Legislators weigh tax hikes to finance highway projects

Assembly leaders unveiled a plan Wednesday to slap a tax increase on trucks to raise some of the money needed to relieve highway congestion in Nevada.

The proposed levy was part of a package of taxes being looked at by Speaker Barbara Buckley and other legislative leaders to fund 10 major highway projects over the next eight years.

Buckley proposed the 15 cents-per-mile “weight-distance” tax on trucks, which would raise $1.3 billion over the next eight years, as a partial solution to the state’s projected $3.8 billion highway construction shortfall.

Buckley, D-Las Vegas, and Assembly Minority Leader Garn Mabey, R-Las Vegas, pledged to lead a bipartisan effort to find the revenue for the projects, eight of which are in Clark County, before the Legislature adjourns June 4.

“There are certain industries that are not going to like this,” Buckley said. “But I think we will make a million Nevadans happy if they are not stuck in gridlock.”

Despite apparent Assembly solidarity, Gov. Jim Gibbons reiterated his blanket opposition to any new tax increases, including those to address traffic congestion.

“I welcome innovative and creative transportation funding initiatives to address the challenges created by the tremendous growth of our state,” Gibbons said in a statement. “However, I remain steadfast in my opposition to new or increased taxes.”

Nonetheless, Buckley, Mabey and Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman Kelvin Atkinson, D-Las Vegas, said the Legislature cannot go home without appropriating funds to reduce gridlock.

“Maybe the Legislature needs to do something the governor may oppose,” Mabey said.


Gibbons says he heard WSJ rumors

Gov. Jim Gibbons said that he had heard rumors Democrats paid The Wall Street Journal to publish stories about his dealings with a defense contractor and that the coverage was designed to help Democrats in the 2008 election.

“I have heard that the Democrats have paid to have these Wall Street Journal articles written,” Gibbons told the Reno-Gazette Journal.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Gibbons is under investigation by the FBI because of suspicions he accepted unreported gifts or payments from a Reno company that was awarded secret military contracts when Gibbons was a member of Congress.


Officials foresee bad wildfire season

State fire officials warned of a bad wildfire season ahead and said Mount Charleston in particular could face catastrophic damages if fires there can’t be prevented or suppressed.

“That’s a real critical situation … with a lot of home values,” Mike Dondero of the Nevada Division of Forestry said at an interagency briefing.

“It’s just an island in the desert there that, if it burns, it’s never going to be replaced in our time,” Dondero said.

Officials said a lack of snowfall and an increase in invasive species would probably lead to dire conditions as the summer fire season approaches.


UMC suggests cuts to reduce deficit

University Medical Center’s top administrators proposed eliminating two Quick Care centers, the pediatric endocrinology clinic, some rehabilitation services and several resource centers to reduce its projected 2008 deficit of $53.7 million.

During a preliminary budget review meeting with the hospital’s board of trustees, composed of the Clark County Commission, Kathy Silver, the hospital’s interim chief executive officer, and her staff also suggested eliminating the state’s only burn center and UMC’s 36-bed neonatal intensive care unit.

Eliminating the patient care services and undertaking other cost-cutting measures would leave the hospital with a projected $27.2 million deficit in 2008, officials said.


Mayor not invited to NBA meeting

NBA Commissioner David Stern said no invitation had been extended for Mayor Oscar Goodman to attend the league’s Board of Governors meeting in New York on Friday.

When asked Wednesday whether he had invited Goodman to address the owners on the mayor’s two-page proposal on a Las Vegas franchise as it pertains to betting, Stern said, “No.”

Goodman said Thursday that he was not offended by being excluded from the meeting. “Of course, I’d like to be at the meeting,” Goodman said. “But it’s his meeting. … The good news is it’s on their agenda, and it will be discussed among the owners whether or not there’ll be a team in Las Vegas under the conditions I outlined.”


LV attorney subject of 10 complaints

Ten complaints filed with the State Bar of Nevada accuse Las Vegas attorney Mitchell Posin of settling lawsuits without his clients’ knowledge or claim portions of settlements have disappeared, according to records obtained by the Review-Journal.

The State Bar, a self-governing body responsible for investigating and punishing negligent attorneys, has yet to take disciplinary action against Posin, even though the first grievances were filed in mid-2005.

David Clark, assistant State Bar counsel, acknowledged that 10 complaints against an attorney is “higher than usual” but added that the process to discipline an attorney takes time.


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