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 [many] workers need to be attacked before schools can be allowed to stay open.
But what if we don't want to keep going down this same road?
And that led us to think aloud about a different path forward.
It's now a question of whether Nevada will keep sputtering on its way to the bottom, or if progressives can turn this around and take advantage of this unique opportunity to inject more common sense into our state government. The days of Kenny Guinn and Barbara Buckley and Bill Raggio making "grand bargains" seem to be long gone. Term limits are taking away experienced legislators. Meanwhile, the power vacuum is being filled by corporate lobbyists, party central committees, and other outside forces.
So what can we do? In the long term, I still believe it's in our best interest that progressives work toward reforming state government to make it more responsive to the people and less beholden to special corporate interests. But in the mean time, we can't wait on the sidelines for the next two years while Nevada's people continue to suffer inadequate public education, health care, transportation, and other infrastructure necessary to make our state whole again.
So now, we have to ask ourselves not whether and when we will go to the ballot and ask the people to save our state, but how we will do so and who we will build coalitions with. Should we work with gaming and mining on a broad-based business tax? Should we work with other progressive activists on a corporate income tax? Should we push for some sort of mining tax reform? 2012 may seem like a long hike away, but it really isn't. We need to start planning now to take the first necessary steps to save our state and bring real progressive reform to Nevada government.
In many ways, it's started to feel like deja vu yet again. "Big talk" on tax reform has been replaced with tinkering around the edges (of a very broken system). And despite growing trouble arising from chronic underfunding of our social safety net, the chronic underfunding looks quite set to continue (albeit at a slightly less severe level).
Yet with this being said, something is different this time. This time, We the People will have the final say. 2014 may seem like a long hike away, but it truly isn't. And with The Education Initiative and SJR 15 going to the ballot box next year, this is only just beginning.
While we may yet see another politically convenient state budget full of ridiculously bad policy, something is different this time. It may not last too long. Voters will have the opportunity to finally put an end to the status quo next year. This is only just beginning.