Las Vegas Sun

November 25, 2015

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Ex-governors for openness

As the state heads deeper into a budget crisis, those with experience share views

Projections show the state budget heading for an immediate shortfall of more than $500 million, and, with a national recession looming, the long-term outlook is even more bleak.

A public debate about Nevada’s future is urgently needed, and we hope our cover story today highlighting comments by Nevada’s former governors will help get it going.

Each of the governors Republicans Robert List and Kenny Guinn, and Democrats Richard Bryan and Bob Miller talked about the state’s nation-leading growth and its No. 1 challenge how to pay for it.

The essential problem is that people who have moved to Nevada and those who are on their way require more state services than they and tourists pay for through existing taxes.

We were interested to hear the governors say this fundamental truth is not a Democratic problem or a Republican problem, but one in which all Nevadans should assist in finding a solution.

To that end, the consensus among the governors was that state leaders need to be more open about sharing the facts with their constituents. There was agreement that most voters are initially reluctant to go along with proposals for new or higher taxes. But there was also agreement that Nevadans will ultimately do what’s right for their state if government leaders fully explain the needs and invite citizen participation as solutions are sought.

Also agreed on was that governors today should not, as Gov. Jim Gibbons did in his campaign last year, promise to never raise taxes. A better approach for governors is to simply face reality, and, through consensus building, work closely with taxpayers during budget crises.

There is much to be learned from the governors’ comments. They know growth will always be a challenge. But if their vision comes to pass a state whose leaders work realistically, openly and cooperatively on long-range plans the challenges will be much less apt to become crises.

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