Monday, May 30, 2011

Deja Vu?

Why are we here? Why does this feel so familiar? Why does it feel like I've heard this from Ralston before?

Because the solution will be only about money, a number arbitrarily chosen as it always is to garner the necessary votes, with policy considerations left behind (or never even raised) in the Rush to Close. Once again, when lawmakers have returned home, the state’s unsustainable tax structure will remain in place (why do you think we have the country’s highest unemployment rate?), as Nevada gamers look to the Far East, the higher and lower education systems retain their cellar-dwelling positions, and options diminish with every myopic biennial exercise in futility.

We are here because of shortsighted Legislatures, governors and, yes, even the judicial branch. We are here because of rapacious special interests with no investment in the state’s education system and social safety net. And we are here because of an apathetic populace — I saw more energy and involvement in one session from college students than in a quarter-century from those who should be even more active.

The common metaphor for the end of sessions is a train wreck. But this locomotive has been chugging along for decades, a recurring Murder on the Nevada Express, where everyone is to blame and no one takes responsibility.

But wait, do we have to keep repeating the same mistakes? Must Nevada Government always look like such a train wreck?

Thus, we will have the same result we have every other year, a cobbling together of unrelated parts to build a tax and budget monster that makes Frankenstein look attractive.

As this session comes to an end, the major special interests are expressing a familiar fear. Gaming, mining and Big Business are more afraid of a different kind of ballot royale next year — a raft of initiatives to tax them because people are mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore.

Generally, the business elite need not worry because labor and the teachers can be co-opted or they misplay their hands. And the chances of a well-funded, effective effort sprouting from the grass roots assumes someone would step up to seed the movement.

And so we are where we always are.

OK, here's where I diverge from Ralston. Are we really where "we always are"? I do agree with him that the usual suspects in Carson City are, but what about the real people outside?

What if Nevadans are ready to change course? And what if state government is forced to change course?

The Supreme Court's ruling should highlight for the governor and his anti-tax allies in the Legislature that Nevada, the state, is living on borrowed time and from paycheck to paycheck like many Nevada families. We are literally one accident, one natural or man-made disaster or other unforeseen crisis away from bankruptcy.

Dismantling our already-strained governmental and educational institutions breaks faith with Nevadans, past and future, who expect responsible leadership in times of crisis, not blind adherence to an ideology that serves no one well. Nearly all elected officials will admit, off the record, that we are neither overtaxed nor adequately served by the bare-bones budget that currently exists.

Our consistently low ranking on both tax burden and services is nothing to be proud of. This new financial crisis should wake open the eyes of the governor and his allies for a fresh look at the long-term health of our state and hope for the future.

We have limped through the current recession without leadership during the last governor's administration, barely keeping the ship of state afloat by using the much maligned, and now much missed, federal stimulus funding. Do we really want four more years of failed leadership and lack of vision from the Capitol?

Remember the definition of insanity? We can't keep doing the same thing while expecting different results! We can't keep robbing Peter to pay Paul. We can't keep playing the same "accounting tricks" that ultimately got Enron into trouble. We can't keep avoiding reality.

The Nevada Supreme Court's ruling was a brutal reality check. And even if Brian Sandoval and most legislators continue to ignore the overarching message of that ruling to play more games and hobble together some sort of "Frankenstein budget", Nevadans are getting fed up with this nonsense. People out here are hurting, and they are wondering when they will see more job openings and how their kids will be able to get into college. Meanwhile in Carson, the debate is all about how much workers need to be attacked before schools can be allowed to stay open.

Wonderful. (snark)

But what if we don't want to keep going down this same road?

Perhaps we're ready for something different. Perhaps we don't want to take it any more. Perhaps we don't want to feel this "deja vu" ever again.

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