In case you missed it...

Cronyism:

Citizens might have heard earlier this year that Tesla Motors sold $20 million of Transferable Tax Credits — gifted to them by the state of Nevada as part of their $1.3 billion incentive package — to MGM Resorts International. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As it turns out, there’s a serious amount of money to be made by schemes targeting tax credits from local governments — and a $17 million mansion on the north shore of Lake Tahoe is the proof. (Read more)

 

Federal overreach:

A small Hispanic church in rural Nevada won a major victory over the federal government Tuesday. Six years ago the U.S. Government’s Fish & Wildlife Service illegally and deliberately diverted a spring-fed stream to which the Solid Rock Ministry in Nye County had long-vested water rights — a move that resulted in massive flooding to the property. On Tuesday, a judge rejected arguments central to the federal government’s defense. (Read more)

 

Labor market:

The good news is that there is a record number of people — over 152 million — currently employed in the United States. The bad news, however, is that a record 95 million Americans are currently not in the labor market. Some economists claim the increase in non-working adults could be because baby-boomers are deciding to retire. Such a theory, however, runs contrary to a recent trend identified by the Labor Department showing that older Americans are increasingly remaining in the workforce. (Read more)

 

Taxation:

A man who inherited a house in Normandy from his deceased relative thought he had found treasure when he discovered thousands of gold coins and two gold bars stashed away on the property. However, what he really discovered was just how cruel taxation can be. Upon learning about the find, the French government levied a 45 percent inheritance tax on the gold, along with three years of back taxes because the man’s deceased relative failed to declare the hidden gold. (Read more)

 

Individual liberty:

America is known as “the land of the free” — but that title is slowly slipping away. According to the Cato Institute’s new Human Freedom Index, there are 22 other countries more free than America. Hong Kong, Switzerland, New Zealand and Ireland topped the list for individual liberty. On the other end of  the list of 157 nations, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Iran were among the least free. (Read more)

 

 

We know exactly why we’re thankful

On behalf of everyone at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, we want to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

As Nevadans, we have many reasons to show our thanks.

We live in a beautiful state, in an incredible country, and are blessed with privileges, rights and freedoms that much of the rest of the world has never experienced.

Indeed, we are truly blessed. As Abraham Lincoln once explained it:

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown.”

It is this appreciation for the freedoms we have that motivates so many of us to dedicate ourselves to preserving this American experiment. It’s a cause we take seriously here at the Institute.

But we don’t do this alone.

We might be the ones putting together policy solutions and compiling the research — but it’s supporters and advocates like you that truly make all our work possible.

None of what we do would have the impact it has without your support and enthusiasm for our shared ideals. Indeed, it is your generosity and engagement throughout the years that has made NPRI’s defense of freedom possible — and has turned the Institute into an effective champion of limited government.

We at the Institute are blessed to have so many supporters, friends and proponents who are willing to help us do what we do. We’re thankful for all you do in support of freedom.  

You truly are the driving force behind what allows us to keep doing the work that we love.

We all sincerely thank you. Together we will continue fighting to keep Nevada and the west prosperous and free.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day.

Sincerely,

 

Nevada Policy Research Institute staff

 

Treasurer’s ESA application portal has gone live!

Good morning ESA friends,

The Treasurer’s ESA application portal has gone live! There’s a lot to walk through, so let’s get straight to it…

Please be aware, while Treasurer Dan Schwartz continues to move forward with ESA applications, the program remains unfunded.  Continuing through the application process does not guarantee funding.  Ultimately, getting the program funded and fully operational will be an issue for the 2017 legislature. 

For now, if you are interested in applying for the ESA program, you can do so through NevadaESA.com or the Treasurer’s ESA website.  Previous applicants will be able to update their files through both of those links as well — but a word of warning from the Treasurer:

If you have already sent in an application, do not reapply!! Reapplying will change your enrollment date.

New Applicants

If you haven’t already applied, here’s what you need to know:

Sign in as a new applicant and set up your account. The first page you will complete seeks parent information. This will be your primary dashboard to apply for and access all your children’s accounts. You will be required to upload your driver’s license or other ID, utility statements, proof of income and, if applicable, military orders here. 

Also, this is the place to mark yourself as a participating entity — something you will want to do so the Treasurer can reimburse you for education-related expenses covered by ESAs.

Also, if you are interested in being on the treasurer’s parent review committee, you can indicate that interest here. It only lets the Treasurer know you are interested — it doesn’t necessarily mean you will be picked. 

