Las Vegas Sun

May 21, 2018

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Six questions:

Bill Raggio: Sunsets on taxes are for a reason


Sam Morris

Former state Sen. Bill Raggio, shown here during the 2010 special legislative session, died Thursday at age 85 after falling ill while on a trip in Australia with his wife, Dale.

It’s just citizen Bill Raggio now. But for 38 years, he was Sir Bill, the senator from Reno.

He retired abruptly in January, before the 2011 Legislature began, ousted as head of his caucus, but still regarded as a deal maker and budget expert.

On Tuesday, the Senate honored Raggio and inducted him into its Hall of Fame. After a luncheon for him in the old Assembly Chambers in the Capitol Building, the Republican spoke with the Las Vegas Sun.

The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Sun: Do you miss it?

Raggio: I thought I would. But I found out really I haven’t. The process is different from what I experienced over the years. I wish there was more flexibility, more willingness to work together and compromise. I realize to some factions, either far right or far left, compromise is something they discourage. But to me that’s the essence of the legislative process.

At the end of the 2009 Legislature, you demanded taxes passed to fill a hole in the budget sunset after two years. Do you regret that?

No. I thought it was the right thing to do at the time. I’m the architect of the sunsets. I’m willing to take the heat.

People say if you put a tax on, it never goes away. So I put on a sunset. If it was not needed, it would go away. If it was needed, we would look at it. That seems to have been forgotten.

This commitment that we’re never going to look at it, or continue it, was not my intention. That $500 million to $600 million would go a long way toward solving some of the serious cuts, particularly to higher education and health and human services.

Does mining pay its fair share in taxes?

Not if what I read is the case. But they pay more than people realize. They’re a major contributor to the economic vitality of this state. They’re one of the few businesses prospering, they’re hiring, paying good wages. They’ve always said, “We’re willing to step up for a tax increase, if it’s not just directed at mining.” We ought to take them up on it.

How has Gov. Brian Sandoval done so far?

I supported him. I consider him a friend as well as governor. I would hope he is willing to be flexible if the need is there at the end of this session. I think he’s highly principled. I don’t think he should be dictated to by radical elements on either side of the debate. I think he’s of a caliber he won’t let that happen.

But he’s promised to not raise taxes under any circumstances.

I know. But listen, I always said raising taxes should be the last resort. And it should be. What people don’t understand is we’re not a heavily overtaxed state ... If we are going to masticate higher education, which I see happening at the moment, or we’re not providing even some support for cultural issues, which bring people to a state, we’re missing an opportunity.

Are you surprised by some of Gov. Sandoval’s positions?

Obviously, a governor, whether Sandoval or anyone else, should not put yourself in a position that you can’t make an adjustment if necessary. I would think extending the sunset on the existing taxes would be understood by a majority of Nevadans.

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