Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How to Fill the Deficit?

This is the $888 million question facing the Legislature starting today. According to The RGJ, they still have no plan yet to counter "Luv-Guv Gibbons" and his "destroy the social safety net... but not too much, so let's work around my 'no new taxes' pledge with a few fees here and there" muddled mess of a "plan". So far we have Bill Raggio pushing good GOoPer buddy Brian Sandoval's (What, you thought there would be no campaigning this week? HA!) "Nevada Pay Day Loan Plan" to sell off state assets for the state to lease back, while Steven Horsford is still considering shutting down state parks. HUH??!!

The Sun outlines all the major proposals being discussed by Gibbons and the legislators. As of now, they are:

- Gibbons' 10% across the board service cuts (education, health care, prisons, and more)... But legislators want to pare down cuts in some sectors, like education.

- Gibbons' proposal to bring on Chicago based company InsureNet to install cameras on street corners all over the state to verify insurance registration... But many Democratic legislators are questioning the effectiveness of it and likening it to "Big Brother watching you".

- Gibbons' "4 10's" plan to set state employee work days to 4 10-hour days per week with 10 hours of furlough (no pay) per month... Interestingly enough, this is among the least controversial in Gibbons' plan.

- Gibbons and legislators want to take some of the $4 billion set aside for local governments' capital improvement projects... This is a "strange bedfellows" situation where NSEA (state teachers' union) President Lynn Warne and Brian Sandoval both support the move to stave off further state cuts in programs like K-12 schools, but local government officials across the aisle and across the state vehemently oppose (since the state will be raiding local funds akin to what California has been doing recently).

- Gibbons and legislators agree on the concept of additional fees (don't call them taxes... even though they are) on mining and gaming, but legislators are considering increasing the amounts that Gibbons proposed on mining... The mining industry says it wants to work out a temporary "fix it now, drop it later" deal that legislators aren't buying, but the big Las Vegas players look willing to take the deal on new gaming fees.

- And now, the rest of the heap... The above-mentioned lease back "pay day loan", closing state parks, one-time fund transfers, online sales tax collection, "sweeping" in money meant for specific purposes (like the Millennium Scholarship Fund) into the general fund... Wait, are you sure I'm not back in California?

This week looks to be quite messy in Carson City. And hopefully, our Nevada Legislature will eventually agree to a plan this week that minimizes any more cuts to the most vulnerable in our society while still investing in much needed infrastructure (like K-12 schools and colleges!) and spreading new taxes (including fees) fairly, including those (like the mining industry) who have avoided paying their fair share for far too long. I'm sure some still consider this a pipe dream, but I'm hoping sanity will win the week and we'll save our state.

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