Just when state lawmakers and Gov. Jim Gibbons thought they could put away their red pens, the Gaming Control Board reported Thursday that casino tax collections from last month fell 22.8 percent when compared with June 2007 — the state’s worst year-over-year drop in gaming taxes in at least a decade.
Prior to last month’s special legislative session, Democratic lawmakers believed many spending reductions weren’t necessary because tax collections, led by gaming revenues, would soon rebound. As it turns out, even Gov. Gibbons and the state’s Economic Forum weren’t pessimistic enough. For the fiscal year that ended June 30, gaming tax collections came in about $15 million below what was projected just a few weeks ago.
“This is an incredibly difficult time for the state of Nevada, and it appears that we may need to prepare for an additional shortfall to our general fund for the fiscal year that just began,” Gov. Gibbons said in a statement.
Naturally, the news that Nevada’s government might have to continue cutting back, just as businesses and workers will, sent Democrats into a tax-hiking tizzy.
“We can’t keep going on like this,” Reno Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie whined. “I don’t think most rational people oppose taxes. Paying taxes is the price of living in Nevada. Taxes are not evil.”
No, most rational people oppose more taxes. Most rational people know that Ms. Leslie and her peers just preserved 8 percent pay raises for many members of the state government’s work force. Most rational people know the state already is on the hook for $10 billion worth of public employee retirement benefits that it has no way to pay for. Most rational people know they’ll get nothing in return for handing over even more of their shrinking buying power.
Raising taxes during a struggling economy is the single worst idea being bandied about by the political class. After an unprecedented four-year spending spree, state government will have to learn to make do with less.
That means zero-growth budgets for the coming biennium. No new frills. No generous pay raises. No new welfare programs or benefits. To accommodate any growth in public school enrollment, some agencies will have to make further sacrifices.
Nevada’s once-vibrant economy will return sooner if the state learns to live within its means.