Senate Leaders Criticize Governor

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons' announcement that he'll let a hotel room tax increase take affect without his signature has prompted state Senate leaders to accuse
him of misleading them and being a political coward.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said Wednesday that Gibbons, while opposed to most tax increases, indicated he would approve the 3 percent increase in Las Vegas- and Reno-area room
taxes if the plan had voter support.

"If he is now not going to sign it, I and others have certainly been misled," said Raggio, one of four Republicans who joined with the 12 Democrats who control the Senate to give final legislative approval to the tax plan on Tuesday. Five GOP senators voted "no."

Raggio said Gibbons "proposed" the room tax, which was supported by voters in the Las Vegas and Reno areas in November, in the state spending plan he outlined in January, adding inclusion of the plan in the budget was "one of the reasons I supported it."

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, also criticized Gibbons, saying, "Once again, the governor has chosen to abdicate his responsibility to lead Nevada" by taking "the easy way out by choosing to take no stance on the initiative."

"We must face the future with courage and competence, not with the cowardice the governor has demonstrated today," Horsford said following Tuesday's Senate vote. "It is clear that he lacks any vision for what Nevada should be now and in 20 years and that the people of Nevada cannot trust what he says or does."

Dan Burns, spokesman for Gibbons, said Wednesday the governor was preparing a response to the lawmakers' statements. On Tuesday,
Burns said the governor wouldn't sign the plan but also wouldn't veto it because "he won't stand in front of the will of the people."

Proponents of the room tax increase, mainly affecting tourists, said it's needed to help deal with Nevada's widening budget crisis by generating more than $200 million for the state over the next two fiscal years. After that, revenues from the increase will be used for teacher pay raises.

The plan came to the Legislature after major Nevada casinos and the Nevada State Education Association, a teachers' union, delivered more than 130,000 signatures supporting it.