Gibbons Repeats Veto Threat

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Gov. Jim Gibbons, stepping up his saber-rattling as the 2007 Legislature nears an end, repeated to reporters Wednesday his warning to lawmakers a day earlier that he'll veto any budget that boosts taxes and leaves out programs he wants.

"I will not accept this budget if it doesn't have some of those moderate concessions," the Republican governor said at the start of a news conference. But at the end of his comments, he said, "I'm hoping we never get to that process" of an actual veto.

Gibbons wants to keep a business tax at its current rate of 0.63 percent - a fallback position from his earlier bid to lower it to 0.62 percent. The current rate is scheduled to "sunset" and return to 0.65 percent, and Democrats in the Legislature support that.

The governor also wanted to eliminate a bank branch excise tax but said he's willing to give up on that. But he wants $1.7 million for a Nevada National Guard "Youth Challenge" program that focuses on troubled youths, and is pressing for funding for an anti-terrorism intelligence-sharing operation in Carson City.

Two such "fusion centers," designed for use by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, already are being planned for Las Vegas and Reno.

Gibbons also wants about $16 million put into his school "empowerment" plan that would give more control to local schools to improve their education programs.

In all, the proposals add up to less than half of 1 percent of the nearly $7 billion, two-year state budget being finalized by legislators. Gibbons termed his requests "very modest proposals" when asked whether it was worth the trouble to push the ideas.

Asked whether there was a danger of angering lawmakers who are
supposed to adjourn June 4, Gibbons said, "Every time I go over there I come back with the idea that they're not listening or they don't hear this. All I'm doing is taking to the public my priorities."

He also said it was "an absolute, bald misrepresentation" to say he or his staffers hadn't spent enough time working with lawmakers. He praised Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, for working closely with him, but criticized Assembly Democrats led by Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, saying he had tried with no success "time and time again" to negotiate with the Democrats.

Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, and the Assembly's majority whip, Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said Tuesday the veto warnings were made to both the Senate and Assembly GOP caucuses.

"It makes it very difficult," Leslie said, adding, "You almost don't want to take it seriously because it's so absurd."

Democrats are proposing various cuts in proposals advanced by Gibbons in order to free up more funds for programs they support,
such as full-day kindergarten.

A bill erasing "green" building tax breaks was vetoed May 14 by Gibbons, who then issued an executive order that will require state lawmakers to come up with a new plan before their session ends on June 4.

The governor also has been pushing a highway construction plan that would reallocate hotel room and entertainment taxes - a plan that has come under fire from gambling and business interests who say raiding funds used to promote tourism in Nevada is shortsighted and will hurt the state's economy.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)