Thursday, May 24, 2012

How Do We Right the Wrongs in the Legislature?

Yesterday, we discussed the growing problem of legislators favoring big donors' wants over their own constituents' needs. Today, we see even more of this as we get a better sense of who's donating to whom and why.

And again, I'm not going to lie about the scope of this problem. While Republicans indeed benefit the most from cool corporate cash, there are some Democrats who line up at that trough as well. And while this kind of "bipartisanship" gives some pundits and lobbyists the warm fuzzies, it can be revolting to Nevadans hoping and yearning for a better future.

Why? Again, I must point to the always wise Jim Rogers for the answer.

We now seem to understand what is going on in the economy around us. When Nevada was rolling in money, 95% of its population would have said – “Who needs a college education? You can make a hundred thousand dollars a year even if you can’t read. “

The result of this idiotic thinking was that we invested little if anything in education. Then the bottom dropped out of the economy and we found ourselves in a world of reality where those who are uneducated will no longer be a part of our economy when it returns to full strength.

Many politicians in this state love to talk about how much they "love education" and "support schools". Yet for all the supposed warm fuzzies there, we continue to underfund public education at an atrocious level. And as long as public school funding remains at its current atrocious level, Nevada students can't reach their full potential. And that means our economy can't reach its full potential.

And as we've talked about before, the key hurdle to solving the state's chronic budget mess is fixing the state's broken tax code. Yet as long as moneyed corporate interests continue to bankroll several "business conservative" Republican and "pro-business Blue Dog" Democratic legislators, we'll never see the critical mass needed in Carson City to embark on progressive tax reform and restoring investment in needed public infrastructure. Union workers in this state now understand this brutal reality, and that's why they're now willing to take their proposed business tax directly to the people.

So we Nevada voters (especially those of us who can't afford to hand out $5,000 campaign checks like lollipops) have to ask ourselves this: What are we willing to do to fix this broken system and redirect Carson City's focus on the right priorities? Should we look to California, and specifically our next door neighbor's habit of ballot box budgeting, as a way to circumvent the Legislature? Or do we need to double down on finding ways to fix state government and make it more responsive to the needs of Nevada's future?

These are tough questions, but Nevada's progressives need to develop good answers soon, before it's too late.

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