If education reform requires 'money, money, money' you're doing it wrong

An amazing story in today's Las Vegas Review-Journal shows how some people think about education reform. The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel discussion that was reportedly on education reform, but turned into a discussion of how to get more money from taxpayers.

From the Review-Journal:

Panelists promoted pursuit of all kinds of programs: Creating a system awarding extra pay to high performing educators, making full-day kindergarten standard, providing incentives for teachers venturing into high-poverty schools and those with few English-speakers, creating more advanced computer science and technology courses, and reinventing the state’s nearly 50-year-old funding system currently providing schools a flat rate per student.

A bill draft request under consideration for the 2015 session would provide up to twice as much for students in special education, living in poverty or learning English.

All of these plans have one thing in common: a price tag above and beyond what’s currently paid for in Nevada public schools.

“We continue to talk about money, money, money,” said John Cole, a community member and former Clark County School Board member, questioning the panel and noting how voters overwhelmingly quashed the state’s two recent ballot measures to increase education funding.

This is a microcosm of the problem that's been plaguing Nevada education for the last 50 years. The education establishment demands more money for ineffective government programs, and then when those programs don't work, they come back and demand more "money, money, money."

Real reform involves taking the money Nevada's already spending and using it more effectively, as explained in NPRI’s 33 ways to improve Nevada education without spending more study. Improving education doesn't require more money. It requires using the money we already spending more effectively, because spending more simply doesn't work.

 

Week in Review: Tax reform

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.

Did you hear? Liberal Nevada legislators are thinking of abolishing the modified business tax and just taking control of business owners’ bank accounts.

OK, OK, that’s not really what they plan to do — I hope — but I can’t help thinking of that joke when I read incoming legislators and media speculating about what “tax reform” in Nevada might look like in the coming session.

It seems that many — be they elected officials or liberal political commentators — don’t want to acknowledge that “reform” isn’t synonymous with “hike.”

This is an important distinction, because knowing that tax hikes aren’t popular, many politicians try to disguise their intentions to raise taxes by talking about how they want to change or update the tax structure.

That’s why the release this week of an executive summary of a report prepared by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce is so important.

While the Chamber will release its full report in the next few weeks, the executive summary contains an important recommendation.

Nevada should consider fixing what is broken with the current tax system instead of pursuing a brand new tax to layer on top of the narrowly based, complex existing taxes.

It then gives some broad-stroke reform ideas based, in part, on recommendations NPRI first put forward in our One Sound State, Once Again tax-reform study.

As NPRI’s Director of Research and Legislative Affairs Geoffrey Lawrence laid out in a column for the Nevada Business magazine, the Silver State needs revenue-neutral tax reform that:

  • minimizes revenue volatility so officials know what to expect when budgeting
  • minimizes distortions in economic behavior
  • minimizes compliance costs
  • protects tax equity
  • reflects the character of the economy

As the Chamber notes, that doesn’t require new types of taxes, but reforming the ones we already have in place, including a broadening of the sales tax base while lowering the rate.

It is still worth keeping a close eye on the Chamber’s final recommendations, because it hasn’t announced whether it wants to pursue reforms that are revenue-neutral or reforms and tax hikes.

Regardless, these substantive recommendations have liberals changing their tune on tax reform. For instance, a liberal columnist at the Las Vegas Review-Journal seems flummoxed by the idea that tax reform might include something other than implementing a new tax, like a corporate income tax. 

So, when liberals claim free-market conservatives are against tax reform, they’re simply wrong. There are plenty of tax reforms — like those we’ve set forth — that would garner the support of fiscal conservatives.

Conservatives oppose tax hikes, because tax hikes hurt individuals and families, and also because they’re unnecessary to provide government’s core services.

Nevada needs Solutions, not more spending on failing government programs.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

 

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Week in Review: Projections

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


I had a chance to see John Fogerty in concert a couple months ago, and while I always enjoy live music, I always come away with that one song that gets stuck in my head, usually for several weeks after the show. In this case, it was “Bad Moon Rising,” one of Fogerty’s old hits with Creedence Clearwater Revival, that simply refused to go away.

Since yesterday, however, I’ve had a different CCR tune on the brain — the old classic “Fortunate Son.” There’s one line in particular that keeps playing over and over in my head:

And when you ask ’em, “How much should we give?”
Ooh, they only answer “More! More! More!”

It’s highly unlikely that Fogerty, when he belted out this line at the Palms a few weeks back, intended it as a preview of the 2015 Nevada Legislative Session. And I hope it turns out not to be — though history provides little reason for optimism.

