In case you missed it...

Cronyism

WalletHub recently ranked the states on how “easy” it is to begin a new business — and Nevada came in at a dismal 35th nationwide. Strangely, however, WalletHub didn’t rank the state low because of its ridiculous occupational licensing requirements, business fees, commerce tax or other burdensome government costs. Instead, WalletHub’s analysis seemed to largely favor the amount of subsidies and taxpayer-funded handouts, claiming that such cronyism should be seen as a good thing for startups! Of course, such an approach demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how the real world actually works. As NPRI Communication Director Michael Schaus points out, “encouraging businesses to get in bed with politics is not an effective way to promote broad economic growth.” (Read more)

 

Commerce tax

In 2014 Nevada voters made it clear that they didn’t want a new gross-receipts tax imposed on businesses. In fact, the so-called “Margins Tax” was rejected by 79 percent of Silver State voters. Despite this overwhelming disdain for a gross-receipts tax, however, lawmakers renamed it the “Commerce Tax” and forced it into law during the 2015 legislative session. Now, State Controller Ron Knecht is once again taking on the tax, by gathering signatures for a ballot initiative to repeal the Commerce Tax. “Essentially, we are saying here’s what the Legislature passed, do you all agree?” Knecht said. (Read more)

 

Green energy

In 2017, at the request of solar-industry lobbyists, lawmakers reinstated favorable net-metering rates for solar customers — a process in which solar customers receive credits for excess energy created by the panels.  The practice had recently been pulled back over concerns that the credits, if artificially high, act effectively as a subsidy. At the very least, such net-metering mandates are just another example of why government should be less involved in energy markets to begin with. Despite the concerns, the more favorable rates were passed in the last legislative session — but the solar industry still isn’t happy. (Read more)

 

Fiscal and taxes

Nevada keeps trying to figure out its recreational marijuana regulatory scheme, as a lawsuit continues over which businesses can legally distribute the drug — but that’s not the most interesting part of the saga. Dispensaries seem to be learning what most other people in business already know: Taxes and regulation are extraordinary burdens on companies. “Taxes, licensing, and other fees have already made it difficult to be profitable,” explained one dispensary. Another commented that the taxes and fees are driving the cost of legal marijuana too high, and “customers are already going [back] to the black market.” (Read more)

 

NPRI policy success:

The Nevada Policy Research Institute’s groundbreaking report on how Civil Asset Forfeiture is being used by Las Vegas Metro has proven extremely popular. The Las Vegas Review-Journal was the first major paper to cover the report, which identifies the Vegas Valley neighborhoods most targeted by law enforcement. Soon after the RJ’s coverage, it quickly became apparent that this kind of information has a national audience that transcends political and ideological lines. Released just as Attorney General Jeff Sessions began calling for the expansion of the often-abused policing tactic, the report attracted wide attention. From leftist publications such as The New Yorker to libertarian sites such as Reason.com, NPRI’s work has brought new attention to how, exactly, citizens are being impacted by the dubious practice. (Read the study here)

 

In case you missed it...

Education

A new peer-reviewed study by a Temple University professor shows that charter schools not only help their own students, but they also tend to help nearby public schools improve student performance as well. The study, which looked specifically at New York City, showed that public schools located within a half mile of new charter schools saw increased scores in both math and reading. Just as with the rest of the economy, when consumers (parents and students) are given options, the broader market (in this case, education) improves across the board. (Read more)

 

Occupational licensing

The state of Pennsylvania has shut down a small business for helping individuals navigate the Airbnb process. Sally Ladd was told by the state that if she wished to continue helping people find or post short-term rental properties on Airbnb, she would first have to complete more than 300 hours of training, establish a physical office location and apprentice under a real estate broker for three years, in order to obtain a real estate license.  As Joshua Windham, a lawyer for the Institute for Justice, explained, the license requirement seems awfully excessive “just to help someone rent a vacation property on Airbnb.” (Read more)

 

Cronyism

At first, the electric car manufacturer Faraday Future planned to build a full-scale production facility just north of Las Vegas, in exchange for roughly $300 million in taxpayer-funded incentives. Then, as Faraday’s backers ran out of cash, it looked like the company was going to scale back its plans. Then, earlier this year, Faraday announced that it would be abandoning plans to build in North Las Vegas altogether — but hope remained that the company would at least keep part of its business in southern Nevada. Well, this week the company dashed those hopes as well when it announced plans to move out of the state entirely, relocating to an unused building near Fresno, California. (Read more)

 

