Jim Clark: Is Brian Sandoval drinking the Democratic Kool-Aid?
Special to the Bonanza
Are you tired and disgusted with the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C.? Cheer up. Take a look at what’s been going on in some Republican governed states.
Gov. Jeb Bush turned around Florida’s failing K-12 education system by establishing liberal charter school legislation, a tax credit scholarship program for poor minority children, and virtual and distance learning systems while simultaneously eliminating a hated tax on investments.
In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels turned an $800 million deficit into a $500 million surplus and $2 billion in reserves without raising taxes. He ended collective bargaining for state employees, privatized the state’s toll roads and created the largest school choice program in the country.
Gov. Bobby Jindal inherited Louisiana’s long history of corruption and brought in a comprehensive system of ethics reform. He improved education in New Orleans by converting every failing school into a charter school. Finally, he turned a $341 million budget shortfall into a surplus even after lowering taxes by $1.1 billion.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie capped property taxes at 2 percent, enacted public employee pension and health benefit reforms, balanced four budgets without raising taxes, and in fact cut taxes by $2.35 billion.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez turned her state’s budget around from a $450 million deficit into a $200 million surplus.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder reversed a $1.5 billion deficit while at the same time lowering personal income taxes and eliminating the state’s business tax.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker took on public employee unions, eliminating collective bargaining and reforming costly pension/health benefits, and he turned a $3.6 billion deficit into a $1 billion surplus. Equally important, by eliminating inefficiencies imposed by public employee unions Wisconsin’s school districts are solvent.
The common thread running through these success vignettes is a reform of collective bargaining laws and reigning in of public employee unions which have produced a work force that is almost exactly contrary to what it takes to run any kind of enterprise.
Pay, benefits and job security based on seniority instead of merit creates a top-heavy inefficient labor pool that demands more and more taxpayer money as its productivity wanes.
Here in Nevada, we have that problem in spades. Gov. Brian Sandoval wants to fix the problem by following the path blazed by his peer GOP governors, enacting education and government employee reforms but, unlike his Republican brethren, he wants to raise taxes by almost 20 percent to pay for the reforms. Has he been drinking the Democratic Kool-Aid?
Tax opponent Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore (R-Las Vegas) has a kinder, gentler explanation. She told an overflow crowd at the Reno Republican Men’s Club last month that the governor created his budget before the election when casinos would give no better than even odds that the GOP would win back the senate and the odds of capturing the assembly were impossible; he therefore prepared a budget designed to attract Democratic support.
Indeed, items like a $30 million allocation for all day kindergarten, $73 million for autism and state-paid preschool appeal to liberals even though experts assert that they do not result in lasting improvement in student achievement.
So maybe Gov. Sandoval has come up with a “make everybody happy” budget and is prepared to have some of his wish list trimmed.
One other factor. Nevada’s financial forum, experts who forecast state revenues, meets first in December prior to the legislative session, and again in May, right before adjournment.
The final budget cannot be higher that their forecast without also raising taxes. The December estimate was $6.3 billion. The May estimate may be higher if the economy improves.
So there are a lot of moving parts. Let’s see what the legislature and the governor grind out.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada State GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at email@example.com.