After you complete your information, you will “add” your child and go through the application process for each student you want to enroll in the program.  During this phase of the application you will be asked for your child’s social security number, student ID number (if age 7 or older) and public school information. Remember, most charter schools will be listed under the State Charter School Authority, not your school district.  However, if you cannot find your charter school on the school list, go back to the sponsor list and check the schools listed under your school district.

You will need to upload your child’s birth certificate, any guardianship papers, if applicable, as well as any IEPs. New to the application, you will be asked to upload documentation supporting 100 days of enrollment in a Nevada public school — report cards, letter from school, or attendance transcript.

After completing the application and uploading the required documentation, you will submit your application and receive a confirmation email.  This email is proof of application, not an approval notice. Approval or denial notices will come later, after the application has been processed. 

If you need to apply for another child, again select “add” from the dashboard, and repeat the process for the next child. 

Previous Applicants

A large batch of notices have already gone out to some parents. You may or may not have received an email asking you to update and verify your application information online. Do not worry if you have not received a notice — the treasurer’s office is still entering paper applications and transferring older applicants to the new database. 

If you’ve already applied for an ESA, and you haven’t seen an email from the Treasurer, check your Inbox and Spam folders for an email from accounts@nevadatreasurer.net. Check it every few days, as notices will continue to be sent out as the Treasurer enters the backlog of paper applications into the system.

Whatever you do, do not reapply!! Reapplying will change your enrollment date!!

I cannot stress this enough.  DO NOT REAPPLY.

Seriously. Don’t reapply.

Even if your neighbor — who applied after you — gets an email notice before you, do not reapply.  Even if three of your four children are in the system, do not reapplyDoing so will change your enrollment date, and could impact your eligibility.  

Missing applications can be addressed directly with the Treasurer after all other applications have been entered into the system.

Please note, at some point soon, everyone will be required to update their accounts — even if you were previously approved. All applications, including those that have already been processed, must go through the new system’s approval procedures as part of the database update and transfer. So keep your eyes open for an email from the Treasurer.  

In a nutshell

  • Enrollment for November/December has opened.  No paper applications will be accepted.  Parents must register using the online portal.
  • Notices to updated accounts and applications will be going out to previous applicants. DO NOT REAPPLY if you do not receive a notice. Not all applications have been transferred into the new system, and notices will be generated as applications are transferred.
  • Check your Inbox and Junk email periodically for a notice from Accounts@Nevadatreasurer.net
  • Previous applicants and new enrollees will all enter the ESA system at a common portal, using the same URL or link.
  • There will be an option to choose between new applicants or return applicants. 
  • New enrollees will "add" an application for each child from one parent account.
  • New documentation will be required to be uploaded for all applicants:
  • Report cards, letter from school or attendance record to prove 100 days of enrollment if over age seven
  • Proof of income
  • Parents should mark themselves as a participating entity in order to receive reimbursements

Treasury staff extends their appreciation to everyone for their patience this past year.  If you have any problems or need assistance with this process, you can submit an inquiry “ticket” to the treasurer’s office directly from your account dashboard.  

As always, we at NevadaESA.com are also happy to answer any questions, scan your documents and help walk you through the application.  You can reach the office at 702-222-0642 or email me at kg@npri.org.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

#LetOurChildrenSucceed

~Karen

 

In case you missed it...

Regulatory burden:

On Thursday, November 17th, the Obama Administration produced an astounding 527 pages of new rules and regulations in a single day — an all-time record. This brings the administration’s Federal Register up to 81,640 pages for 2016 — another all-time high. The previous record was also held by the Obama administration, with 81,405 pages of new regulations created in 2010. (Read more)

 

Government overreach:

A single mother of six is facing multiple criminal charges in California for selling homemade ceviche to family, friends and neighbors. Mariza Ruelas let a local food group on Facebook know she was selling or trading the Latin-American dish as a way to help her children afford basic school supplies. Often, Ruelas would exchange her homemade meals for household items and children’s clothes — other times she would simply sell the homemade food for a small profit. When her ceviche came to the attention of California investigators, however, they decided to target Ruelas with an undercover sting operation. The mother of six is now facing criminal charges, and even jail time, for “selling food without a license.” (Read more)

 

Healthcare:

Demonstrating a general dissatisfaction with Obamacare, HealthCare.gov enrollment numbers are down substantially from last year. The number of individuals who have submitted an application and selected a health care plan through the government-run website is down 33 percent since last year. Even the number of customers shopping for prices — without actually starting an application — has dropped, with unique visitors to the site down roughly 16 percent. (Read more)

 

Media bias:

According to a report by Buzzfeed — a viral gossip and tabloid-style online magazine — “fake” news gained more attention on Facebook than “real” news during the election cycle in 2016. The report caused quite a stir this week, as pundits and journalists lamented the fact that fake news stories apparently influenced voters more than actual journalism. But, there was one problem: The “report” was, itself, patently misleading and untrue. (Read more)

