Week in review: something new

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 caught this news story from Channel 3 Las Vegas the other day, spotlighting Gov. Sandoval’s efforts to win legislative support for his record-breaking tax-hike plan. The centerpiece of that plan is a massive new tax on businesses, revenues from which would predominantly be funneled into Nevada’s broken K-12 education system.

Getting his plan through the Legislature will require support from members of both parties, and, with that no doubt in mind, the governor took the novel approach of inviting three of his gubernatorial predecessors — Democrats Robert Miller and Richard Bryan and Republican Robert List — to testify in support of his proposal this week. Lamenting the state’s dismal educational performance, Gov. Sandoval cast his plan as an overdue and forward-looking solution to a problem that has been allowed to persist for far too long. Thus his pitch’s pithy punctuation point: “It simply is not 1960 anymore.”

That’s true — it’s not 1960 anymore. And much indeed has changed in the past 55 years. To give just one example, Nevada’s public education system in 1960 spent $3,144 per pupil in today’s dollars. Fast forward all the way to 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, and that number had increased to $9,313. That’s quite a change indeed.

But wait a minute. Come to think of it, maybe what those numbers suggest is that, at least when it comes to addressing Nevada’s educational challenges, nothing has really changed at all. In fact, that may well be one of the few constants over the past 5½ decades. If you were to take Doc Brown’s DeLorean back to 1960, kidnap someone and bring him to the present day, he’d find much of the modern world unrecognizable. But he’d also find that when it comes to public education, we’ve been taking more or less the same approach over the past 55 years. What the dramatic increase in per-pupil spending really shows is that for all that time, education policy has been based on the premise that spending more money will yield better results.

So while Gov. Sandoval’s sales approach may well have been novel, the substance of his plan is anything but. What he’s proposing — tax hikes to pay for education spending increases — is the same idea that has been tried, unsuccessfully, since before the governor was even born. Viewed in that light, the continuity suggested by the presence of governors Miller, Bryan and List really was a nice touch.

Fortunately, there is an effort in the works that would come at our educational problems from a new perspective. Senate Bill 302, which would establish an Education Savings Account program, was introduced on Monday, and if signed into law would provide reason to genuinely believe our education system may finally be on the road to improvement.

NPRI introduced the idea of ESAs in our Solutions 2015 publication, and as we explained there:

ESAs are private accounts held by individuals from which beneficiaries can make certain approved purchases for educational reasons. These include private‐school tuition, online education, textbooks, transportation costs or private tutoring.

In other words, instead of the state just sending money to public schools, where those funds are then spent on the students who enroll there, the money would follow the students who opt into the program. Those students and their parents would then be able to use that money to shop around for the school or even school type that is the best fit for them as individuals, while students who choose to remain in the traditional public system would benefit from the academic improvements seen when schools are forced to compete.

It’s a basic fact of economics that competition breeds quality. That’s the case all throughout the private sector, and it would be the same in our education system as well. ESAs would create a true marketplace where schools would compete for students, and the way to thrive in any marketplace is to offer a product good enough for people to want to buy it. Schools would have a powerful incentive to provide high-quality education, because failing to do so would mean their students (and their tuition dollars) would head elsewhere.

Those competitive dynamics, sadly, have been lacking in Nevada’s education system, and the results have been tragic for Nevada’s children. SB302 provides the best hope our students have had in a long, long time, and Sen. Scott Hammond, the bill’s sponsor, deserves an enormous amount of credit for showing bold leadership on this issue.

To his credit, Gov. Sandoval’s education plan does include a school choice measure. Via Assembly Bill 165, the governor seeks to create a tuition tax-credit scholarship program, which is a good (albeit modest) step in the right direction. Still, the thrust of the governor’s proposal is on the tax-and-spend side of the equation, and 55 years of history make clear where that will get us.

If the governor is serious about improving Nevada’s education system, and leading us beyond our history of failure, he should make it a high priority to ensure that SB302, the Education Savings Account bill, becomes law, and that AB165 is expanded when he signs it into law.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.

