Surplus may test Legislature's courage

Conservative Nevada is not a state where lawmakers want to be labeled as being liberal spenders.

That's why it will take some courageous decisions by legislators in 2007 to undo a spending cap put in place by the 1979 Legislature.

Why would they want to do that?

Because the state is enjoying an economic boom that could result in a $591 million revenue surplus, maybe even higher if the economy keeps up its current pace.

At the same time, some legislators, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, have already said there are serious needs in Nevada that could be remedied by that surplus.

The Appeal broke the story Saturday that, despite the rosy revenue picture, the state is nearing its spending cap. That cap is based on a formula dictated by inflation and population growth.

That means the governor would be unable to spend the bulk of the expected $591 million revenue surplus to supplement some of the state's underfunded programs.

It's even possible that unexpected and increasing costs could actually force the cutting of some existing programs, even though the state would have the money to cover it.

But the cap doesn't apply to the Legislature, which could still act to spend the surplus.

What would Nevada taxpayers think about that?

According to a survey done in May, some 36 percent favored a refund of state surplus funds.

So the popular choice for legislators would likely be to abide by the cap, and maybe even return the money.

In our view, however, real courage means doing the right thing.


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