RENO — Two years ago, Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons won largely on a campaign promise that he would not raise taxes.
With the state now facing its worst budget crisis in decades, analysts disagree over whether it would be political suicide for him to support a tax increase.
Robert Uithoven, a political consultant who ran Gibbons’ campaign, said going back on the centerpiece of the 2006 campaign could ruin the governor’s chances for a second term.
“I don’t think he can survive if he signs a tax increase into law,” Uithoven told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “It’s not just what sustained him. He earned the title of governor on that tax pledge.”
But longtime political operative Sig Rogich said a tax increase wouldn’t necessarily kill Gibbons’ political career if it’s coupled with major budget cuts.
“The governor has a lot of latitude,” said Rogich, a Gibbons political adviser. “In times like this, people understand no one chooses to do this kind of thing.”
After he was told last month that the state’s $1.2 billion shortfall would grow another $341 million, Gibbons said everything was on the table to deal with the crisis.
It wasn’t long after he began negotiating with lawmakers over a solution that he renewed his opposition to a tax increase. Rogich said Gibbons’ “everything’s on the table” statement was significant.
“You could interpret that to mean he’s open-minded to solving the problems,” Rogich said.
“There is simply no way to cut that kind of spending out of the state budget as a practical matter,” he added.
Gibbons signed legislation passed in last week’s special session that raised revenue from the car rental industry and businesses that collect sales, cigarette and liquor taxes. Gibbons repeatedly denied the measures, which will raise $4.2 million, represented a tax increase.