 

Week in review: Catch the wave

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.


First came the electoral wave, the one last November that lifted Republicans to historic heights of power in both the U.S. Congress and in statehouses across the country, Nevada’s included.

And now, another wave is forming in state capitals from coast to coast. Will Nevada catch this one, too?

Associated Press, in a story that quotes NPRI’s own Victor Joecks, reports that “Republican lawmakers in statehouses nationwide are working to weaken organized labor, sometimes with efforts that directly shrink union membership.”

A better way of putting that would be to say those lawmakers are promoting reforms that would empower public employees to make decisions on union membership that are best for them as individuals, while protecting taxpayers from the fiscal calamity that results when Big Labor is in the policymaking driver’s seat. The AP then describes what would indeed be excellent and welcome efforts.

The story adds:

With many legislative sessions just beginning, nearly 800 union-related bills have been proposed in statehouses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The list of states pursuing reforms on the labor front includes the newly right-to-work Wisconsin (of course) but also West Virginia, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and, yes, our very own Silver State. The degree to which those efforts succeed will certainly vary, but by the time the wave finally hits the beach, it’s likely that in at least a few states some significant progress will be made toward reining in the power of public-sector unions.

So again: Will Nevada be one of them?

Fiscally conservative policymakers have for years been talking about the need to change Nevada’s labor laws, citing government’s increasingly unsustainable obligations to public employees under current collective-bargaining rules. Now, given the new partisan makeup of the Legislature, those policymakers have a historic opportunity to convert those ideas into action. And the next few weeks will be particularly crucial in determining whether they’ll capitalize on that opportunity.

The most promising effort put forward so far comes in the form of Assembly Bill 182, proposed by Assemblyman Randy Kirner. The bill would do a number of important things, including prohibiting government agencies from deducting employees’ union dues from their paychecks; ending union leave time (the practice by which union members receive taxpayer money for work they do solely for their unions); and eliminating mandatory binding arbitration. (For a more detailed look at the bill, see Victor’s recent dispatch from Carson City.)

AB182 is scheduled for a hearing on Monday in the Assembly’s Commerce and Labor committee, so there’s still some time to contact your representative and let him/her know the importance of this bill. If passed and signed into law, it would mark a significant positive step toward reducing the absurd privileges public-employee unions have enjoyed for far too long.

There are a few bills over in the Senate that are worth watching as well. SB120 would make school districts take a teacher’s or administrator’s performance evaluation into consideration when conducting layoffs. SB158 would force local governments to allow the public to view changes to collective-bargaining agreements before they’re voted on. And SB168 would let local governments revisit collective-bargaining agreements during fiscal crises. Good ideas, all.

How many of these proposed reforms actually become law is yet to be determined, of course. But one thing is certain: Nevada cannot afford — and I mean that in a pure dollars-and-cents way — to continue on its present course on labor policy.

Surf’s up.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.

 

Week in Review: closed government

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.


It’s always nice when NPRI and the ACLU can agree on something.

Unfortunately, on the occasions when this happens, it usually means the government is doing something really, really bad.

And this time is no exception.

Earlier this week, our executive vice president, Victor Joecks, testified in Carson City against the bill the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s editorial board called the “Worst Bill of 2015.” Now, I know what you’re thinking. That must be an exaggeration.

But have you read SB28?

If passed, this bill would make public records so expensive to obtain that government effectively wouldn’t have to release the information it doesn’t want the public to see. Under SB28, government agencies could charge for public-records requests as soon as an employee has spent just 30 minutes working on the request.

It gets worse.

The bill would also allow government agencies to charge for records that are more than 25 pages long, regardless of how long it takes an employee to compile the record, and regardless of whether that record is provided electronically or in print. Originally, the Nevada League of Cities & Municipalities proposed to attach a 50-cents-per-page charge for records more than 25 pages long — even if emailed to the requester — but said on Wednesday it would lower the proposed fee to 25 cents per page.

At 50 cents or 25, the idea is still to close the doors to the public, not open them.