Fiscal and taxes

Philadelphia’s high tax on soda has had some unintended consequences. For example, it is now cheaper to purchase a beer in the city of brotherly love than a fountain drink. Also, government coffers aren’t seeing the revenue they were promised. Actual revenues have fallen far short of projections, as consumers discover ways to avoid the tax altogether. As a result, what the city thought would be a massive new revenue source has turned out to be little more than a job-killing tax on the city’s low-income residents. (Read more)

 

The political class

Until the 1960s, the line between the executive and legislative branch in Nevada remained well defined. But then, the Legislative Counsel Bureau, in obeisance to politicians eager to amass governmental clout by wearing hats in both branches, issued a non-binding opinion that essentially opened the flood gates. Since then, few attempts have been made to enforce the plain language of the constitution — but each time the violations are challenged, government creates a new justification for ignoring the rules. When District Court Judge James Russell ruled against NPRI’s most recent lawsuit last month, it proved to be just another example of the political class moving the goal posts to protect its own members. As Thomas Mitchell pointed out in his column this week, “It is hard to win when the rules keep changing in the middle of the game.” (Read more)

 

 

In case you missed it...

Civil Asset Forfeiture

This week, the Nevada Policy Research Institute released the first-ever geographical analysis of how the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department uses the controversial practice of civil-asset forfeiture. And the results are disturbing. About two-thirds of forfeitures were made in low-income and minority neighborhoods. Moreover, the assets seized were often relatively small amounts, meaning the cost to fight such seizures are largely cost-prohibitive to those impacted by the seizures. “These are people that can least afford to fight back against the government in a court of law,” NPRI policy analyst Daniel Honchariw said. “It perpetuates this cycle of urban poverty.” (Read more)

 

Educational choice

This week would have marked Milton Friedman’s 105th birthday. The 1976 Nobel-prize winning economist was widely considered one of the most influential free-market advocates of the 20th century, and a staunch supporter of educational choice. It’s no surprise then, that the anti-choice journalist Katherine Stewart marked the occasion by attacking Friedman’s use of the phrase “government schools” to describe the taxpayer-funded education monopoly. She claims the phrase is loaded with racist and anti-democratic meaning. Kerry McDonald with the Foundation of Economic Education, however, easily refuted Stewart’s argument. “Freedom from a government-controlled, compulsory institution is a fully democratic expression,” explained McDonald. (Read more)

 

Labor and pension

About 700 Nevada state employees have taken advantage of a little-known law that allows retirees to “double dip” in the public pension system by returning to the workforce. The practice is not only expensive for taxpayers — costing as much as $23 million annually by some estimates — but it also limits the ability for younger workers to enter the system. As these younger workers are necessary for the pension system to continue funding existing retiree pensions, the practice compounds the problems already facing the pension system in Nevada. Additionally, “because of our pension system’s hostility to transparency, we don’t really know the scope of what’s going on,” explained NPRI Transparency Director Robert Fellner. (Read more)

 

Government waste

Government is virtually incapable of doing anything efficiently. John Stossel points out that a simple bathroom built in a public park in New York City cost the city a staggering $2 million! And, despite city officials bragging about how quickly such projects seem to be moving, the simple restroom project still took longer to build than the private sector took to construct the entire Empire State Building. So why the large price tag and slow-motion pace of construction? Stossel asked city officials for some answers. (Watch the video)

 

Federal land

This story could have easily gone under “government waste” as well. According to a new Inspector General report, Interior Department officials have no idea how much land they purchased for at least $815 million in grants. According to the report, the Department doesn’t track how much grant money has been used to purchase land, how much land has actually been purchased and whether that land is even being used for its intended purpose!   (Read more)

 

 

In case you missed it...

Labor unions

For decades labor unions have largely supported Democrat politicians — regardless of whether or not rank-and-file workers agreed with the party’s platform. At least in Pennsylvania, however, that may soon be changing. “We may have gotten too close to one party,” said Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale. Following the presidential election, Bloomingdale went on a “listening tour,” speaking with union members about their political priorities. Apparently, workers have a very different take on politics than the traditional partisan leanings of labor bosses. “I think we were speaking too much at them, rather than having conversations with them,” said Bloomingdale. (Read more)

 

