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Hectic special session looms
by Harry Spencer
Feb 12, 2010 | 1014 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TribuneFile/Debra Reid -
Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons called for a special session of the Legislature to begin on Feb. 23 to address a statewide budget shortfall.
TribuneFile/Debra Reid - Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons called for a special session of the Legislature to begin on Feb. 23 to address a statewide budget shortfall.
On Monday, Gov. Jim Gibbons stepped before a statewide TV audience and outlined the dire fiscal situation in which the state of Nevada now finds itself.

While short on specifics to meet the challenges, he did set the tone for the special session of the Nevada State Legislature that will begin on Feb. 23.

From what he said it is obvious that things will get worse for the state before they get better. He also took Monday night’s occasion to fire a broadside at the Nevada State Legislature that enacted massive tax hikes at its 2009 regular session.

Choosing to compare the Silver State with an average Nevada family sitting around the dinner table trying to figure out how to make a reduced income pay outstanding bills, the governor repeatedly stated, “We, at the state level must learn how to live within our means.” Then he went on to outline a few of the areas in which cuts are likely to come. Education funding will be the most drastically cut and that fact prompted quick — and often harsh — responses not only from the Democratic leadership of the Legislature but also from other proponents of quality education. Even former Gov. Kenny Guinn emerged from his emeritus status to take a few shots a Gibbons. However, he did not offer any specific alternatives to the proposed cuts.

Guinn’s stepping out of the shadows came as a surprise to many political insiders since he has received some of the blame for the current shortfall for his return of some $300 million from the state treasury to taxpayers and his creation of the Millennium Scholarship plan and its early low entry score requirement.

Even former System of Higher Education Chancellor Jim Rogers, who was highly critical of Gibbons when he ran for his current first term as governor, resurfaced and labeled Gibbons’ speech as an outstanding example of the governor’s incompetence.

Educators on all levels quickly gathered on Tuesday to hold town hall-type meetings and issue press releases referring to the upcoming session of lawmakers, where the governor sets the agenda, as something akin to a “death blow” for education in the state.

When serious budget crises arise in any level of government there are only two courses of action left for the duly elected representatives. One is to raise taxes the other is to cut staff, programs and services. In this instance for the state, no one is in favor of raising taxes. One main reason for this is that 2010 is an election year and for politicians at all levels re-election is a prime consideration.

Strangely enough, none of the candidates seeking to oust Gibbons this year weighed in on the governor’s Monday night talk. They are probably wise to keep their own counsel until after the upcoming special session, following which they may be in a better position to take pot shots at specific things that come out of that session.

There seems to be a well-covered-up groundswell among most state politicos, as well as the new aspirants for positions, to completely revise the state’s tax structure.

How that could be effected is a moot point since no one has come forward with a specific plan. Currently, the only public push for a tax hike has been against the state’s mining industry, which is the only sector of the Nevada economy that seems to be doing well in these hard times.

Former Nevada state archivist Guy Rocha has often been quoted, when asked to compare the current recession with the Great Depression, as saying, “In the Great Depression Nevada was last in and first out. In the Great recession it looks like the exact opposite will be true.”

As mentioned in this space last week, options facing the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents in cutting cost still includes the possibility of canceling athletics programs at both the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Celebrity Corner

This week on cable TV, the classic black and white flick, “Stalag 17,” aired on Turner Classic Movie (TCM) channel and it featured two well known performances that had northern Nevada ties. One was the star of the movie, William Holden, and the other was a prominent member of a strong supporting cast, Peter Graves.

Holden had appeared on the University of Nevada campus in 1947 as the lead in “Apartment for Peggy,” a technicolor tale of ex GIs and their young wives in college post World War II. Opposite Holden was Jeanne Crain and the kindly old professor was played by great character actor Edmund Gwenn.

In those late 1940s, the winter months here were pretty sever and much of the campus was covered in snow. Also, Manzanita Lake on “The Hill” was frozen solid enough for ice skaters to be used as a backdrop for some of the outdoor scenes. In fact, Gwenn often held court on a concrete bench outside of Manzanita Hall awaiting set-ups for different “takes” of the area.

As for Pete Graves, in “Stalag” he was still young enough to have dark hair and hardly recognizable as the white-shocked lead in “Mission Impossible” and later in “Airplane” spoofs. Graves was a regular visitor to the ski slopes here and a populous figure at apres ski parties in the Mt. Rose area.

Interestingly enough, late localite Mark Curtis, Sr., was an inmate of the real Stalag 17 during World War II. He was very deferential about the time he spent there and rarely dwelled on it in conversations while a student at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Harry Spencer is a freelance writer in Reno. His column about the past and present of northern Nevada appears weekly in the Tribune.

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in Harry Spencer’s column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tribune.
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