Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) started off his state of the state address Feb. 8 by rattling off a series of statistics that he said reflects the recession's "crippling hold on Nevada," including: a 13 percent unemployment rate, a 24.5 percent drop in home values over the third quarter of 2009, a 17 percent fall in state revenues last year and a $1 billion hole in a $6 billion budget.
To tackle the state's fiscal crisis, Gibbons, who is up for re-election this year, said he planned to call a special session for Feb. 23. He proposed laying off "several hundred" state employees, cutting salaries and setting up a donation system to help pay teachers.
He also called for shutting down the 140-year-old state prison in Carson City and moving inmates to other facilities, although he didn't specify which ones, and cutting some health care programs.
Gibbons was adamant in his refusal to raise taxes, lambasting the Democratic legislature, which overrode his veto last year and raised nearly $1 billion by raising payroll taxes, the state sales tax, the hotel room tax, vehicle registration fees and business license fees.
"They made the wrong call," he said. "I vetoed their new taxes and their inflated spending. I thought it was wrong then. I know it's wrong now. I planned responsibly. They gambled on new taxes and we all lost," he said.
To balance the budget, Gibbons warned the state must reduce spending by nearly $900 million and called for a smaller government. "We must commit to a fundamental evaluation of what problems require government intervention and what problems we must fix ourselves," he said. "We will have to eliminate programs and services which make some people feel good, but which we simply can no longer afford."
Education spending will be cut, as part of this reorganization, he said, adding that his plan would transfer authority back to local school districts.
Gibbons also proposed building recycling centers in Nevada that would produce energy from trash and attract jobs to the state. He also called for a report on ways to increase tourism in the state.