Separation of powers

Ignoring a 2004 AG advisory opinion, a 1967 binding Nevada Supreme Court precedent and the plain language of the state constitution, District Judge James Russell dismissed NPRI’s lawsuit against State Senator Heidi Gansert for violating the state constitution’s separation of powers clause. NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation Director Joseph Becker explained that “Judge Russell seemed determined to protect a member of the political class, irrespective of what the law says.” As an editorial in the Las Vegas Review-Journal remarked, “Never let it be said that the state’s political establishment doesn’t protect its own.” (Read more)

 

Cronyism

Remember when an unknown electric car start-up named Faraday Future promised to create thousands of jobs if Nevada would just extend a few hundred million dollars’ worth of tax abatements and credits? Well, Nevada lawmakers agreed, and 18 short months later the company has announced it is backing out of the deal. In a commentary for the Daily Signal, Nevada Treasurer Dan Schwartz points out that the failure of the incentive package shouldn’t come as a surprise. According to Schwartz, the Faraday saga is primarily “a story about a Legislature that was so eager to create jobs that it failed in its responsibilities to the citizens of Nevada.” (Read more)

 

Healthcare

Repealing President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is apparently easier said than done. Earlier this week in the Senate, a “repeal and replace” attempt — blasted by free-market advocates as merely a watered-down version of Obamacare — was rejected. Then an attempt to fully repeal Obamacare, without a replacement, failed 45-55. Finally, a last-ditch effort to repeal the bare bones of Obamacare — known as a “skinny” repeal — also failed when three Republican senators decided to vote with Democrats against the measure. (Read more)

 

Government waste and abuse

Apparently, getting fired for serious wrong-doing in governing jobs doesn’t have the same repercussions as it does in the private sector. According to an Inspector General report, of the 2,000 former IRS employees who were hired in 2015 and 2016, about 200 of them had previously been fired for serious offenses, including faking resumes, abusing taxpayer data and cheating on personal tax returns. (Read more)

 

In case you missed it...

 

Fiscal health

States’ fiscal health is an important economic indicator, as it affects all taxpayers. A new report released by the Mercatus Center ranks all states according to their fiscal condition. Nevada ranked 14th among the states for overall fiscal health: a solid ranking. However, Nevada’s trust fund solvency — which measures how much debt a state has —ranked the Silver State among the lowest in country, at 45th. Those unfunded pension liabilities are equal to 54 percent of state personal income. In other words, Nevada’s looming unfunded pension liabilities constitute the primary long-term financial risk hanging over the state economy. (Read more)

 

Transparency

In a recent records request to Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP), TransparentCalifornia.com came across unusual data. One particular retiree receives a $363,000 annual pension — an amount at 300 percent of the final salary — which seemed much too high to be the regular, annual amount. This data obviously needing some note to indicating its unusual nature. In an attempt to provide the most accurate data, TransparentCalifornia.com proceeded to ask DWP if they would like a clarifying note to be added prior to the data’s release. DWP responded, “No ... the information is correct.” And so the data was released. Embarrassed at public disclosure, DWP then issued a press release claiming the data release by TransparentCalifornia.com was “extremely misleading and incomplete.” DWP’s release also got NPRI’s name wrong. (Read More)

 

CCSD

Money doesn’t solve everything. And throwing more money into a failing system has proven incapable of fixing CCSD’s budget shortfalls. Education spending for CCSD has regularly increased far faster than enrollment growth for many years and every year the school district still complains that it doesn’t get enough. “The Clark County School District has more money now than it’s ever had before. It has budgeted $2.78 billion for the upcoming school year in its general and special education funds,” notes Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Victor Joecks. School Board Trustee Kevin Child says a forensic audit is needed to “know where we’re at and then we can know where to cut.” The findings of the audit might just reveal what taxpayers have known all along: As Joecks writes, “[CCSD] has a money problem. But it’s not a revenue problem. It’s a spending problem.” (Read More)

 

Economics

What can the story of three men fishing on an island teach us about economics? Plenty. How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes, by Peter D. Schiff shares the mechanics of a nation’s economy with a simple fish story. “The book is also an allegory of decisions governments made when they got into monetary trouble throughout history – not just what happened in American history.” The book describes how one particularly entrepreneurial man’s decision to build a simple fish catcher — to free him of the daily task of catching one fish per day — change the economics of the island forever. (Read More)

 

Occupational Licensing

Should three D.C. teenagers be punished for entrepreneurship? U.S. Park Police on Washington D.C.’s national mall seemed to believe so. This week three teens were handcuffed and detained for selling water bottles to thirsty sightseers. The teens committed the “crime” of selling without a government license. They were later released to their parents without any charges. For the teens to obtain all the necessary permits and licenses, they would have to pay almost $2,000 and then be put on a waiting list with other eager venders. “It is reasonable that people should comply with the law,” writes Washington Examiner columnist Anthony Bradley, “but the question is whether the law is reasonable. Is it reasonable to require teens to have a vending permit?” (Read More)

 

Education

“If you build a better way to teach a subject, why doesn’t the world beat a path to your door?” Andrew Coulson’s School Inc. explores this perplexing educational reality in his three-part video series produced by Free to Choose Media. These documentaries explore the history of the educational establishment and how it impedes the growth of good schools, why excellent schools in American have not “scaled up,” and the success of for-profit school around the world. (Read More)

 

 

In case you missed it...