Yesterday brought the news that Nevada’s Economic Forum is projecting the state will bring in $6.3 billion in tax revenue over the next two fiscal years. Traditionally, the Economic Forum projections are greeted by much of Nevada’s political class with cries that the revenue figure is insufficient to run the government for the next two years — and that, therefore, taxes will need to be raised.

There will certainly be those who clamor for higher taxes once again this time around. And this will happen despite the fact that the $6.3 billion revenue figure is the highest amount ever projected for a single biennium. That’s because government agencies have submitted budget requests totaling $7.7 billion, resulting in the appearance of a significant shortfall.

But as NPRI’s own Victor Joecks pointed out yesterday, this is an old trick designed to stack the deck in favor of tax hikes. “State agencies have again submitted spending wish lists — which normally allows them to cry that receiving less than they wished for is a dire ‘cut,’” said Victor. “But receiving an increase smaller than you desired is not a cut. It’s just a smaller helping of ‘more’ than you wanted.”

Exactly. It’s akin to asking your boss for a $10,000 raise, and then, when he gives you a $5,000 raise instead, complaining that your salary has been “cut” by $5,000. No one would get away with that in the private sector. So why should our politicians?

There’s a presumption among liberals that the natural course of things is for government to keep growing, and to keep costing more money. This they define as progress. Yet in nearly every other walk of life, “progress” means the exact opposite. Products get better and better, while the cost of them, in real dollars, goes down over time.

It’s long past time for government to follow suit. Nevada’s citizens deserve it and, if last month’s elections are any guide, they’re demanding it. They shot down, by a 4-to-1 margin, a measure that would have raised taxes on businesses in order to throw more money at our structurally flawed education system. And they handed the reins of power to the major political party most closely aligned with small-government principles. The message from voters couldn’t have been clearer.

Time of course will tell how it all unfolds (and you can be sure my NPRI colleagues and I will have a lot more to say about all this in the coming weeks and months). But this time around, when Nevada’s liberals issue their typical calls for “More! More! More!” responsible policymakers would be wise to tune them out.

Thanks for reading, and take care.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Week in Review: Thanks

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


We in Nevada have plenty to be thankful for this year.

In 2014, we saw hundreds of teachers and support staff claim their freedom by dropping membership with their union. More government agencies chose to be transparent by providing public employee compensation data to TransparentNevada.com. We witnessed voters overwhelmingly defeat what would have been a disastrous business tax. And now we’re about to enter into a legislative session that’s poised to be the most promising for free-market- and freedom-loving Nevadans in decades.

And none of that would have been possible without the generous donations from supporters like you, who value freedom in Nevada enough to support the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

Because of your support, NPRI was able to inform educators and workers across the Silver State of their right to work, whether they belong to a union or not; we were able to spread the word through a video seen by over 38,500 people that business taxes are harmful not only to the companies that must pay them, but to the people they employ; and we were able to continue fighting to protect Nevada’s Constitution through our Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation.

For that, my NPRI colleagues and I are incredibly thankful.

This week, we at the Institute have something new to be thankful for. Going forward, Amazon.com shoppers will be able to contribute financially to the Nevada Policy Research Institute automatically and at no cost to them. We’ve partnered with the online retailer’s new website, AmazonSmile, which donates a portion of eligible purchases to NPRI.

And, contributing to NPRI through AmazonSmile is simple. All one needs to do is visit smile.amazon.com, select the Nevada Policy Research Institute as his or her charity of choice, and then shop as usual. Supporters will find the exact products at the same prices as they will find at Amazon.com, but by shopping through smile.amazon.com, a donation will be made to the Institute with each qualifying purchase. It’s that simple.

I told you last week about the ambitious, yet achievable plans NPRI has to change Nevada for the better in 2015. In case you missed my column, we will work to see universal school choice made a reality, reform collective bargaining laws and fix the broken NVPERS.

The coming year will provide great opportunity to make Nevada a freer state, but it can’t happen without supporters like you. As we enter the Season of Giving, will you make a tax-deductible donation to NPRI?

And, as you do your holiday shopping, please consider shopping through smile.amazon.com to support NPRI simply, automatically and at no cost to you.

Thank you for your support this year, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Week in Review: Solutions

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Election Day 2014 brought sweeping gains for the Nevada Republican Party, in the state legislature as well as the constitutional offices. The GOP now has a firmer grip on power in this state than at any time since before most of us were born.

While NPRI doesn’t get involved in elections, there’s no denying the significance of the Republican wins. The major political party that most closely aligns itself with the principles of limited government and free markets now has a historic opportunity to enact its agenda. It’s also significant because NPRI’s ideas — the ones you and I work so hard to advance — are positioned to receive more serious consideration than ever before.