 

Free speech:

Students at City University of London, home to one of the United Kingdom’s most prestigious journalism schools, have voted to ban newspapers it determines to be politically incorrect. In a motion titled “opposing fascism and social divisiveness in the UK media,” the student government agreed to censor “unacceptable” journalism from the University. (Read more)

 

 

WSJ: Era of low interest rates hammers pensions

A new Wall Street Journal article, Era of Low Interest Rates Hammers Millions of Pensions Around World, documents how declining bond yields have negatively impacted pension funds globally:

Managers handling trillions of dollars in government-run pension funds never expected rates to stay this low for so long. Now, the world is starved for the safe, profitable bonds that pension funds have long needed to survive. That has pulled down investment returns and made it difficult for funds to meet mounting obligations to workers and retirees who are drawing government pensions.

...

Pension officials and government leaders are left with vexing choices. As investors, they have to stash away more than they did before or pile into riskier bets in hedge funds, private equity or commodities. Countries, states and cities must decide whether to reduce benefits for existing workers, cut back public services or raise taxes to pay for the bulging obligations.

PERS responded to this trend by moving more money into stocks. As we discussed last week, this dramatically increased the risk associated with the portfolio, which government accounting standards ignore completely.

For example, there is currently a 10 percent chance that PERS will experience an additional shortfall of at least $6.56 billion in a single year — an amount equal to nearly 65 percent of all state and local tax revenue combined.

At the very least, Nevada lawmakers should consider whether or not they are comfortable with this level of risk, and what level they would be uncomfortable with. As the Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government noted in a study earlier this year, improper accounting standards that do not account for risk "in any meaningful way" mean few policymakers have access to this vitally critical information.

Nevada lawmakers should immediately seek to obtain this information from PERS so that they, and the people they serve, can have a full accounting of the costs they are responsible for.

For NPRI’s analyses of the Nevada PERS situation, visit: http://www.npri.org/issues/detail/pers

 

In case you missed it...

Each year we celebrate Veterans Day on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year — the anniversary of the First World War coming to an end following the armistice in Europe.

It’s a day when the nation collectively pays their respect to the men and women who have sacrificed and risked everything to protect our freedoms.

With the toxic culture of political bickering this time of year, it is often easy to lose sight of the freedoms we take for granted — the freedoms for which countless men and women have risked everything to preserve.

Today, as a nation, we set the day aside to embrace and thank the men and women who have stepped up to fight for our liberties.

On behalf of everyone at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, we send our most heartfelt thanks to those of you who have served this great nation. Your dedication to the American ideal gives each and every citizen the freedom to pursue our own happiness, and fight for our own beliefs.

Your service is greatly appreciated.   

 

In case you missed it:

 

Election 2016:

The CEO of Grubhub, an online food delivery service, sent a company-wide email after the election, making it perfectly clear that Donald Trump supporters are not welcome as employees at his tech company. Despite bragging about Grubhub’s culture of “inclusiveness,” co-founder Matt Maloney called on employees who disagreed with his assessment of Trump to “reply to this email with your resignation,” adding that such employees “have no place” at the company. (Read more)

 

Fiscal and taxes:

For the first month of the federal government’s 2017 fiscal year, Treasury collected a record amount of tax revenue. However, despite the record $221 billion dollars collected in October, the government managed to spend roughly $265 billion — leaving a deficit of approximately $44 billion. Doesn’t this indicate that government has a spending problem, rather than a revenue problem? (Read more)

 

Public pensions:

It’s not just government watchdogs, such as the Nevada Policy Research Institute, that are warning about the looming public-pension crisis. Even Harvard is warning that the basic structure of public pensions is a sword of Damocles hanging over taxpayers, governments and public-sector workers. (Read more)

 

‘More Cops’ tax:

As county commissioners consider whether to increase the sales tax by one-tenth of a percentage point to strengthen Metro PD’s staffing levels, a large number of the department’s budgeted positions are vacant — which means that money for these positions has already been allocated. So the question remains, why should Metro receive more tax revenue when it is not using the funds it already has for ‘More Cops’? (Read more)

 

Federal overreach:

The Nevada Department of Water Resources has given the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 90 days to return water to the property of a private church ministry, or face significant administrative fines. The state order is a boost to the “takings” case against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — brought by the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation — for having illegally diverted water from the Solid Rock Ministry in Nye County. The case is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. (Read more)

 

 

Harvard study: Public pensions are “enormously risky.”