Cronyism

Remember when Nevada lawmakers told us that the more than $300 million in special tax “incentives” they were giving to an unknown electric car manufacturer, Faraday Futures, was going to bring a bunch of jobs to North Las Vegas? Well, as it turns out, the deal has essentially collapsed. The electric car manufacturer, backed almost exclusively by a Chinese billionaire, has said it will no longer move forward with plans to build a giant manufacturing plant just north of Las Vegas. Luckily for taxpayers, and thanks to the warnings from groups like NPRI and state leaders like Treasurer Dan Schwartz, some protections were put in place. (Read more)

 

Free markets

Everything is bigger in Texas. Including job growth. Currently, the Lone Star State leads in job growth over the last ten years, and incomes have risen almost twice as fast compared to regulation and tax-heavy states such as California and New York. Governor Gregg Abbott says the reason why is simple: low taxes, light regulation, restrained government and right-to-work laws among the biggest contributing factors. So, yes, everything is bigger in Texas. Except government. (Read more)

 

Healthcare

The Senate’s first draft plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act actually preserved, and in some cases even expanded the price-hiking and service-cutting components of Obamacare. Cato Institute’s Director of Health Policy Michael Cannon pointed out that Republicans’ attempt to brand the plan as “free markets” would have done major damage to future reforms. “Senate Republicans will claim that their bill repeals ObamaCare and replaces it with free-market reforms,” wrote Cannon. “Perhaps the worst part is that ObamaCare supporters would be able to blame the ongoing harm their law causes on free markets rather than the actual culprit.” Let’s hope that analysis of the latest Senate plan, accounced this week, is better. (Read more)

 

The 79th Legislative Session

Local governments in Nevada spent over $3.75 million in taxpayer money in the last legislative session lobbying lawmakers for bigger government — and, likely, more taxpayer dollars. The amount shows an increase over the 2015 legislative session of roughly $450,000. Maybe local governments should worry more about providing citizens with value than politicking with our hard earned money. (Read more)

 

Labor unions

Free market groups are beginning to submit amicus briefs in a case going before the Supreme Court that could allow workers throughout the entire nation the right to opt out of paying union dues. A brief filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute documents the way in which unions use membership dues to engage in partisan politics and collusion with government officials — often without regard to how their members might feel about such blatant politicking. “The right to free speech also includes the right not to speak,” said Andrew Grossman, a partner with the firm of Baker & Hostetler, about allowing workers the right to opt out of such political organizations. “State governments and labor unions seem to have forgotten that. The Supreme Court should remind them.” (Read more)

 

 

 

PERS officials need to stop misleading the courts, legislature and public at large

The most recent financial reports from the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada (PERS) reveal a growing reliance on taxpayer funds, with the $1.57 billion that taxpayers sent to PERS last year representing a 34 percent increase from a decade prior, after adjusting for payroll growth (which includes both membership and inflation increases.)

In real dollar terms, Nevada taxpayers had to fork over nearly $500 million more last year than the 2007 rate, despite the fact that retirement benefits for new hires were actually reduced over that time period. In other words, taxpayers are forced to pay more while public employees get less.

It is bad enough that today’s taxpayers are forced to pay for PERS past funding failures — which are the fault of the Legislature and PERS officials who lobbied for unsustainable benefits to be passed without accounting for their cost. The very least PERS can do is be honest about it.

Instead, PERS has chosen to mislead the public, yet again.

In the Review-Journal investigative report “pension system abuses cost taxpayers $23 million a year,” former state Assemblyman Randy Kirner expressed concern that taxpayers would ultimately be forced to bail the system out.

According to the paper, PERS executive officer Tina Leiss responded to Kirner by claiming that “the idea of a taxpayer bailout is not supported by any facts.”

But as was shown above, this bailout is already happening and a further hike in taxpayer contributions is precisely how PERS intends to pay down its multi-billion dollar debt going forward.

