Jim Clark: We Nevada voters ain’t stupid
In a follow up to last week’s column in which I questioned whether “free market, competition loving” Republican legislators will side with Uber against the highly regulated, economically state-protected Nevada taxicab industry, the Libertarian-leaning Las Vegas Review Journal ran an editorial that lashed out against “Nevada’s protectionist transit regulators (who) moved swiftly and harshly to crack down on Uber drivers.”
The opinion piece concludes: “In trying to advance economic development Nevada leaders are projecting an image of a technologically progressive state. Its handling of Uber indicates otherwise. The 2015 legislature must clean up this mess by passing a bill that lets Uber be Uber – and shows Nevada welcomes outside innovation and competition.”
Amen to that.
Meanwhile, the Nevada Economic Forum met and concluded that statewide tax revenue for the 2015-16 biennium is forecast to be $6.3 billion, the highest in Nevada history.
The Forum was chartered to ameliorate the risk that legislators would play politics with budget forecasts and approve spending measures at the beginning of a fiscal period only to find that subsequent revenues totaled less than spending, putting the state in a financial bind.
Forum members are business leaders and scholars with no ax to grind. They meet in December, prior to a legislative session, to form an estimate. They meet again toward the end of the legislative session to make revisions. Legislators cannot approve total spending, which exceeds this estimate unless they approve a tax increase.
The total of budget requests submitted by state agencies for the same period comes to $7.7 billion, a seeming “deficit” of $1.4 billion. But, as Nevada Policy Research Institute points out, “this is an old trick designed to stack the deck in favor of tax hikes. State agencies have again submitted spending wish lists — which allow them to cry that receiving less than they wished for is a dire ‘cut.’”
NPRI continues: “There’s a presumption among liberals that the natural course of things is for government to keep growing and to keep costing more money. This they define as progress. Yet in nearly every other walk of life ‘progress’ means just the opposite. Products get better and better while the cost of them, in real dollars, goes down over time.”
Now most of us can understand state agency heads trying to fudge their budgets a bit expecting the governor and legislature to cut them back. But $1.4 billion more than projected revenues is a 23 percent overshot.
NPRI’s President Andy Matthews refers to an old Credence Clearwater tune, “Fortunate Son,” and its refrain: “And when you ask ‘em ‘How much more should we give? Ooh, they only answer ‘More, More, More.’”
But this kind of game playing is normal for state agencies. And there is the check and balance of the governor and legislature.
How about Nevada’s education hierarchy? They don’t even bother with budgets when asking taxpayers to pony up.
For example, the recent Assembly Bill 46, enacted at the behest of the now infamous Washoe County School Board, delegated the legislature’s power to tax for school facilities and maintenance to the Washoe County Commission.
The measure would have raised Washoe sales and property taxes to create a slush fund form which school officials could draw for capital expenditures. There was no accounting and no sunset provided for in the measure. Had our county commissioners passed the measure, it would have gone on forever without reference to any demonstrated need.
Even more fiscally prodigal was the recent Nevada teacher union ballot measure 3, which would have created a new tax on business margins (as defined by the union) creating a pool of money that could only be spent on educators’ salaries and benefits. Nevada voters overwhelmingly defeated the measure.
Memo to taxing agencies: “We voters ain’t stupid.”
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.