A new study published by Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government joins a growing chorus of academic research that has raised alarm bells over the state of public pension funding in the U.S.
 
The authors found that:
 
“…the existing status quo is enormously risky…The current system of pension accounting, whatever the discount rate used, doesn’t convey the risks inherent in the system and how policy choices affect those risk.”
GASB standards do not account for these risks in any meaningful way. While outcomes are better at the median, performance in the left tail of the return distribution are dramatically worse.”
 
While these comments were made in regards to U.S. public pension plans broadly, Nevada PERS is no exception to the rule.
 
From 1975 to 1995, it was reasonably safe to assume an 8 percent annual return simply by investing in Treasury bonds. But when bond yields started declining significantly in the early 2000s, PERS was confronted with a choice:
 
Reduce the system’s assumed investment return to reflect the changing market conditions, or move more of the portfolio into stocks — which offer the potential for higher returns to compensate for the higher levels of risk.
 
PERS chose the latter, going from a historical 50/50 split between stocks and bonds to a portfolio today that is now 72 percent stocks and private markets — the highest percentage in its history.
 
Compared to the hike in taxpayer and government workers’ retirement contributions that lowering the assumed rate of investment return would require, this move appeared painless.
 
But there was a cost to this shift, which as the Harvard study notes, has been totally ignored under the current accounting standards.
 
While the new portfolio may still be expected to return 8 percent on average, the damage done during periods of below-average returns is significantly higher. This is because, as PERS undertakes more risk, below-average returns move farther away from the expected mean (or midpoint) return of 8 percent.
 
In other words, the damage caused from periods of below-average investment periods grows exponentially, as the level of risk increases.
 
And as the size of the PERS fund grows — currently at $35 billion — so too does the potential destruction caused by such an event.
 
For example, there is currently a 10 percent chance that PERS will experience an additional shortfall of at least $6.56 billion in a single year!
 
This is equal to roughly 65 percent of all state and local tax revenue combined, or more than four times the amount government workers and taxpayers currently contribute to the system.
 
Yet, current accounting standards ignore risk entirely, which "is a clear hindrance to policymakers," according to the authors:
 
The existing reporting by public funds in no way conveys the wide range of possible funding outcomes. Existing accounting practices often recognize the impact of decisions on one part of the distribution of outcomes (say the mean or median) without indicating that they also affect other moments.
 
While using a higher discount rate appears beneficial in the short-term — by decreasing the amount that taxpayers and government workers must contribute — the study finds that this is ultimately a losing strategy:
 
Changes in the discount rate have a perverse immediate impact on liabilities and funded ratios in that funds with higher rates and lower contributions appear better funded on impact. Over time, though, the reduced contributions associated with higher discounting leads to more not less underfunding. (Emphasis mine.)
 
The study, Risky Choices: Simulating Public Pension funding Stress with Realistic Shocks, can be read on the Harvard website here.
 
For NPRI’s analyses of the Nevada PERS situation, visit: http://www.npri.org/issues/detail/pers

 

Treasurer's office email

Good afternoon ESA friends,

This is a quick note to update you on an email that some of you may have received from the treasurer’s office yesterday. 

The office was running a few system tests and emails were inadvertently sent out to some parents. If you did not get an email, don’t worry — not every application has been transferred to the system, so many parents who have sent in applications may not have received any email at all. 

Treasury staff is also still inputting the hardcopy applications received during 2016. The good thing to know, here, is that the treasurer’s office is moving forward, and working on the system. Yay!

As one more added precaution, you may want to check your junk or spam mailboxes if you didn’t see an email from “nevadatreasurer.net”. On the chance that you were one of the parents who received a test email, but it went into your junk or spam mailbox, you will want to fix your settings so future notices from the Treasurer actually go to your inbox.

One of the questions coming from parents who did receive the email has been “why did I only get one email when I submitted applications for 3 or 4 children?”

The treasurer’s office is working to make the system user friendly. Rather than having 4 different logins for 4 children, a parent will be able to access each child’s account with a single login. The goal is for parents to receive just one email, and one login, regardless of the number of applicants. If that’s what happened to you — yay — it worked.

If you haven’t received an email yet, don’t panic. The treasurer will be sending out emails to all parents at a later date.

Also of note, the treasurer’s office is still working to get the online enrollment opened.  According to the treasurer’s website, the prospective date for going live has moved to Monday, November 14. 

I know you are anxiously waiting. Please, bear with everyone as the Treasurer tries to bring this system out of hibernation.  Online enrollment will expedite the process — and best of all, online enrollment will give new applicants immediate confirmation that their application has been received!