During Wednesday’s hearing, numerous government officials spoke out in favor of the bill, one even saying SB28 is needed to prevent disgruntled former employees from abusing public-records requests as a means of extorting money from cities. Many of them claimed the bill really has nothing to do with limiting transparency (which they said they’re all for), but listening to the diverse collection of the bill’s opponents revealed its dangerous nature.

Take the testimony of Stanton Tang, the news director for KOLO 8 News. He brought with him bags full of the public records his outlet obtained following the Sparks Middle School shooting. The records that allowed his reporters to tell a very important story to the public may never have been accessible under the costs that would be imposed by SB28.

Barry Smith, the executive director of the Nevada Press Association, pointed to the Review-Journal’s award-winning exposé on police shootings as evidence that public-records requests — the very requests that would effectively be made impossible by the passage of SB28 — serve the public good. He went on to note that approximately 94 percent of public-records requests come not from the media but from individual citizens.

Our own Karen Gray is a testament to that. Before coming to work as a researcher and reporter at the Institute’s Nevada Journal, Karen was a concerned parent trying to keep watch on the Clark County School District, which refused to provide her access to public records until a judge ordered the district to comply. SB28 would give the district the ability to hold such records hostage.

Then of course there’s the ACLU of Nevada, an organization that doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with us here at NPRI but has nevertheless been a consistent and laudable proponent of government transparency.

And let’s not forget the thousands of people who visit TransparentNevada.com each year and benefit as a result of government agencies across the state complying with the Nevada Public Records Act and providing employee-compensation information so citizens can understand how their tax dollars are being spent.

I can only imagine that at 50 cents a page — or even 25 cents — such efforts to keep Nevada government open and accountable to the people who fund it wouldn’t be possible.

Government agencies in Nevada are already allowed to charge for records requests that require an extraordinary use of staff time, such as those filed to abuse the system or for commercial purposes. The result of SB28 would be to give government agencies more leeway in choosing which information it will make public. And we’ve seen plenty of examples demonstrating that politicians, left to their own devices, seldom err on the side of openness. (Once again, I’m looking at you, Hillary Clinton.)

Listening to testimony Wednesday by government officials bemoaning the sometimes-difficult task of answering to the public made me wonder how many of them understand that they work for us, the taxpayers.

A transparent government is an accountable government. Let’s make sure Nevada government stays accountable to the people it exists to serve.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.

 

Testimony on SB138: End the unjust practice of civil asset forfeiture

Submitted by Robert Fellner, Nevada Policy Research Institute

Hello, my name is Robert Fellner, and I’m with the Nevada Policy Research Institute. We completely support   Senate Bill No. 138, which offers Nevada the opportunity to step out of the dark ages and end the unjust practice of civil asset forfeiture.

Presently, Nevada’s forfeiture laws allow for the perversion of one of the most sacred principles of the American justice system – that one is innocent until proven guilty. Under civil asset forfeiture, this principle is reversed; law enforcement can seize property from innocent Nevadans merely by suspecting it may be associated with a crime. Innocent owners must then bear the burden, and cost, of proving their innocence.

If one is puzzled at how such a concept could even come into law, you are in good company. The legal origin for civil asset forfeiture dates back to the dark ages when people believed that objects could act on their own accord and even cause harm to others![i]

Needless to say, such beliefs, or any laws based upon these beliefs, have no place in today’s society.

The problems with forfeiture laws don’t end there, however. Currently, Nevada law enforcement can directly profit from the sale of seized property, creating a very troubling set of incentives for our sworn officers to work under. It is a serious disservice to the institution of policing to place officers in a position where they must balance monetary gain for their department against their sworn duty.

This conflicting set of incentives was on full display when Nevada’s forfeiture laws were featured in the Wall Street Journal last year.[ii] The article centered on a Humboldt County Sheriff who seized $50,000 in cash from an innocent motorist who had committed no crime other than going 3 mph over the speed limit!

