No end in sight

Nevada taxable sales fell 20.5 percent in June, marking the eighth straight month of double-digit declines, the Department of Taxation reported Friday.

For the fiscal year ended June 30, sales dropped 12.7 percent from 2008. And 2008, recall, was not exactly boom times.

Gross revenue collections from sales and use taxes totaled roughly $250 million in June, a nearly 19 percent decline from the same month last year. For the fiscal year, collections dropped 13 percent compared with 2008.

This has now been going on for two years, with no end in sight.

Yet the politicians in Carson City think every state bureaucrat can still keep his or her job and pension -- and keep getting raises?

June sales were down in all major categories. Durable goods dropped 39 percent. Restaurants and bars were down 9.2 percent. Construction sales tax receipts were down a massive 51 percent.

Telecommunications sales were an exception, up 53 percent. Everybody has to have a cell phone. And rail transportation was up 408.4 percent. (Is that good? The truckers probably don't think so.)

In Clark County, taxable sales totaled $2.4 billion, down 21.7 percent from June 2008. Sales by food services and drinking places, a key indicator of the Las Vegas tourism industry, dropped to $444.2 million, a 9.1 percent decline from a year ago. For the fiscal year, the industry in Las Vegas was off 9.7 percent -- despite all those nonsmokers who swore they'd flock to local taverns as soon as their new law required all the ash trays to be removed.

Meantime, last week, the state reported Nevada's unemployment rate hit a record in July, climbing to 12.5 percent statewide -- 3.1 percentage points above the national unemployment rate of 9.4 percent. And earlier this month, the state Gaming Control Board reported Nevada casinos won $10.8 billion from gamblers during the 2009 fiscal year, down almost 14 percent from the previous 12-month period.

Those with long memories will recall that, last winter, Gov. Jim Gibbons -- widely reviled by the Democratic left and their transcriptionists in the media -- presented a tight state budget which, if enacted, would have left Nevada facing a smaller budget gap today

It wasn't a "cut-to-the-bone" budget, mind you. Nonetheless, legislative big-spenders laughed out loud last February and started adding on to the budget so as not to offend their most valued constituents, the public employee unions. They said all this could be paid for by the simple expedient of raising the hotel room tax, paid largely by tourists.

After all, it wasn't like the tourists, should they start to feel ripped off, could just stay home!

Ha, ha, ha!

Ha, ha ... ha.

The new fiscal year is only two months old, and revenue figures from July and August -- revenues that will reflect a cocktail of tax increases approved over Gov. Gibbons' veto -- have yet to be totaled. But a special session to further pare back the budget now looms all the more likely. Watch for a governor who stands so widely accused of "doing nothing" to put his staff diligently to work, coming up with the most sensible plan they can devise to maintain constitutionally mandated state services.

It's tempting to advise Gov. Gibbons to do nothing of the sort -- to just tell the hostile Democratic legislative leaders, "Let's see you make the cuts."

He won't, in part because Gov. Gibbons, though hardly Mister Show Biz, generally does his job as he sees it, but also because -- left to their own devices -- the Legislature would probably tax school lunches and sunny days.

The state will muddle through. But legislative Democrats will soon need to get serious about budgeting and spending restraint.