Saturday, February 16, 2013

The 900 Pound Gorilla Is Still in the Room.

Last month, we looked at the burgeoning campaign by certain Southern Nevada power players to change the state funding formulae. So far, it seems to be working. Even Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-Reno) has agreed to change the higher education funding formula to curtail the shortchanging of Southern Nevada schools.

Yet even with this, there's still conflict. Yesterday, a Twitter war erupted between Assembly Majority Leader William Horne (D-Las Vegas) and Nevada System of Higher Education Regent Jason Geddes over the new funding formula. While both seemed resigned to "Gov Rec" (Sandoval's proposed budget), they were arguing over how quickly to implement the $12.8 million annual funding shift from Northern colleges (UNR, Truckee Meadows, Western NV, & Great Basin) to Southern colleges (UNLV, NV State, & the CSNs). Geddes prefers Sandoval's approach of slowly phase in this change over 3 years, while Horne and other legislators want to start the transfer immediately while giving Northern schools a one-time $12.8 million payout to smooth over the transition.

What was so sad about this Twitter war was seeing 2 highly esteemed legislators (Jason Geddes served 1 term in the Legislature from 2002-04) bickering over fiscal crumbs. This is exactly what I feared last month when certain Southern power players were demanding "fair share" without progressive tax reform. We're reduced to this sorry fiscal tug-of-war when we should be restoring funding for the North and the South.

We know we don't properly support our colleges & universities. And because we chronically underfund them, our economy & society suffer as a result. And now that "The Sequester" has become a real possibility, Nevada colleges & universities stand to lose millions in federal funding. Simply put, the status quo is failing us.

And Governor Sandoval & Legislature leaders are just arguing over how to start a $12.8 million shift from there to here. It's just a little tweaking of the status quo. Why can't we talk about restoring our schools instead of choosing who to shortchange worse? When will Carson City start to get it? When will they finally notice that 900 pound gorilla in the room?

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