Thankfully, SB138 offers Nevada the opportunity to lead the Nation in civil asset forfeiture reform by restoring the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” The cornerstone of SB138 is the mandate that property can only be seized from those who have actually been found guilty of a crime, not merely suspected of one. It is hard to imagine how one could even oppose this; unsurprisingly, this issue enjoys widespread bi-partisan support.

To wit, the ACLU has long championed forfeiture reform, correctly noting that these laws “put our civil liberties and property rights under assault.”[iii] Eric Holder recently announced a scaling back of the practice on the federal level while The Heritage Foundation called for reform in their November 2014 policy brief[iv]. Even two of the architects of forfeiture during the Reagan Administration, John Yoder and Brad Yates, have announced that “the program began with good intentions but now, having failed in both purpose and execution, it should be abolished.”[v]

SB138 offers you the tremendous opportunity to directly end a great injustice.  Seize this opportunity and let us show the Nation that Nevada governs with justice as her highest ideal.

 

[i] Boudreaux, D. J., & Pritchard, A. C. (1996). Civil forfeiture and the war on drugs: Lessons from economics and history. San Diego Law Review, 33, 79-135.

[ii] Elinson, Z (2014, March 16) Asset Forfeiture Gets a Close Look in Nevada. The Wall Street Journal http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304017604579443662954464596

[iv]Richardson, Jordan (2014, November) Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Goes Mainstream http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2014/11/civil-asset-forfeiture-reform-goes-mainstream (Accessed on 2015, March 2)

[v] John Yoder and Brad Cates, “Government Self-Interest Corrupted a Crime-Fighting Tool into an Evil,” The Washington Post, September 18, 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/abolish-the-civil-asset-forfeiture-program-we-helped-create/2014/09/18/72f089ac-3d02-11e4- b0ea-8141703bbf6f_story.html (accessed November 14, 2014).

 

NPRI testimony on Gov. Sandoval’s education spending plan

Submitted by Victor Joecks, Nevada Policy Research Institute

Hello, my name is Victor Joecks, and I’m with the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

I was glad last week to hear Sen. Michael Roberson address what should be the most obvious question: Why has decades of spending increases not led to increases in student achievement?

For context, here is what Nevada’s Legislative Counsel Bureau has found regarding Nevada education spending. Adjusted for inflation, per-pupil spending was $4,854 in 1983. In 2011, our per-pupil spending was $8,781. So our inflation-adjusted, per-pupil spending has nearly doubled while Nevada’s graduation rate fell under 50 percent.

I was disappointed that the answer to Sen. Roberson’s question was just an emphasis on the problems Nevada’s students are facing. It’s because of the those problems that it is imperative that the legislature not believe that money plus good intentions will increase student achievement.

As an aside, school choice is the proven solution.

The best example of this is class-size reduction. While Nevada has spent $2.8 billion on this program, in 2013, just 27 percent of Nevada’s 4th graders were proficient or better on the NAEP fourth grade reading test.

Last week, Supt. Dale Erquiaga even acknowledged that there is no correlation between class size and star rankings.

I ask you to consider the effectiveness of the money Nevada is already spending before assuming this new spending will help Nevada students.

I also encourage this committee to look at students/teacher ratios. Last week, Supt. Erquiaga said there are 25,000 teachers in Nevada with 450,000 students. That’s a student to teacher ratio of 18 to 1. Why are classes being reported at 40 to 50 to 1? Where are the other teachers?

Thank you for your time, and I’d be happy to answer any questions. 

 

Week in review: dying for a living wage

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.


Last August, I had some fun in this space responding to a recently released video of actress/singer Kristen Bell, who had parodied the Mary Poppins tune “A Spoonful of Sugar” in calling for a three-dollar increase in the federal minimum wage.

Her video was indeed humorous (if economically incoherent), and I’ll admit to taking a lot of enjoyment from writing my rebuttal column. But you know what they say — it’s all fun and games until someone loses a job.

Or, as in a recent example, an entire business.

