Jim Clark: How will the Guinn Center think tank fare? | SierraSun.com

Jim Clark: How will the Guinn Center think tank fare?

Jim Clark

Nevada has a new “centrist” think tank called the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities. Located in Las Vegas it is named for popular and affable former Nevada Governor Kenny C. Guinn.

It was founded by former UNR President Joe Crowley and former CEO of Harrah’s Entertainment Phil Satre; its top executive is Nancy E. Brune, PhD.

The entity describes itself as a “nonprofit, bipartisan think-do tank focused on independent fact-based relevant and well-reasoned analysis of critical policy issues facing the State of Nevada.”

It continues: “The Guinn Center engages policy makers, experts and the public with innovative, fact-based research, ideas and analysis to advance policy solutions, inform the public debate and expand public engagement.”

The Guinn Center joins Nevada Policy Research Institute, the oldest think tank in the Silver State, which has historically researched critical Nevada issues and issued policy statements which favor solutions through a free market approach.

On the other side of the ideological divide is the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (“PLAN”), a left-leaning amalgamation of social, environmental, ethnic and union interests which has its own political action committee.

The question is where will a “centrist” policy institute fit in to the Silver State’s amalgamation of organizations trying to influence public opinion as well as lawmakers’ votes?

We know from years of experience that NPRI will underlie its issue recommendations by applying principles of small government, low taxes, high transparency and efficient use of funds. NPRI is strictly hands off when it comes to political action.

PLAN is more of an advocacy organization which also supports liberal candidates for office and does not appear to be in the policy statement business. However, they are nonetheless a force for bigger government, higher taxes and more government spending.

The Guinn Center is brand new (its website … http://www.guinncenter.org … is still under construction), so it will be a while before we see much of their work and are able to fit the organization into the right-left political axis.

However, their first publication is impressive. The Guinn Center tackled perhaps the most controversial issue facing Nevadans, the proposed business margins tax, and issued a nine page fact sheet analyzing the proposal in excruciating detail complete with 24 footnotes.

Opponents of the measure (full disclosure: they include me) tend to oversimplify and overstate objections; proponents (primarily the teacher union) tend to say: “opponents are wrong” and “do it for the kids” while the facts may be somewhere in between. Will the Guinn Center be the honest broker?

Among the more interesting conclusions the fact sheet reports are: 1. the teacher union claim that the measure will raise $800 million annually for education is a substantial exaggeration; Guinn Center calculates point by point to show that it is likely to raise only $460 million; and 2. using economic data from the State of Nevada the Guinn Center demonstrates that the proposed tax would not fall on businesses equally but could range from zero for banks to as high as 13.83 percent for telecommunications firms.

At its conclusion, the Guinn report displays a matrix showing each subtopic of the margins tax proposal, summarizing the arguments for and against without attempting to take sides, something which should be of great value to voters.

Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn came to office in 1998 and raised taxes. When revenues turned out to be more than needed he ordered a rebate to taxpayers. What a reasonable, sensible thing to do. Let’s hope that his namesake institute will exhibit the same equable characteristics.

They’re off to a good start.

Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates, and has served on the Washoe County and Nevada state GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at tahoesbjc@aol.com.

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