools are already badly underfunded, and our roads are already falling apart. Just how much more can we cut before Nevada ceases to be a state?
And how much longer can we let mining get away with paying almost no taxes? How much longer can we let big corporations like WalMart get away with taking advantage of our state while refusing to pay its fair share? The madness must end. Simple as that.
It's inevitable that the legislature will agree to some type of tax increase. And remember, those "fees" that Gibbons wants to slap on working-class families count as tax increases. (Hey, even he admitted it!) So why must the middle-class and working poor always suffer? It's about damned time that the big money special interests that have hardly paid any taxes up to this point start paying their fair share to save our state.