Business leaders say governor should consider spending cuts

LAS VEGAS - The head of a Nevada business group says Gov. Kenny Guinn needs to take a look at spending cuts before talking new taxes.

Phil Stout, head of the Nevada Association of Independent Businesses, said concerns over budget shortfalls puts pressure on the legislature to look at ways to cut spending.

At a news conference Tuesday, Guinn renewed the possibility of taxing services such as dry cleaning and auto repair as a way of generating additional state revenues. Such proposals have been circulated for years.

''I have a tendency to believe he's laying the groundwork for new taxes,'' Stout said. ''This also puts pressure on the state Legislature to take a hard look at what we're spending money on and I don't think we've seen that in 20 years.''

Guinn's administration released figures last week showing the state may fall as much as $1 billion short in its budget by 2009. The current annual state general fund budget is about $1.6 billion.

Stout, a former Republican Assemblyman, said Nevada could save millions if wages and benefits of government workers were more on par with people doing the same job in the private sector. State workers make 12 to 15 percent more than their private sector counterparts, he said.

Nevada should also look at the possibility of outsourcing and privatizing some operations as it did with the State Industrial Insurance System.

Guinn is now reviewing the way the state conducts business and is requiring every expenditure to be justified.

''We're pleased to see the governor recognizing that you have to look at the expenditure side of the equation,'' Carol Vilardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce would probably not support a tax on services, according to President Pat Shalmy, because many of its members own service-oriented businesses.

''Initially, I would say that, yeah, we want to protect our members' bottom lines,'' he said.


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