Guinn Says No Money for New Programs

Governor Kenny Guinn
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Despite securing passage of a record tax increase last year, Gov. Kenny Guinn said the state won't have money for any new programs at the next legislative session in 2005.

At the same time, Guinn said he will not try to revive his $24 million full-day kindergarten proposal for at-risk children before he leaves office in January 2007.

Guinn said Nevada will have only enough money to maintain current programs and keep up with population growth in the 2005-2006 budget.

After a major battle over the $833 million tax increase passed by the 2003 Legislature, Guinn pledged not to seek any tax increases at the 2005 session.

"I am obligated to do everything I can to run our state with what's been approved," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "I have a very tight rein on what we are spending. I'm watching it as closely this year - even more so - than I have in the past."

It's too early to tell whether the state will have to cut programs or services in the next two years, Guinn added.

The governor has ordered department heads to delay filling vacant positions until they have studied whether the jobs are needed. Since he lifted a hiring freeze in August, the state has filled 272 of 1,806 open positions.

While full-time kindergarten is a goal of many school officials, Guinn said there's no money to fund the proposal.

"I believe we will have to allocate money to our high priority areas just to keep us where we are," he said.

Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, who fought last year's tax increases, acknowledged the budget outlook is bleak.

He's particularly worried about two voter-initiative petitions that seek a repeal of the new business tax.

"As much as I agree with them in principle, I really do have concerns that they are going to have a negative impact," Hettrick said.

But Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, another leading tax foe, said he doesn't understand Guinn's concerns about the budget.

"They had a substantial, very real increase in funding," Beers said. "One wonders where the money is going."

Guinn is endorsing state Sen. Ray Rawson, R-Las Vegas, who's being challenged by Beers.

On other issues, the Republican governor:

-Predicted the gambling industry would fail if it tried to revive the gross-receipts tax in 2005.

-Pledged to campaign for President Bush's re-election despite Bush's support for locating a federal nuclear waste dump at Southern Nevada's Yucca Mountain. Guinn and other top Nevada elected officials oppose the plan.

-Maintained Bush was unfairly criticized for mispronouncing the state's name during a speech last month in Las Vegas. "It's just something that happens to people as they move from state to state," he said.