Who Gets Spared the Budget Ax? All Depends on Your Definition of “Essential”

by Annie Black
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(Annie Black) – The Nevada Legislature continues to fiddle around with finding a way to fill the $1.2 billion budget hole created by the #SisolakShutdown without doing what those of us in the private sector have been doing for four months now…

Cutting non-essential spending and laying off non-essential workers.

To avoid necessary spending cuts, the Legislature is all but begging for a federal bailout.  I’m opposed.  Gov. Sisolak and the Democrats who control the Legislature made this mess; they need to clean it up.

But when I wrote just that in a tweet on July 10th, former state Sen. Bob Coffin (D-Las Vegas) replied…

“Public Safety is more than half of most Nevada local budgets. The other half is deemed essential by some and never essential by those who don’t think someone else should have services. You need to plainly say what YOU would cut or eliminate to have credibility. Take a chance!”

Fair enough.

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, we don’t have a $1.2 billion budget hole because we haven’t taxed enough; we have a $1.2 billion budget hole because we’ve spent too much.

As Victor Joeck’s noted in a recent column, over the last three budget cycles “Nevada’s spending jumped 37 percent.”

So first on the chopping block should be any new programs/spending approved by the 2019 Legislature.  That includes Gov. Sisolak’s “Office of New Americans” which provides taxpayer-funded services for illegal immigrants.

Secondly, it was reported last week that a House panel approved a spending bill that includes “no funds for a Yucca Mountain repository.”  Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) declared, “We have once again defeated the dangerous attempts to make our state the dumping ground for the nation’s waste.”

The fact is we have six members in our Congressional delegation who are fighting Yucca in DC, complete with staff members funded by the federal, not state, government.  As such, maybe it’s time to look at shuttering Nevada’s “Nuclear Waste Project Office” as a non-essential duplication of effort?

And how about eliminating a couple truckloads of non-essential public school “administrators” and shifting those savings into the classroom?

And how about repealing Nevada’s prevailing wage law that jacks up the cost of public works projects, such as school construction and roads?

And how about funding the Education Savings Account program that would provide vouchers to parents who remove their kids from public schools, thus cutting the education budget while simultaneously creating smaller class sizes for those who remain in the public schools?

Nevada Policy Research Institute has plenty of other cost-cutting ideas.  Why aren’t they seated at the budget-cutting table?

But Mr. Coffin hits the nail on the head when he observes that the definition of “essential” and “non-essential” is like beauty; it’s in the eyes of the beholder.  Someone will ALWAYS argue that THEIR job, program, agency or department is “essential.”

Of course, those who oppose any cuts of any kind for any reason use an old “trick” to mislead the public.  They claim that ANY budget cuts will cut truly essential services such as cops, firefighters and classroom teachers – as if there are no other government employees who don’t fit into those categories.

Which brings me to Nicole Kiley.

According to a recent article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Ms. Kiley is a full-time, taxpayer-funded “dietitian” at UNLV who provides “nuanced detailed guidelines tailored to the needs of the 500-plus student-athletes at the university.”

Among the services she provides is “virtually sifting through their refrigerators as a means to provide the best advice possible.”

Sorry, Charlie.  That’s just not “essential” at any time, let alone in the current budget environment.  Any student-athlete interested in learning more about good nutrition can simply Google it or check with their doctor like the rest of us.

Of course, Ms. Kiley – and maybe even Mr. Coffin – will think her government job is “essential.”  But that’s EXACTLY the discussion we should be having.  Tough times call for tough decisions.  And raising taxes in this environment of private business closings and job losses is insane.

What’s called for here is the immediate creation of an ANTI-Appropriations Committee in the Legislature.  Grab a line-by-line budget report and a couple cases of red pens.  If a government job, service, agency or program is non-essential, draw a line through it.

If there’s a dispute, put it up for a recorded vote in committee.  Then have the entire package of “non-essential” budget cuts voted on by the entire Legislature.

That way the taxpayers of Nevada will be able to see exactly what the governor and legislators consider to be “essential.”  And voters will then be able to register their agreement or disagreement at the ballot box in November.

QUOTES OF THE DAY

“The truth is, we’ve held a gun to their (mining industry) head and that we have made them the whipping boy when in fact they’re one of the best industries Nevada has ever had … Mining has been great for Nevada.” – Nevada State Sen. Ira Hansen, 7/15/20

“Those young and healthy people who currently walk around with a mask on their faces would be better off wearing a helmet instead, because the risk of something falling on their head is greater than that of getting a serious case of Covid-19.” – Beda M Stadler, former director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Bern

Annie Black is a Mesquite City Councilwoman and Assemblywoman-elect for Nevada State Assembly District 19.  You can get more information by visiting www.electannieblack.com 

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