Unfortunately, this is just the latest example of misdirection at PERS.

PERS has become infamous for defying the state’s public records law after officials submitted false or misleading testimony to multiple courts in an effort to keep their data secret.

Even the Legislature gets the PERS treatment.

In testimony earlier this year — ostensibly to provide the Legislature with an update regarding the System’s health — PERS officials doubled down on their long-standing practice of emphasizing the growth of assets, while ignoring liabilities entirely.

Because they were only shown one half of PERS balance sheet, the Legislature was left with the impression that the System was thriving, when, in fact, its debt continues to soar each and every year, as liabilities grow faster than assets.

As a public entity funded by tax dollars, PERS officials have an obligation to provide complete and accurate information, not spin.

Robert Fellner is NPRI’s director of transparency research. A condensed version of this letter first appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

 

In case you missed it...

 

Right to work

Earlier this year, Missouri became the 28th state “Right to Work” state in the nation, meaning workers will no longer be required to join a union as a condition of employment. The move was seen as a big win for business owners in the state who had been harassed by labor unions in the past — but it’s also a big win for workers. Now, unions will have to focus less on political lobbying and harassment campaigns, and more on winning the support of workers by providing actual value for their membership dues. (Read more)

 

Labor unions

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees filed a grievance against Western Michigan University recently, because the school is using goats, rather than union workers, to tackle a poison ivy problem in a wooded area on campus. The university contends the decision to use goats was made in an attempt to be environmentally friendly, but the union argues the goats are effectively stealing union jobs. (Read more)

 

Public pensions

The Nevada government wastes at least $23 million each year through a practice that boosts the income of some public employees by using the state’s underfunded pension system, PERS. The practice of double-dipping — earning a taxpayer-funded salary while ostensibly being “retired” from a former public position — was outlined in depth by the Las Vegas Review-Journal this last week. NPRI Transparency Director Robert Fellner explains that the practice isn’t just costly, it also runs contrary to the stated purpose of PERS under Nevada law — namely, to provide a reasonable base income for public employees who are no longer able to work. (Read more)

                                                                                                                   

Education

Beginning in 2020, Chicago will implement an invasive regulatory scheme in an attempt to ensure that high school seniors are prepared for life after high school. In order to graduate, students will be required to prove they are following one of five government-approved “plans” for their life after graduation. Students will be required to show proof that they have been accepted into a college or university, a gap-year program, military service, a trade apprenticeship or a job. Mayor Rahm Emanuel claims the new guidelines will help the city’s children succeed long-term, but critics point out that the regulations are yet another government attempt to run people’s lives for them. (Read more)

 

School choice

Several years ago, a Colorado county tried to implement a school choice program that provided up to 500 families with scholarships to send their children to private schools. Of course anti-choice opponents quickly filed lawsuits, claiming that the state constitution’s Blaine Amendment prohibited the funds from going toward religious schools. Last week, however, the United States Supreme Court gave school choice proponents a big win in the case. The nation’s high court sent the message that it “would not tolerate the use of Blaine Amendments to exclude religious options from school choice programs,” explained Michael Bindas, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice. (Read more)

 

 

In case you missed it...

Labor and unions

Nevada teachers who would like to opt out of their union better hurry! The window for teachers to opt out begins tomorrow, on Saturday, July 1st, and will close in just 14 days on July 15th. The intentionally short window is, of course, inconvenient for teachers — who are likely enjoying their summer vacation, rather than worrying about labor representation. But, if they want to save a few hundred dollars per year — up to $800 in Clark County — they had better hurry. The Nevada Policy Research Institute provides pre-written opt out letters teachers can use at npri.org. (Read more)

 

Fiscal and taxes

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the United States Treasury is on pace to run out of cash by October. On March 15, 2017, the suspension of the debt limit expired, and since then the Treasury has been able to borrow additional funds. The CBO warns that without further authority to borrow, Treasury will be unable to pay debt obligations or fund various programs. Unsurprisingly, the political battle will likely be over how much to raise the debt ceiling, rather than how to avoid such perpetual overspending in the first place. (Read more)

 

Minimum wage

A recently released study showing the detrimental impact of minimum wage hikes in Seattle should have been a warning to progressive groups hoping to justify a $15 minimum wage. Instead, the Seattle City council — which had commissioned the original study in the hope that it would have “better” news for their progressive policies — has decided to simply ignore the lessons from the damning report. In fact, the council has commissioned a new study, in hopes of getting some results that tell them what they want to hear. (Read more)