Some of you joined me and other NPRI staff at our Reno office last night to hear a Session preview from Geoffrey Lawrence, our director of research and legislative affairs. As he explained, we will be in Carson City throughout the Session to share our ideas — all of them laid out in detail in Solutions 2015 — with policymakers.

As you can see from Solutions, we have plenty of ideas to solve Nevada’s many problems. But there are a few specific, key areas where we see a unique opportunity to shape public policy in a profoundly positive way.

One such area is education reform, where for too long bureaucrats — rather than parents — have been calling the shots on where and how Nevada students are educated. Policymakers should take bold action on school choice in order to address that problem and, while they’re at it, should also pursue alternative teacher certification and reforms that would strengthen the state’s charter-school system.

There’s also a major need for reform to state labor law, where the existing status quo has driven government costs astronomically high and has led to frequent calls for tax increases in order to pay for our growing public obligations. Policymakers can get spending under control by eliminating compulsory collective bargaining and repealing prevailing wage laws, among other things. Also, bringing transparency to the bargaining process would allow taxpayers greater oversight on the decisions regarding how exactly public money is being spent.

And let’s not forget the Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System, which is carrying an unfunded liability that, under a fair-market valuation, exceeds $40 billion. Major structural reforms are called for here, and a great place to start would be to shift our current defined-benefits system into a hybrid defined-benefits/defined-contribution model, which has been implemented successfully in Utah.

There are lots of other policy areas where fiscal conservatives should be able to make gains, such as tax policy, health care and the state budget. And bringing more transparency to government generally would help ensure that our elected officials are held accountable to our state’s hard-working taxpayers.

We heard a lot of candidates this year run on platforms rooted in individual liberty, limited government and fiscal accountability. And Silver State voters, in numbers most of us have never seen before, handed those candidates the reins of power. Those candidates — in their capacity now as elected officials — have an opportunity to turn that talk into action.

You never know when that opportunity may come again. So, if you haven’t yet had the chance, take some time to flip through Solutions 2015 to learn more about the policy recommendations we will be communicating to legislators in the coming months and throughout the Session. And, if you’re in the Las Vegas area, be sure to join us December 10 at our open house, where Geoff will give a preview of what we can expect during the 2015 Legislative Session.

Best regards,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Week in Review: Stupid

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Have you seen this?

It’s a video of Jonathan Gruber, one of the chief architects of the Affordable Care Act, explaining the strategy employed in order to ensure that the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare, would pass.

Those of us who saw the ACA for the train wreck it is have warned consistently, during the debate over passage and since, that its proponents were being less than candid about its true contents and likely effects. Now we have one of the key individuals behind the law acknowledging that deceit was indeed part of the strategy. In the video, Gruber admits that had the American people been told the truth about the proposed health care legislation, “it would not have passed.”

Even more breathtaking than this staggering admission is the justification Gruber offers for the bait-and-switch. In short: It’s because you’re stupid. But don’t worry — it’s not just you. No, it turns out that your stupidity is just part of being an American.

“Lack of transparency,” said Gruber, “is a huge political advantage. And basically, you know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

But wait. If “the American voter,” were he or she to have known the truth about Obamacare, would have responded by opposing it, how does it follow that said voter is stupid? Doesn’t it make more sense to assume that if individuals, given access to accurate information, will respond a certain way, then they are responding rationally, logically — even intelligently?

It makes sense to you and me. But to understand what’s driving Gruber’s assumption, one must understand something inherent to much of the progressive left. Gruber and his ilk start from the premise that most of us are stupid. And that, left to our own devices, we’re simply incapable of making the decisions that are best for us. What we need is for our intellectual betters (i.e. Jonathan Gruber) to take those decisions out of our hands altogether. This disdainful view of ordinary citizens is what, more than anything, explains the left’s constant push for bigger and more intrusive government.

So in the case of the Affordable Care Act, keeping voters in the dark about what was really going on was essential — because we’re too stupid to draw the right conclusions from that information. We’re simply not bright enough to see past what appear to be flaws in this scheme and recognize that, really, it’s all for our own good.

That’s why the open enrollment period for getting insurance through the ACA, which begins Saturday, had to be pushed back until after the election. If citizens were to gain some additional first-hand experience with the program, they might be reminded of just how frustrating that experience can be. And since they’re too ignorant to see that it’s really all for the best, they might do something rash — like express their dissatisfaction in the voting booth. Thus the decision to delay that experience until after the voting was finished. (How’d that strategy work out, by the way?)  

