George Will

It proposed to solve what it calls ``the calamitous conditions facing our state'' by resolving what it says is ``tension'' in the constitution between the supermajority requirement and the requirement that education be funded and the budget balanced in 120 days of work. It said the Legislature should act on taxes by a simple majority.

The Legislature trimmed the governor's tax increase (from $994 million to $836 million -- two-year totals). Then, to avoid a precedent contradicting the people's will, it passed it by a two-thirds majority. Of that sum, $704 million (more than half of it for education) was necessary just to maintain current services for the increased population.

From 1992 to 2002, about 7,000 people a month moved to Nevada, most of them to Clark County -- this city and environs. The county opened 10 schools last year and needs 41 more in the next three years. Thirty-two percent of students in grades K through 12 are Hispanic, and the percentage is even higher in the lower of those grades. Nevada's high-school dropout rate is among the nation's highest. Elderly come here for the climate and low taxes, but when Guinn became governor 36 percent of convalescent homes were facing bankruptcy.

There is no state personal or corporate income tax or inheritance tax. The state's principal source of revenue is the gaming tax, but whereas 90 percent of Las Vegas' revenues used to come from gaming, now more than 50 percent come from ancillary entertainment revenues, which are taxed at a lower rate.

``We're almost like Alabama,'' he says, speaking of the inability of Nevada's school system to produce the educated work force to diversify the state's economy beyond services associated with gaming and tourism. Las Vegas has almost 50,000 more hotel rooms than New York City. But Nevada would be better off with some additional industries.

``You can't,'' Guinn insists, ``cut your way to prosperity.'' And: ``I don't like raising taxes any more than the next person. But I dislike taxes less than I dislike shutting down schools.'' Which he dislikes more than orange juice.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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