Fee Hikes OK For Some Anti-Tax Govs

Few governors are as vehemently opposed to raising taxes as Nevada's Jim Gibbons.

When state lawmakers passed a two-year budget last year, they did so by overriding a Gibbons veto, since the spending plan they sent him raised taxes by $781 million. Last week, Gibbons said he would rather cut his way out of a projected $3 billion shortfall next year — about half of the state's current $6.1 billion budget — than raise taxes.

"My belief is we don't have a tax problem," Gibbons, a Republican, said, according to the Nevada Appeal . "We have a spending problem."

But even Gibbons is open to raising small amounts of revenue through fee increases. By the time he and state lawmakers had closed a special budget session last week, they had agreed to a plan to erase a new $887 million shortfall by making deep cuts and by raising more than $50 million in fees on parks, gaming licenses and other state services. It's a strategy that appears likely to be part of the budget solution in Virginia, too — another state with a strongly anti-tax governor.

There, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell is trying to broker a budget deal between the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-held House of Delegates. On Sunday (March 7), the two chambers reached a compromise to raise $76 million in fees on car registration, driver's licenses and recording deeds, The Virginian-Pilot reported .

McDonnell, who won election last year on a platform of no tax hikes, has walked a fine line on fees, which have been a sticking point in budget negotiations. According to The Virginian-Pilot , any fee hikes that the governor signs into law must pass a three-pronged test: "That it hasn't been raised recently, that it has a connection to the government process it's being affixed to and doesn't exceed the cost of the service."

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