Of course, this theory — that our political elites know better than we do what’s good for us — has now been put to the test. The Affordable Care Act has evolved from merely proposed legislation into the law of the land, and we can now gauge how wise its proponents truly were. Has it been the resounding success they promised? Was it really good for us, even if we were too stupid to know it?

You know the answer. In reality, the law has been and continues to be an unmitigated disaster. Health care costs are up, access to quality care is down, people have lost insurance plans and doctors they had and liked — and that’s to say nothing of the Obama administration’s ridiculous bumbling of the ACA’s website launch.

Polls continue to show that American voters realize what a disaster Obamacare has been. And of course, last week they delivered a historic electoral rebuke to the party responsible for forcing it on our nation.

There’s a word to describe someone who sees something for what it is, and has the wherewithal to hold the appropriate people accountable. That word is “smart.”

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Week in Review: You did it

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Back in January, I used this space to share with you a list of policy issues that NPRI had identified as our top priorities for the year ahead.

And the first thing on that list was our campaign to inform voters about the destructive impact of the proposed margin tax, which would appear on the November ballot.

We recognized early on that the battle over the margin tax — which proponents deceptively billed as the “Education Initiative” — would be the most important policy fight facing the Silver State this year. And given the havoc it would wreak on Nevada’s businesses and workers, we knew it was crucial that voters understood the damage this tax would cause.

I’d say they got the message.

In case you missed it — and I really can’t imagine there’s any way you did — the margin tax was dealt a resounding defeat on Tuesday, with voters rejecting it by a nearly 4-to-1 gap. Just under 79 percent of voters took a look at this teacher-union-backed measure to further soak Nevada’s already-struggling private sector and said, no thanks.

A lot of folks have called me in the past few days to commend our team at NPRI for our work on this issue over the past year. And indeed, I think our staff did a tremendous job in making the intellectual case as to why this tax represented such terrible policy. So those words of commendation are most welcome.

But the real credit belongs to you.

You and your fellow NPRI supporters are the ones who made all of our efforts possible. You’re the ones who allowed us to share the stories of the families and individuals who would be harmed by the margin tax. It was your support that allowed us to publish our study showing that more than 3,600 jobs would be lost if the tax took effect. And it was your generosity that funded our YouTube ad campaign illustrating the way those jobs would fall like dominoes, leaving thousands of our fellow citizens out of work and worrying about their future.

My friend, you did this. And I can’t thank you enough for your commitment to doing what’s right for our state.

As you know, the defeat of the margin tax wasn’t the only noteworthy result of Tuesday’s elections. Nevada Republicans made history — and shocked all political observers — by not only taking back control of the state Senate, but soaring to a large majority in the Assembly as well. The GOP now controls the governor’s office and both legislative houses for the first time in decades.

We at NPRI don’t get involved in political races, so we weren’t working toward any particular outcome on that front. But there’s no question that the power shift in Carson City sets up a whole new dynamic for the 2015 Legislative Session and presents a series of policy opportunities we’ve not seen before. And I’ll have a lot to say about what that means in the coming weeks and months.

But for now, I just want to say thank you. We had no way of knowing back in January, when we committed ourselves to exposing the truth about the margin tax, how it would ultimately turn out. But what we did know was that there was no way we could succeed on our own. We needed you to be there with us and you were.

Well done, my friend. Thank you.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Week in Review: Information

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Just over two weeks ago, I told you about the 90-second video NPRI released that exposes the lie perpetuated by margin-tax supporters that only big business and corporations will pay the tax if it passes next week.

In her own words, a young mother describes what worries her about the margin tax. In short, if voters pass the job-killing margin tax, she could lose her job and lose her ability to provide for her family.

You and I also discussed how to make sure as many voters as possible saw this video and heard its powerful message. Using Youtube ads, we could target this video to mothers throughout Nevada.

And in that short time — thanks to your generous support — over 30,000 Nevadans have seen it. This means that 29,000 people — most of them female voters — are better informed about the most important measure on this year’s ballot.

In the last two weeks, we’ve also been able to drop our costs per view to under 25 cents a person. That means your immediate donation of $3, $33, $333 or even $3,333 will help us make sure this video is seen by 12, 132, 1332 or even 13,332 more voters.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

P.S. If early voting is any indication, voter turnout will be at a record low this year. This means it’s more important than ever that each voter be an educated one.

Will you help our powerful video reach even more voters by donating $3, $33, $333 or even $3,333 right now? Your investment will help our video reach 12, 132, 1332 or even 13,332 more voters.

Thank you. 