The Daily Signal reports on Borderlands Books, a San Francisco bookstore that announced it will shut its doors next month “despite having its ‘best year’ in 2014.” How could a business coming off a banner year suddenly find itself closing up shop? “According to the bookstore,” writes the Signal’s Kate Scanlon, “it’s because of San Francisco’s upcoming minimum wage hike.”

Last year, San Francisco voters approved raising the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018, a wage Borderlands can’t afford to pay. …

… [Store owner Alan] Beatts writes that a $15 wage would result in a 39 percent increase in wages — an expense he would have to make up elsewhere.

But he can’t. Unlike other businesses that can raise the prices of their goods and services in the face of a higher wage, bookstores have to grapple with the fact that books have a fixed price.

One is inclined, of course, to feel sympathy for Mr. Beatts over his store’s pending death — that is, until one reads this delicious nugget from the story, quoting a Borderlands-issued statement: “Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in [principle] and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage. Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31.”      

I know schadenfreude can be a bit off-putting, but come on. Here we’ve got a proponent of a minimum-wage increase (or, as progressives have taken to calling it, a “living wage”) seeing his own beloved idea come back to bite him, and hard. And in San Francisco, no less. OK, suddenly this is back to being fun again.

I have to admit to feeling at least a certain level of admiration for Mr. Beatts. After all, he’s doggedly sticking to his principles, misguided as they may be, even as those principles hurt him personally when put into action. It’s certainly a welcome departure from the popular progressive two-step of waging rhetorical class warfare while pushing the bounds of the ethical in order to amass enormous personal wealth (I’m looking at you, Hillary Clinton).

But the problem is, it’s not just the noble Mr. Beatts who will be harmed by San Francisco’s new policy. When Borderlands closes, the people who work there will lose their jobs, and those workers’ families will suffer as well. And that’s to say nothing of the unknown number of other businesses that are similarly situated. (The latest development in this story is that Borderlands may be able to survive at least a bit longer thanks to sponsorships and donations. That seems unlikely to last — and even if it does, it’s hardly a business model that can be replicated easily by many other companies.)

As is the case with so many progressive policy ideas, it is those they are designed to help who will end up hurting the most. And Scanlon misses something when she distinguishes bookstores from other businesses that, in her words, “can raise the prices of their goods and services in the face of a higher wage.” The implication is that those businesses can simply do so without consequences. But of course, assuming those businesses can indeed find a way to raise prices without incurring some harm to their bottom line (a highly dubious assumption in its own right), those higher prices will have a direct and negative impact on the customers that pay them. Anywhere you look, someone’s losing.

There are countless examples of government busybodies paving roads with seemingly good intentions, only to end up making life hell for those who are forced to live under the resulting rules. Yet no example serves to juxtapose and illuminate the competing philosophies of governance as well as the debate over minimum-wage laws. And none better clarifies the tragic human toll that results when the state unduly interferes in the marketplace.

Hollywood socialites like Kristen Bell may never understand that truth — but Mr. Beatts’ soon-to-be former employees certainly will.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.

 

Testimony on SB119: NPRI-proposed compromise would eliminate prevailing wage on school construction, limit bond rollover to 2 years

Submitted by Victor Joecks, Nevada Policy Research Institute

Hello, my name is Victor Joecks, and I’m with the Nevada Policy Research Institute. While this bill is currently not a good deal for taxpayers, the removal of the prevailing wage is very praiseworthy.

Prevailing wage requirements in Nevada add a 45 percent premium to labor costs and removing this requirement saves 10 to 15 percent on construction.  And to clarify, this bill would lower wage rates from $35 to $55 an hour to $25 to $40 an hour, which is a wage rate that would put construction workers above the median household income.

The problems with SB119 though involve the bond rollover. The biggest problem is that authorizing 10 additional years of bonding without voter approval is different than what voters were told when they voted for property tax increases in 1998 or 2002.

This is why we have proposed an amendment to authorize two years of additional bonding. This would allow the district to build immediately – their stated priority – while also making school districts return to voters in 2016 for longer approval.