 

Cronyism

Las Vegas isn’t the only local government in America prepared to throw money at private sports teams. According to the Cato Institute, a county in Virginia is about to decide whether to issue $35 million in bonds to build a new baseball stadium for the Potomac Nationals, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. The millionaire who owns the team has even threatened to leave the county if the stadium isn’t built. According to a wildly optimistic “report” from a consulting firm hand-picked by the county, the new stadium would generate 288 jobs, $175 million in economic impact, and $4.9 million in tax revenue. Of course, similar studies have proven to be notoriously inaccurate. (Read more)

 

Transparency

NPRI’s transparency projects are, yet again, having tangible impacts in public policy. In May, TransparentCalifornia.com — NPRI’s sister site to TransparentNevada.com — reported on the massive abuse of overtime among public employees. One utilities dispatcher in Riverside California, for example, managed to collect $257,719 in overtime, more than tripling his annual base pay. Now, thanks to the Transparent California report, Riverside has been pressured into bringing the overtime abuse to an end — and is taking steps to prevent such abuses in the future. (Read more)

 

 

In case you missed it...

Nevada’s 79th legislative session

Governor Sandoval closed out the session by vetoing a “Medicaid-for-everyone” proposal — a bill designed to use state government to greatly expand government-run health insurance. Considering the Governor’s previous record backing the ACA and then expanding of its Medicaid option in Nevada, the bill’s fate was uncertain until the last minute, when Sandoval issued his veto, criticizing the bill’s “lack of specifics.” But, as NPRI Communication Director Michael Schaus told Reason.com, “Until the political discussion about healthcare goes beyond a promise to make someone else pay for everyone else's healthcare, real progress simply cannot be made.” [Read more]

 

Government waste and abuse

According to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority security officers do more than just protect the public — they also act as personal chauffeurs for CEO Rossi Ralenkotter and former Mayor Oscar Goodman. In one instance, a guard and his bomb-sniffing dog waited about an hour outside a doctor’s office near Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center to give Ralenkotter a ride. In fact, the taxpayer-funded shuttling rides have become so commonplace, that staff members dub them “Rossi runs” and “Oscar runs.” [Read more]

 

National healthcare policy

Senate Republicans unveiled their plan to “fix” the Affordable Care Act — but not everyone in the party is happy. At least four GOP Senators have said they plan on not voting for the bill, arguing that it does not even begin to “repeal” or “replace” Obamacare. And they’re not alone. The Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon was quick to warn that the bill is surprisingly void of any actual free-market solutions. “The Senate bill is not even a step in the right direction,” warns Cannon. [Read more]
 

Government spending

New York City’s subway has been sucking up taxpayer subsidies for decades — and yet, the quality of service continues to get worse. The reason why is pretty simple to understand: it’s run by government. For example, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has spent more than $100 billion since the 1980s on infrastructure upgrades, and yet the signal system — the system that governs the traffic of the subway cars themselves — has not been upgraded since the 1930s. The 1930s! [Read more]

 

Free speech

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing about free speech on campus, in light of recent protests over various “controversial” speakers. One of the panelists was a 21 year old self-described liberal Democrat, Zachary Wood, who is working to protect free speech on campus. “When speakers are barred,” noted Wood, “what happens is that you have certain preconceptions, certain assumptions about how people see the world that do not get challenged in any way. You lose sight of individual differences. It subsumes individuality, and you don’t appreciate people for the uniqueness of their own perspectives.” [Read more]

 

NPRI’s Policy success story for the week:

In 2015, a San Francisco BART janitor abused overtime rules — taking taxpayers for a ride as he managed to quadruple his base pay, bringing in more than $271,000, according to NPRI’s transparency website, TransparentCalifornia.com.

When we broke the story, it immediately spread all over the world. Not only did California media quickly run with the report, but it even caught the attention of European and Chinese media outlets! And it’s easy to see why: A report from Transparent California shows Liang Zhao Zhang worked an average of 114 hours per week in 2015. His overtime in alone amounted to $162,000 that year.

Well, it wasn’t too long before all this attention resulted in actual policy changes. BART officials now say that overtime will no longer be available for janitors in 2017.

And when a tax-and-spend government agency enacts basic reforms because of a little transparency, it should be considered a pretty big win.

This story underscores just how important NPRI’s transparency projects — TransparentNevada.com and TransparentCalifornia.com — are in getting substantive changes enacted throughout the region.

 

 

Total Records: 2063

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