Gov. Guinn: Show some guts and show me the money
Expanded from the 3-18-2001 Sparks (Nev.)
The remains of the day had dwindled by the time Sen. Joe Neal and I made our way out of the legislative building last Tuesday. As we stepped out of an elevator, the lawmaker glimpsed a familiar face.
"Governor! I've been trying to get you some money and here you are in the building and don't even come upstairs."
The good senator from North Las Vegas and I had spent the afternoon mopping up the tears of gambling industry slicksuits pleading poverty on behalf of Nevada casinos.
The gamblers did offer one concession. They would agree to new taxes if other businesses also take a hit. How? A net profits tax, of course. Nevada casinos now pay the lowest tax in the world on their gross income, the monthly casino win.
The gamblers have always admired the Nevada mining industry's tax freebie. Cloaking a tax dodge under the mantle of education, the miners got the legislature to grant them a costly single-issue statewide election in 1989. The teachers' union supported them. The few voters who showed up passed the measure. The mining industry now enjoys Hollywood accounting whereby the net profit is always puny and the tax thereon amounts to no more than 30 pieces of silver.
Did the new "net proceeds of mines" tax work? No. Never made a dent in the needs of the fastest growing state in the nation.
I said in a 1982 speech that Nevada would one day have to choose between becoming an actual state or admitting that we will never be more than a boomtown mining camp where families are not welcome.
I reminded the Senate Taxation Committee of that last Tuesday. The difference in the atmosphere from two years ago was palpable. In 1999, Sen. Neal's supporters were treated like lepers. This year, the shunning was absent. Reality has started to sink in now that the state itself is sinking.
We're going to have to start closing schools. Soon.
Just last Monday, the Senate Finance Committee was notified of a $30 million shortfall. It actually looms much larger as our leaders sway to the dance band on the Titanic.
Bobbi Gang, representing the Nevada Women's Lobby, endorsed Neal's bill to raise the gross gaming tax by four percent and another to place an advisory vote on next year's ballot. For years, various polls have consistently shown the public favoring a gaming tax increase by a two-to-one margin.
The gamblers testified that the people are basically too stupid to grasp the magnitude of the issue. Juice lawyer-lobbyist Harvey Whittemore went so far as to assert that the nation's founding fathers would have been revolted by the idea of letting the people vote.
I always worry about guys who presume to speak for dead prophets.
Jan Gilbert of the Progressive Leadership Alliance noted that her membership is divided on the gaming tax issue, but that there is consensus that some new source of state revenue is needed.
The facts are now solidly with Sen. Neal. I presented the Guinn-Hunt administration's own study which lays the state's fiscal problems at the feet of the gambling industry's creation of low-wage jobs.
Which brings me back to the guv. The three of us chatted for more than 20 minutes. Gov. Guinn checked off a list of spending items which he said have brought criticism that he sounded "like a Democrat" in announcing one-time appropriations in his State of the State Address.
I disagreed by quoting his in-law, Tribune columnist Bill Hanlon, who recently wrote that the state consistently underprojects its income. This leaves a pile of cash just in time for the legislature's every-other-year meeting. Hanlon notes that we have no surplus at all, just a dollar figure documenting another two years of underfunded needs.
"Governor, you have accepted a tremendous burden," I said last Tuesday.
"You have the opportunity to go down in history as another Grant Sawyer or another Robert List." He was taken aback.
Sawyer (1959-1967) is largely credited with bringing Nevada government out of the 19th Century. List (1979-83) was ousted after one term after pushing the infamous 1981 tax shift (better known as the "tax shaft"), the root cause of the state's chronic fiscal crises.
Gov. Guinn won his only elective office by selling himself as a proven leader. Thus far, he has chosen to place the state on autopilot and wait for studies. Tuesday, he told me we don't need any more research. He said that he deserves re-election largely based on his spending of the "surplus" on those single-shot appropriations for many worthy and needful programs.
Governor, you make much of your humble upbringing as the son of California farmworkers.
"Grape pickers," you said. My family, too.
We both went to the same college. You've become very wealthy and successful in Nevada. It's time to remember that you got where you are because you were eligible for the finest, most affordable and inclusive public education system ever created --something today's Golden State students no longer enjoy thanks to Ronald Reagan.
You're now much bigger than your casino boardroom patroons. Perhaps you will soon realize that. You have the opportunity to grow 10 feet tall. Or shrink to the status of Whatshisname.
I'm rooting for you to make the right decision. You're the only governor I've got.
Show me some leadership.
Show me the money.
Be well. Raise hell.
© Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 , editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal. org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
Site composed and maintained by Deciding Factors
Click here for inclusion on our mailing list