Applications for this enrollment period run through December 31.  Although, the treasurer’s office is considering an extension given the delay in getting the enrollment period started.  I will let you know once there is final word. Remember, you will need to have your documents scanned to upload them during the application process.  If you need any help scanning documents, let me know.  I can scan them for you or send you to a location that is able to help.

To recap:

  • A test email was inadvertently sent out to some parents, and did not go out to every applicant, as the Treasurer is still inputting a large backlog of applications.
  • Account logins are being grouped by family so parents will have one login to gain access to their entire family’s account. This means that even if a parent submitted applications for three separate children, they will have only received a single test email from “nevadatreasurer.net” — if they received any email at all. 
  • Enrollment has been moved to Monday, November 14, and will be online. Once the link goes live, I will send you an email.

Finally, in honor of Veteran’s Day, the NevadaESA.com team would like to take a moment and express our deepest gratitude and thanks to all of our military members and their families.  Your service and sacrifice are much appreciated!  To all those who have previously served and fought for our freedom, you are treasured and we thank you.

#LetOurChildrenSucceed

~Karen

 

Why hasn’t Metro PD been filling its vacancies?

Hundreds of budgeted positions are vacant — and have been since 2015 — as department lobbies for tax increase

By Daniel Honchariw

As county commissioners consider whether to increase the sales tax by one-tenth of a percentage point to strengthen Metro PD’s staffing levels, a large number of the department’s budgeted positions are vacant, according to Metro’s latest personnel summary.

As of October 24, 2016, Metro had 272 budgeted positions unfilled — meaning that nearly 10 percent of its authorized work-force had not been hired.

A review of past personnel reports indicates that such a high level of vacancies has been the norm — not the exception — throughout the past year, and before.

As the above chart demonstrates, at no point during the last year has Metro maintained fewer than 150 vacant positions, including in January 2016 when 300 positions were unfilled.

To be clear, these are budgeted positions, which means that money for them has been allocated. Thus, funding issues do not explain why these positions are vacant.

While Metro has accurately claimed that its current officer-to-population ratio stands at 1.7 officers per 1,000 residents, that ratio could reach almost to 1.9, were every budgeted position filled.

In this sense, Metro’s inability to reach what Sheriff Lombardo has called the 2.0 “magical” number he says the department needs, appears to stem more from Metro’s own hiring practices than from a lack of adequate funding.

These facts raise several questions:

  • Why hasn’t Metro filled these vacancies?
  • Are these positions being kept vacant so that Metro can point to an artificially-low officer-per-capita ratio as justification for increased taxes?
  • If Metro isn’t using its More Cops money for hiring more police now, how would additional tax revenues change that?

Sheriff Lombardo has repeatedly pledged not to comment on the issue until after the newest version of the More Cops tax — the Clark County Crime Prevention Act of 2016 — is decided.

Effectively, that means he’s declining to answer questions the public is justified in asking.

Daniel Honchariw, MPA, is a policy analyst at the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

 

 

In case you missed it...

 

Nevada PERS:

The Nevada Policy Research Institute released the most recent pension payout data from the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada on TransparentNevada.com. The top payout went to former University of Nevada, Reno head coach of football Chris Ault who collected $278,497. “Even more shocking, however, is the fact that this is actually a reduced benefit,” explained Nevada Policy Research Institute Transparency Director Robert Fellner. (Read more)

 

Cronyism:

It’s surprisingly easy for politicians to claim the title of “champions of small business.” And it’s a label that provides useful bragging rights. The reason? Few voters have the time to investigate what’s behind the label, which always looks authoritative on a politician’s brochure. But in the case of Nevada’s New Market Jobs Act, it means bowing to a politically connected company with a history of taking taxpayers for a ride. (Read more)

 

Fiscal and taxes:

When the next president takes office, he or she will be inheriting a national debt of more than $20 trillion — almost double what it was just eight years ago. To put that number in perspective, consider that the 500 major corporations in the S&P 500 — including Apple Inc., Exxon Mobile Corp., Facebook and others — have a combined value of just over $19 trillion. (Read more)

 

Healthcare:

So much for “affordable” healthcare. Americans in their early twenties, earning an annual salary of $30,000 or more, will pay at least $2,484 in annual Obamacare premiums — and that is after taking into account the various subsidies and tax credits from the federal government, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s health insurance marketplace calculator. (Read more)

 

Environmentalism:

A federal appeals court has dealt another blow to a proposed wind farm near Searchlight. Apex Clean Energy was hoping to build 87 wind turbines on 9,300 acres of public land south of Las Vegas — but the court ruled that the company and federal authorities had not adequately assessed the environmental impact the windfarm would have on local wildlife. (Read more)

 

Total Records: 2015

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