Gov. Barbano Vetoes Gov. Guinn's Tax Watchdog Award


5-5-99 Internet Edition
Updated from the 5-2-99 Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune

I have it on very good authority that I am now governor of Nevada.

Whose authority?

The ultimate: Ma Bell.

A few days ago, a lady called Nevada information and asked for the governor's office. Ma Bell gave her my number.

This wife and mother from a southern state was researching the services available for autistic children should her family move to these parts. She figured the governor would have a staff person assigned to this area.

"I did an Internet search to see how Nevada rates," she said. She became disappointed upon learning that the Silver State ranks down at the bottom of the barrel with her current Dixie residence.

"I've had to work so hard here getting programs established to benefit my child and others like mine. I really don't want to have to start all over again," she said.

I told her that we just don't put a lot of money into the less fortunate. I thus always advise people against moving here unless they have high income and no children.

I also expressed my hope that she will nonetheless come here because she struck me as someone who will make this a better place. Her husband has a substantial job offer which will give the family the connections to make a difference.

I then gave the lady some references to confirm the awful truth for herself.

"Looks like they didn't give me the wrong number after all," she said.

Shortly thereafter, new Gov. Barbano e-mailed her the following Associated Press item:

"The (Nevada mental hygiene and retardation) division's waiting list dilemma came to a head when the parents of an autistic child sued, resulting in a 1998 ruling that required the state to provide services to a broader range of mentally retarded people. Even though the division got another $5 million to meet demands in the current two-year cycle, the funding problem and long waiting list remain."

In Nevada, you're on your own.

GUINN WATCH. Screwing over the disabled is something Kenny Guinn practiced long before becoming governor.

During George Bush's 1991 Gulf War recession, Democratic Gov. Bob Miller appointed Republican Guinn to slash the state budget by more than $300 million. Guinn took the easy route and attacked the weak. He recommended killing many mental health programs and severely cutting care to injured workers.

Now that he's been made straw boss of the gambling plantation, Gov. Dudley Do-Right is at it again. In his February state of the state address, he announced major human services cuts, including huge reductions in mental health care.

But times are not tough. We're living in fat city. Why is the the fastest growing state in the union so broke? Why has our boomtown gone bust at the bank? Who's tapping the till?

The only thing to do was get on my horse and track the boss mountie down.

I caught him counting the blues to a bunch of Democrats, of all people. The Washoe County Democratic Central Committee had invited the GOP governor to address their monthly meeting. He went into his now-familiar litany of financial hardship.

It was time get some answers. I wanted him to clarify his pledge of "no new taxes."

He has been praised for vetoing a real estate transaction fee increase which would have brought about $12,000 per year to the treasury. The Las Vegas Review-Journal lauded him and last week the guv earned a "Friend of the Taxpayer" citation from Americans for Tax Reform.

This ignores his signing of Senate Bill 255 just in time to impose a sales tax increase on Washoe County to pay for depressing the downtown Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

I asked him to reconcile his no-tax stance given these seemingly contradictory actions, especially with the current legislative steamrolling of SB 477, a room tax hike for corporate welfare projects like a new downtown Reno convention center.

Some of our room taxes are paid by low-wage Nevada workers who live in weekly motels because they cannot qualify for apartments. The legislature is also processing Assembly Bill 540 which will give casinos $500,000 in tax breaks to build low-cost housing for such workers, throwing tax money at a problem by handing cash to those who cause it.

Gov. Guinn said that he will only veto "anything affecting the general operating budget which I control." He added that he will continue to sign into law taxes and fees which voters enact, such as Douglas County's sales tax increase; or those which local officials impose, such as Washoe County's sales tax boost railroaded last year by lame duck county commissioners.

He will thus be signing the room tax increase, he noted.

Several weeks ago, I made the above facts known to Americans for Tax Reform which nevertheless gave him their award for his $12,000 underachievement. You may post a protest at

You might also inquire if they're taking nominations in the category of gross moral obtuseness.

TRENCH WARFARE. Reno citizen Sam Dehne has posted to his website the recent report which severely criticizes the Reno City Council, downtown redevelopment and the railroad track fiasco.

Economist Gary Horton's document offers plenty of food for thought along with several mindbenders. For example, Mr. Horton asserts that Reno practices "benign neglect towards the needs of the gaming industry."

I guess he considers as chopped liver all the millions poured into downtown redevelopment, movie theaters, the Harrah auto collection and that cash vampire of a bowling stadium. Read it and let me know your opinion.

CINCO DE TAXO. This column's Daily Sparks Tribune readers were informed that Assembly Joint Resolution 17 was scheduled for a full hearing in Carson City this Wednesday, May 5.

I was just notified by Ted Harris of Nevadans for Fair Taxation that the session has been moved back one week, time and meeting room to be announced. (Watch the Sunday Tribune or the Barbwire website, below.)

The bill's proponents say they need more time to research the measure's impacts on local governments.

AJR 17 is modeled after California's 1976 Jarvis-Gann Initiative which passed as Proposition 13. Assemblyman Don Gustavson R-North Valleys, proposes to slash property taxes and control future increases.

At the same time, Senate Bills 383 and 411 are quietly moving toward passage despite representing a humongous property tax cut for public utilities. They will substantially increase pressure to raise residential property taxes.

DOTSHOTS...Las Vegas lobbyist Richard Bunker showed up with a bandaged ear at last week's hearing on the multimillion-dollar tax subsidy for Steve Wynn's casino art collection, which includes a VanGogh. I implored Mr. Bunker not to take self-expression to extremes. With the Wynn tax break and so many other big business loopholes, Nevadans have sacrificed more than enough to the art of politics... Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, has the power to free Washoe County court personnel from second-class citizenhood. Las Vegas family, youth and juvenile services workers have the right of collective bargaining. Fully 77 of 109 Sparks-Reno employees want the same. AB 670 sailed through the lower house 40-0. Unless Washington moves, local workers' rights will remain wishful thinking. Call him at 775-687-3652 or 775-331-3826 and ask him to rescue the measure.

Be well. Raise hell.


Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a 30-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and head of Casinos Out of Politics (COP). In 1998 he served as gubernatorial campaign manager for State Senator Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas.
Since 1988 Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune, where an earlier version of this column appeared on 5/2/99.

Read more about it: Why the most prosperous state can't pay its bills:
Corporate Welfare in Nevada
Legislature '99
Guinn waffles while Wynn wins again
The history of the Steve Wynn art tax loophole
Guinn Watch '99: All Guinn, All the Time
Open season for breaks & loopholes by Dennis Myers, Las Vegas Business Press, April 5, 1999

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