- The Washington Times - Monday, September 1, 2003

Recall fever must be contagious. It’s already spread from California to Nevada, where anti-tax conservatives last week began an effort to oust Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn.

Their gripe: Mr. Guinn’s state budget proposal, which called for $1 billion in tax increases. After nine months of wrangling, two special sessions and a historic trip to the Nevada Supreme Court, the Legislature in July approved an $836 million increase, the largest in Nevada history.

It’s time to stop the governor before he taxes again, said Tony Dane, the Republican political consultant who heads the Committee to Recall Gov. Guinn.

“He’s allowed government to bloat. He wants to fund every program to the max,” said Mr. Dane, who filed a notice of intent to seek a recall election with the state on Wednesday. “It’s a total mismanagement of the state’s money.”

But don’t look for Mr. Guinn to vacate the premises immediately. First, recall organizers must collect 128,109 signatures in 90 days, a hurdle that opponents say won’t be cleared easily in a state with just 2 million residents.

The campaign lacks the financial resources to hire paid signature-gatherers, and the support of leading Republicans and Democrats. Critics have dismissed the effort as the brainchild of political extremists, noting that its biggest base of support so far comes from the anti-tax Independent American Party.

A poll conducted July 28 to 30 for the Reno Gazette-Journal/KRNV-TV found that 68 percent of likely voters opposed the Guinn recall, while 24 percent supported it. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percent.

“You have a handful of fringe characters on the political scene who have decided if it works in California, it’ll work here,” said Michael Bowers, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. “I don’t think it has much chance.”

Of course, that’s what they said in California six months ago, when anti-tax guru Ted Costa started circulating petitions on the Internet. Mr. Dane, who ran a successful Las Vegas City Council campaign last year, said he has about 600 energized volunteers, many of them small-business owners worried about the effect of the tax increase on their livelihood.

The recall Web site, www.recallguinn.com, had attracted 18,000 supporters before he filed his notice of intent with the Nevada Secretary of State. After a burst of publicity Thursday, he said, the site took several thousands more hits.

They’re upset about the tax increase, but what really has them rankled is what they see as the governor’s effort to bypass voters. On July 10, reacting to a request by Mr. Guinn, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature could approve a tax increase by a simple majority, though the Gibbons Tax Restraint Initiative, approved by the voters twice, requires a two-thirds majority.

“It’s not only the tax increase but the way he went about getting it passed, which was to go around the people of Nevada,” Mr. Dane said.

Greg Bortolin, the governor’s spokesman, said Mr. Guinn had asked the court to compel the Legislature to return to balance the budget, not overturn Gibbons. In the end, the Legislature did approve the tax increase by a super-majority.

“While it infuriated a lot of people, the Supreme Court’s ruling was ultimately moot because the Legislature did end up passing the budget by a two-thirds majority vote,” said Mr. Bortolin.

He characterized the recall as more of an annoyance than a threat. “The many credible conservative voices in this state have not lent their support to this movement.”

Though it certainly looks that way, the Nevada recall effort didn’t take its cue from the campaign to unseat California Gov. Gray Davis, Mr. Dane said. The anti-Guinn Web site went up in February, a month before recall papers were filed in California.

“I wanted to send a message at the beginning of the legislative session saying that ‘If you do what you’re planning to do, these are the possible repercussions,’” Mr. Dane said.

Mr. Guinn responded Wednesday with a statement listing his accomplishments, including a $250 million budget cut in the past fiscal year and a hiring freeze that reduced the number of state employees per capita.

The governor, re-elected last year with 68 percent of the vote, added that he had confidence in Nevadans to make the right decision. “With great respect to the recall effort, I have faith in the wisdom of the people of Nevada,” Mr. Guinn said.

Recall opponents predict the people will decide it’s not worth their time or money. A special election would be expensive, and Mr. Guinn, who’s serving his second and final term, already has pledged that he won’t propose a tax increase when the Legislature meets next in 2005.

“You have to remember that the governor is a lame duck,” Mr. Bowers said. “He’s already said he won’t ask for more taxes, and he can’t run for re-election, so it seems kind of pointless to spend this kind of money and effort on a recall.”

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