One reason to return to voters is because the needs identified by the Clark County School District keep changing. In 2012, CCSD asked voters for a property tax increase. They identified 41 schools as needing repairs, at a cost of $669 million. Voters rejected that plan 2 to 1. Now, just  three years later, CCSD has a list of 45 schools to receive $286 million in funding.

Just six schools are on both lists. In 2012, five of those schools were scheduled to receive $700,000 for electrical system upgrades. Now, those five schools are scheduled to receive $4 million additions. Only one school, Boulder High School, is on both lists for the same project.

Also, CCSD has spent $338 million in previous bond funds on the 45 schools now scheduled to receive $286 million.

For our other amendment, I would like to propose a conceptual amendment to address the problem referred to by Sen. Settelmeyer. This concept would prevent other jurisdictions from taking property tax streams previously used by school districts without approval by the debt management commission and a popular vote. 

 

Testimony on SB94: making transferable film tax credit handouts permanent a loser for taxpayers

Submitted by Victor Joecks, Nevada Policy Research Institute

Hello my name is Victor Joecks, and I’m the Executive Vice President of the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

I’m here today to detail some of the negative impacts similar transferable film tax credit programs have had in states around the country.

First, it’s great to hear so many elected officials acknowledge that lower taxes help entrepreneurs create jobs and grow the economy. I hope you acknowledge that reality when considering whether or not to impose the largest tax increase in Nevada history on the rest of Nevada.

There are numerous structural problems with transferable tax credits. Instead of just being a reduction or abatement of taxes paid, these tax credits can exceed the actual amount of taxes paid by film companies. The film companies then sell these credits to other private businesses in Nevada – reducing taxes collected by the state.

In other words, government is picking winners and losers in the economy. The losers are the taxpayers and the vast majority of businesses in the state who have to pay more or receive reduced government services.

In Louisiana, the Legislative Fiscal Office found that transferable tax credits reduced taxes collected by $59 million a year, but only generated $10 million a year in additional state tax dollars. In other words, for every $5 Louisiana spent, they gained back just $1 in new tax money.

In North Carolina, legislative fiscal staff found that film producers claimed $30.3 million in film-tax credits in 2011.

Under the most plausible assumptions the Film Credit likely attracted 55 to 70 new jobs to North Carolina in 2011 … The Film Credit created 290 to 350 fewer jobs than would have been created through an across-the-board tax reduction of the same magnitude.

While film tax credits experienced enormous popularity in the 2000s, many states have trimmed back their film tax credit programs, because of problems detailed above.

Since 2010, eight states – Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey and Washington – have ended their film tax subsidy programs. Other states, including Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, Missouri, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and New Mexico. have scaled back their programs or placed limits on their use. 

 

Testimony on SB94: Making transferable film tax credit handouts permanent a loser for taxpayers

Hello my name is Victor Joecks, and I’m the Executive Vice President of the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

I’m here today to detail some of the negative impacts similar transferable film tax credit programs have had in states around the country.

First, it’s great to hear so many elected officials acknowledge that lower taxes help entrepreneurs create jobs and grow the economy. I hope you acknowledge that reality when considering whether or not to impose the largest tax increase in Nevada history on the rest of Nevada.

There are numerous structural problems with transferable tax credits. Instead of just being a reduction or abatement of taxes paid, these tax credits can exceed the actual amount of taxes paid by film companies. The film companies then sell these credits to other private businesses in Nevada – reducing taxes collected by the state.

In other words, government is picking winners and losers in the economy. The losers are the taxpayers and the vast majority of businesses in the state who have to pay more or receive reduced government services.

In Louisiana, the Legislative Fiscal Office found that transferable tax credits reduced taxes collected by $59 million a year, but only generated $10 million a year in additional state tax dollars. In other words, for every $5 Louisiana spent, they gained back just $1 in new tax money.

In North Carolina, legislative fiscal staff found that film producers claimed $30.3 million in film-tax credits in 2011.

