Gibbons talks like a free-market, limited-government believer

Victor Joecks

Although just a few weeks ago Gov. Gibbons allowed the third largest tax increase in Nevada’s history to become law, yesterday he was sounding a different tune.

Gov. Jim Gibbons confirmed today what has been widely speculated in legislative halls: If lawmakers fail to pass the budget in the 120-day regular session, Gibbons would seek to prohibit them from raising taxes in a special session.

Which isn’t that surprising, since raising taxes hurts businesses, lowers state tax revenue and gives people a reason to leave Nevada. Even Keynesian economists say that increasing taxes in the midst of a recession isn’t the best idea unless you want to increase unemployment.

And as a bonus, he’s thinking about vetoing a Washoe County gas tax increase.

Describing last year’s ballot question seeking voter approval for a gas tax hike in Washoe County was “vague,” Gov. Jim Gibbons said today he is uncertain about whether he would sign the bill empowering the county commission to enact the hike.

Gibbons has said he wouldn’t stand in the way of voter-approved tax hikes. But he’s not ready to say that RTC-5, which passed with 56 percent of the vote in November, qualifies as a voter-approved tax increase. While the explanation for RTC-5 clearly stated transportation officials would seek a gas tax hike if voters approved the measure, the question itself did not contain the word “tax.”

Now this may all be smoke and mirrors. Let’s not forget that Gov. Gibbons first had legitimate concerns about taking stimulus money from the feds that would create a future unfunded liability. But then he took it anyway.

The governor’s talking like a believer in the free market and limited government, but the real question is – will it last?