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Week in Review: The end of Obamacare

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


In a recent interview, President Obama intoned that the upcoming election is all about him and his policies, saying, “I’m not on the ballot this fall. Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot, every single one of them.”

The public knows this, and early indications are pointing to a striking rebuke of Obama’s policies. That’s why those behind Obamacare are doing everything they can to hide how destructive the un-Affordable Care Act is until after Election Day.

Instead of opening enrollment in the insurance exchange Oct. 1 as was done last year, the exchanges will not open until Nov. 15. And, it should come as a surprise to no one that the Obama administration will keep the extent of the 2015 premium increases under wraps until that date.

That calculated move prompted Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, to say, “when it comes to the lack of openness and transparency about Obamacare, this administration has no peer.”

We knew before Obamacare was passed — when Nancy Pelosi infamously said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it”— that it wouldn’t be a transparent piece of legislation and that, as a result, it would be a bad deal for taxpayers.

Going into its second year of implementation, numerous reports are estimating double-digit premium increases.

This comes on the heels of a Circuit Court decision that said only people who purchase insurance through state-based exchanges — which Nevada no longer has — are eligible for federal subsidies to offset the skyrocketing cost of the government-mandated insurance. Costs are going up.

That’s not the only way Obamacare is increasing costs. If you recall, Obamacare gave states the option to expand Medicaid eligibility to healthy, childless, working-age adults. And this week, it was reported that 71 percent of those who signed up for Obamacare took advantage of the expansion of Medicaid. Expect liberals to cite Nevada’s decision to expand Medicaid as a reason government needs to raise taxes in the next Legislative Session.

This week, two reports offered glimmers of hope on the Obamacare front. The first cited a new poll from Politico that shows, despite the withholding of information, Americans are getting wise to the ills of Obamacare. A plurality now believe their quality of care is worse under Obamacare and only 7 percent believe their premiums will decrease. You heard that right — fewer than 10 percent of Americans believe the Left’s broken promise that Obamacare would save families $2,500 per year.

The second bit of news that could signal the eventual end of this Obamacare nightmare is the release of an Obama administration-funded study that said Obamacare could fall into a “death spiral” if court decisions eliminating taxpayer subsidies stand.

A fundamental tenet at NPRI is our belief that education changes minds. Keep educating your friends, families, coworkers and employees about the reality that is Obamacare and in time, we will see this bad thing come to an end.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Week in Review: 10 biggest problems with the margin tax

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Early voting begins tomorrow, and the biggest decision voters will face is Question 3. Question 3 would impose a 2 percent margin tax on all businesses with revenue over $1 million a year. This includes businesses that are losing money.

Over the last three years, NPRI’s team has done a lot of research on the margin tax, highlighted the stories of individuals the tax would force out of business and even released a video earlier this week explaining how the tax would prevent a Nevada mother from providing for her family. Thank you for sharing that video, by the way; it’s already received over 5,000 views, and the numbers keep climbing.

I know the volume of NPRI’s research can be hard to digest for folks who are busy with work and family, so I wanted to boil it down into a quick top 10 list that you can share with your circles of influence so that they can be informed before they vote on Question 3. Source information for these facts is available at NPRI’s margin-tax resource page.

Here are the 10 most destructive things about Question 3:

10. The initiative is so poorly written that it could force competing businesses to file joint tax returns.

9. Gross receipt taxes, like the margin tax, “pyramid,” which favors larger, consolidated businesses over smaller ones.

8. Passing the margin tax would probably doom revenue-neutral tax reform efforts, like NPRI’s proposal to lower the sales tax rate while broadening what is taxed.

7. Because of the types of exemptions contained in the margin tax, some businesses, like family farmers, would be taxed at a higher rate than other businesses, like law firms.

6. The tax would reduce real disposable income by $240 million annually and

decrease investment by $7.1 million annually.

5. Passing this ballot question would further entrench the myth that Nevada hasn’t dramatically increased education spending over the last 50 years.

4. Question 3 would kill over 3,600 jobs, which would prevent dads and moms from providing for their families.

3. Because of how complicated the margin tax would be, mom-and-pop businesses would be hit with substantial compliance costs just to compute the tax.

2. Question 3 would hit businesses that are losing money with a new tax. This could force business owners, like Renee Newman, to shut their doors.

1. Pouring more money into Nevada’s broken education system would lead to a more expensive, but still broken, system that would fail tens of thousands of our children.

Remember, if Question 3 passes, the legislature can’t modify the language of the initiative for three years, so the stakes are even higher than normal.

Would you forward this email to 10 friends, family members or associates before they vote? You can help them make an informed decision.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Total Records: 1841

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