Under the most plausible assumptions the Film Credit likely attracted 55 to 70 new jobs to North Carolina in 2011 … The Film Credit created 290 to 350 fewer jobs than would have been created through an across-the-board tax reduction of the same magnitude.

While film tax credits experienced enormous popularity in the 2000s, many states have trimmed back their film tax credit programs, because of problems detailed above.

Since 2010, eight states, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey and Washington, have ended their film tax subsidy programs. Other states, including Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Michigan, Missouri, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and New Mexico. have scaled back their programs or placed limits on their use. 

 

Week in Review: spin

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.


The Nevada Policy Research Institute made headlines recently when we revealed that individuals’ government pensions in Nevada are often higher than their paychecks.

Predictably, our analysis drew a critical response from PERS officials, who took exception to our findings. Yet just as predictable was that nowhere in their response did those PERS officials point to even a single error in our study’s findings. Instead, PERS and its defenders have resorted to furious attempts at spin.

On the other hand, it’s easy to identify an error made by state Sen. Tick Segerblom in his recent letter to the editor published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, through which the senator enlists himself in PERS’ spin campaign. To wit, Sen. Segerblom writes that the study “offers no information about the methodology used in generating its numbers.”

Of course, anyone who so much as skimmed the analysis would have found the methodology clearly outlined, beginning on page 3.

Sen. Segerblom and PERS officials’ main beef with this study was that the analysis looked just at those government workers who retired from 2011 to 2013 and had at least 30 years of service credit. For those retiring from local government, the average pension was over 100 percent of their final base pay. School district retirees collect 89 percent of their base pay. Police and fire employees rake in over 114 percent of their final base pay as retirement payouts. 

What the critics are ignoring is that NPRI limited the study to recent retirees in order not to inflate those percentages. Had NPRI analyzed the pensions of all 30-plus-year retirees in the system, the average pension would have been far greater than their final salary due to the numerous COLA increases older retirees have received. The pensions of 2011-2013 retirees — those included in the study — have yet to be inflated by such cost-of-living increases.

NPRI’s findings echo what a national expert has found as well. The former principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Andrew Biggs — a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute — found in 2011 that the average Nevada PERS retiree can expect to receive a pension benefit 55 percent greater than his comparable private-sector counterpart.

Last year, comparing pension benefits in Nevada to those offered in the 49 other states, Biggs found that Nevada PERS leads the nation with the highest average pension benefit for full-career retirees: $64,008 a year. And keep in mind, a full career in government means working just 30 years, not the 45 years or so needed in the private sector.

The reason NPRI’s study looked at just those with 30 years or more of service credit was to discover how pension benefits are distributed among its members.

According to its just-released 2014 PERS actuarial data report, PERS’ 48,729 retirees had an average of 20 years of service and a pension of $35,598, which is more than the maximum Social Security benefit available with 35 years of work at 67 years old.

There’s a reason PERS doesn’t want NPRI pointing out how unevenly that average is distributed.

PERS’ 10,357 full-career retirees now have pensions of $64,913 and begin collecting their income-replacement-level pensions immediately, even if they “retired” in their 40s. Those with less time in service have to wait until their 60s.

What those two statistics and the findings of NPRI’s recent study reveal is the inequity in the current system. PERS provides a windfall for those who make it to the 30-year mark at the expense of the vast majority of PERS retirees who work fewer than 30 years and receive disproportionally smaller benefits than their full-career counterparts. Indeed, local government employees who work for less than five years receive nothing at all. They can’t even roll over their “share” of retirement contributions.

Sen. Segerblom and PERS officials are defending a politically favored elite — the less than 1 percent of Nevadans who will work for government for 30 years and receive those exorbitant pensions.

NPRI, on the other hand, favors pension reform, like moving to a hybrid system, which would help the people — the 99 percent, if you will, including teachers, police officers and nurses — who won’t make it to 30 years of service. And it would protect taxpayers, too.

(By the way, for a few more great additions to this debate, see here and here, as well as a piece our own Chantal Lovell wrote on this yesterday.)

As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.

Total Records: 1875

« previous 10 next 10 »