“I’ve made a commitment that any tax increase, I will veto it,” Sandoval said in a taped debate aired on KRNV-TV’s “Nevada Newsmakers.”
But despite his assurances to protect Nevada residents and businesses from higher taxes, the budget agenda — and whether taxes are included — will largely be controlled by the Legislature. Any tax hikes require a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and Assembly — the same ratio needed to override a governor’s veto.
Eric Herzik, a political science professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, said it would “be an odd set of circumstances” for someone who voted for a tax increase to then change their mind because of a veto.
“His rhetoric has certainly become harder on not only taxes, but where he expects to go with the budget,” Herzik said.
“The key is, he has pushed it all back on the Legislature.”
Outgoing Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons, who lost to Sandoval in the June primary, took a hard no-new-tax stance and alienated lawmakers. Legislators, in response, rejected his 2009 budget proposal, passed their own $6.8 billion budget that included taxes, and swiftly voted to override the veto when Gibbons made good on his veto threat.
Sandoval, a former federal judge, state attorney general, Gaming Commission chairman and assemblyman, has led in the polls over Reid, chairman of the Clark County Commission and son of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.
Both Sandoval and Reid have said they won’t raise taxes at a time when Nevada leads the nation in bankruptcies, foreclosures and unemployment. But the state also faces a budget cavern some estimate could be $3 billion — roughly half the existing budget — in the next two-year spending cycle that begins July 1, 2011.
Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have said they expect deep cuts to state programs, but hinted that tax increases may be inevitable when the Legislature convenes in February.
Reid on Thursday sidestepped the question on whether he would veto a budget with tax hikes, saying he would advocate his own proposal.
Sandoval has criticized Reid’s plan, saying it’s based on “fantasy money,” while Reid claims Sandoval’s proposal to reset the budget based on 2007 revenue levels — about $5.2 billion — is unrealistic and lack’s specifics.