Thursday, September 20, 2012

Brian Sandoval's Arithmetic Problem

Apparently when not acting as Mitt Romney's "Unofficial Official Hispanic Ambassador", Brian Sandoval claims the title of Nevada Governor. And when he's not trying to spin away Mittens' many political woes, he's trying to spin away the state's stubborn fiscal dilemma. So far, it looks like his spin isn't working for either case.

“It will take more than the revenue growth that we’re seeing to make significant restorations to salaries and benefits and to keep education whole,” said Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, who was chairwoman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and heads the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee. “I’m anxious to see the governor’s budget.”

The Sandoval administration has released few details about his budget-writing process. So far, he has instructed state gencies to submit “flat budget” requests. He also has announced that since July 1, 2011, tax revenues have come in $70 million over initial projections. [...]

Last week, Sandoval doubled down on his promise not to cut education in an interview with the Reno Gazette Journal’s editorial board.

"I meant it when I said we are not going to cut K-through-12 or higher education anymore," he said.

For education, however, a flat budget would mean budget cuts.

“It wouldn’t be enough,” Washoe County Superintendent Pedro Martinez said. “We all have cost increases we have to deal with, one way or the other.”

Martinez said he expects to ask the state for as much as $14 million to cover increased costs.

Last March, Governor Sandoval really thought he could magically balance the budget with gauzy rhetoric and cutesy politics. And while his big move made good political sense six months ago, it makes no fiscal sense now. Because our state's population continues to grow while our state's revenue sources do not, we're running into what's often called "The Structural Deficit". Because our state has been unable to collect the revenue necessary to fund all our state's needs, we keep running deficits over and over and over again.

And unless new revenue is added into next year's budgetary equation, cuts will have to be made. And those cuts will have to be made at the worst possible time, right when Nevada needs strong schools the most. As we've discussed before, good public education is absolutely necessary for diversifying and healing our state's troubled economy. Yet because we've shortchanged our public schools so often before, they are just struggling to survive now. And if more revenue isn't added to the state budget soon, we'll see even more horrific cuts to our schools.

This is where The Education Initiative steps in. If passed, it will stabilize Nevada's revenue stream and give us the ability to fully fund public education simply by asking the giant multinational corporations that are currently (mis)using our tax code to avoid paying taxes elsewhere to pay something closer to their fair share, and do it so we can actually build the foundation of a better economic future for all of Nevada.

For some reason, Brian Sandoval continues to fear The Education Initiative. But since his budget proposal has (again) been weighed and found wanting, the initiative just looks increasingly like the first step of our only way out of this structural deficit and toward a lasting solution for both the state's fiscal health and for public education.

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