Las Vegas Sun

November 19, 2017

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Guinn to outline huge tax-increase plan

CARSON CITY -- With the state treasury nearly depleted, Gov. Kenny Guinn will outline his plan tonight for the biggest tax increase in state history.

In his State of the State address, Guinn is expected to hammer on his point that more tax revenue is needed just to keep existing state services up and running at their current levels.

But at the same time, state legislators are lining up to push to expand government, create more tax exemptions and get money for their own particular interests.

With the legislative session set to begin next month, bills have been introduced that would launch programs on gambling addiction, establish suicide prevention programs, explore building a heart transplant facility, and fund other pet projects.

For example:

The proposed new programs, seen by some in Carson City as "pork barrel" projects, run counter to the efforts of Guinn, who has been tightening the noose on government spending. Guinn has frozen hiring, ordered a 3 percent across-the-board budget cut and scrapped a number of the programs that were approved in the 2001 legislative session but were never put into effect.

The governor's speech is expected to last less than an hour, his press secretary Greg Bortolin said.

The governor has said he will need at least $704 million during the next two years just to maintain the state's current programs.

Guinn has said the state's taxpayers have agreed to go billions of dollars into debt to build schools by the issuance of bonds. Now, he says, it's up to the state to provide the teachers, the textbooks and the heat and air conditioning for the classrooms.

The governor has already revealed he will ask the Legislature to take $100 million from the $136 million in the state's "rainy day" fund to get through the rest of this fiscal year that ends in July. He will also propose some immediate tax increases on cigarettes and liquor.

Guinn's tax task force recommended a 35-cent a pack increase on cigarettes and an 89 percent hike in the liquor tax, which has not been raised in 20 years.

The task force, in its major recommendation, suggested imposition of a one-quarter of one percent tax on the gross receipts of all business. Guinn has said he would like to see a business tax but has not given specifics. Other suggestions by the task force included a 15-cent increase in the propert tax rate for each $100 of assessed valuation; a 50 percent hike in fees in the secretary of state's office; a 6.5 percent levy on entertainment events and a 33 percent increse in slot taxes for slot machine route operators.

Against this backdrop of Guinn's cuts in government and his initiative to boost taxes, legislators have proposed more than 50 bills to tap the state coffers for more money.

State Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, has a bill to boost the pay of Highway Patrol officers. Another legislator wants to increase the longevity pay for state workers.

Guinn has said he will not recommend any pay raises except a 2 percent raise for teachers.

Other examples of bill requests by state legislators: