Week in Review: We're watching

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.


While reading a Los Angeles Times article this week on Gov. Sandoval’s “tax-hike surprise,” I couldn’t help but think of the Legislative Review & Report Card that NPRI publishes at the end of every Legislative Session.

The Report Card grades each legislator and the governor on his or her performance in Carson City, taking into account votes on the matters that affect you and your family most, such as education and taxes. For the vast majority of Nevadans not entrenched in Silver State policymaking and politics on a daily basis, it’s a highly useful tool to gauge the performance of their elected officials.

As you may know, NPRI Executive Vice President Victor Joecks has relocated to the capital, not only to provide regular updates on important hearings and votes, and to offer a free-market perspective to lawmakers, but also to be a watchdog.

In the coming months, we’ll be watching how our elected officials stand up against new and extended taxes; support giving students the educational freedom they need to succeed; promote crucial reforms to Nevada PERS; and work to loosen public-sector unions’ hold on taxpayers’ wallets. We’ll be watching them when it comes to attempts to raise the minimum wage, expand ineffective programs like full-day kindergarten, and plenty more.

As that LA Times article I mentioned accurately suggests, politicians try a lot of things after an election. Despite Nevada voters’ overwhelming rejection of the margin tax  — which Sandoval himself opposed — the governor and some legislators are now pushing a modified version of that same tax that voters just shot down by a 4-1 gap. Others want to circumvent taxpayers by allowing school boards to raise property taxes without their consent, despite voters’ repeated rejection of such increases.

We know the vast majority of Nevadans don’t have the time to follow every development from Carson City, and that many more are precluded from following their legislators’ actions closely by the vast distance that separates them from our state’s capitol.

So NPRI will again spend the next few months watching on your behalf — and reporting on how your lawmakers perform — so you can make the most informed decisions possible come next election.

***

On another front, we’ve had a significant development in one of our legal efforts to defend the Nevada Constitution. As you’re aware, we’re currently in a lawsuit against the Governor’s Office of Economic Development over its administration of the unconstitutional Catalyst Fund, through which state government gives taxpayer money to private companies.

Last Thursday, the district court judge in that case heard oral argument on both parties’ cross motions for summary judgment and denied both, holding that factual issues raised by the case precluded the grant of summary judgment for either party. This represents an important step forward, because it opens the door to the trial phase of this case, during which we’ll have an opportunity to make the argument as to why our client, an alternative-energy entrepreneur named Michael Little, has suffered direct harm as a result of his competitor, SolarCity, receiving a government subsidy.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted as this case continues to unfold, but in the meantime, please accept my sincerest thanks for all you do to help us fight this important battle, among many others.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Testimony on SB 119

Submitted by Victor Joecks, Nevada Policy Research Institute

SB 119 contains two separate provisions: An excellent repeal of prevailing wage requirements for school and university construction and a massive property tax increase without voter approval.

Repealing prevailing wage requirements would save Nevada governments significantly on construction projects.  An NPRI study found that prevailing wage requirements boost the costs of construction project labor by around 45 percent in both Northern and Southern Nevada. Overall, prevailing wage requirements cost Nevada taxpayers around $1 billion in excessive labor costs in just 2009 and 2010.

A study in Michigan found that eliminating prevailing wage requirements there would reduce overall construction costs by 10 percent.

Eliminating the prevailing wage is a great example of how government can make taxpayer money more go further.

On the other hand, attempts to circumvent voters and pass a property tax increase without their approval should be rejected.

First, voters have clearly spoken on this issue.  In 2012, Clark County voters rejected a more modest property tax increase 2 to 1, despite there not being a formal “no” campaign. In 2013, Washoe County residents spoke out against a property and sales tax increase for school construction, forcing the County Council to reject those tax increases.

This bill would circumvent the will of the people, because voters overwhelmingly oppose this plan.

Next, here are a few important pieces of context on calls for capital improvements.

1. In 1999, the average US school building was built in 1959, or 40 years old. In 2012, the average CCSD school building was just  22 years old. Nevada’s schools are comparatively new.

2. I have personally called Clark County School District and Washoe County School District officials and asked if their heating and A/C systems are working. Officials from both school districts have reported that while occasional breakdowns happen and are fixed immediately, their students have working heat and A/C, contrary to some claims

3. With its $4.9 billion 1998 bond, CCSD accommodated a 50 percent increase in student growth. Now CCSD claims it needs $5.3 billion to accommodate just 1 or 2 percent student growth per year.

4. CCSD has also been extremely wasteful with its past bond money. It gave $5 million to the Smith Center for Performing Arts. It gave $2 million to the City of Henderson for a swimming pool.

At the same time, CCSD was bemoaning the need to build new school buildings, it spent the last of its 1998 bond money on a gym for a rural high school.

5. In its 2012 property tax increase request, CCSD said identified 42 schools it would have spent the funds on. Those 42 schools had received more than $470 million from previous bond campaigns, an average of $11.7 million a school.

6. In 2012, CCSD said ten schools desperately needed electrical system upgrades. Those electrical upgrades would have cost just $9.8 million, or 1.5 percent of what CCSD was asking for.

Lastly, the best way to deal with claims of overcrowded schools is to pass school choice legislation that allows parents to choose to remove their students from public schools.

Thank you. 

 

Week in Review: Federal aid

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 not often that I defend Harry Reid, but I remember an occasion a few years ago when I found myself doing just that.

A report had come out — I don’t recall who produced it — showing that Nevada ranked near the bottom of the 50 states in terms of the amount of aid received from the federal government. Reid was criticized for not doing more to “bring home the bacon,” as the expression goes, and if I recall correctly, the list of those who called him out included a number of self-professed fiscal conservatives. I understand the temptation to take aim at one’s political rivals anytime an opportunity presents itself. But I also felt that in this case, the criticism was misguided.

Whatever we may want from our national representatives, adeptness in steering federal pork back home should not be among our wishes. I’ll grant an obvious point here: Nevada’s low ranking almost certainly did not result from any principled opposition on Reid’s part to doling out federal aid. More likely is that he simply proved less proficient at it than his colleagues. So in truth, I wasn’t defending Reid so much as I was wishing his detractors would recognize that this was the wrong fight to pick.

What caused me to think back to that debate was the release recently of a new study from the Tax Foundation, which finds that Nevada continues to lag most of the other states when it comes to reeling in federal dollars. For fiscal year 2012, the Silver State ranked 44th in the nation in federal aid as a percentage of state general revenue.

A few observations in looking at that map: First, there doesn’t appear to be any really obvious red-state/blue-state pattern when it comes to receiving federal aid. While the states that bring in the most (Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and South Dakota take up the top four spots, in that order) tend to vote Republican at the national level, the states that receive the least federal aid (Alaska is No. 50 and North Dakota is No. 49) do as well. Being a “conservative” state, in other words, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re more likely to eschew federal money. But nor are you any less likely to do so.

Second, the geographical distribution of federal aid doesn’t show a whole lot of consistency, either, with the exception that a majority of the Southeastern states fall in the top half of recipients (with South Carolina, Florida and Virginia the exceptions). One can find lots of examples of bordering states that are on opposite ends of the scale. The Dakotas (already noted above) provide one such example, as do Missouri and Kansas (Nos. 5 and 41, respectively), Oregon and Washington (12 and 37) and Arizona and Nevada (10 and 44).

But the most important takeaway from the study is this: There is way too much money being thrown around by our politicians in Washington, D.C. Mississippi, the state that topped the Tax Foundation’s list, receives a whopping 45.3 percent of its state general revenues from the federal government. That’s alarming, to be sure. But what I found even more notable was that Alaska, which ranked last, still gets 20 percent of its revenue from the feds. Think about that — even in the state least dependent on the national government for aid, one in every five dollars still comes from our nation’s capital. (The percentage for Nevada is 25.5.)

As noted above, this is very much a bi-partisan problem. Politicians of both parties regularly run for office on the promise that, “If elected, I will deliver for our state.” And by “deliver,” of course, they mean they’ll pack federal legislation with as many giveaways to their constituents as possible, never mind that we’ve long since passed the point where our country can afford it.

What’s needed from our nationally elected officials today, more than ever, is the courage to say "no." They need to look at the voters in their districts and say, “If elected, I’m going to work as hard as I can to limit our state’s dependence on federal money, and to stop the gravy train from running to all the other states, too. I’ll protect and defend our Constitution, and I’ll work to advance national policies that keep you free. Beyond that, I’m not going to promise you a thing.”

Of course, we don’t often hear this from our political class. The incentives to promise the moon are usually far too great, and the rewards for showing genuine fiscal responsibility far too small by comparison.

And so every day, the crisis continues to grow more severe.

Last year’s elections swept into office a whole lot of candidates who call themselves fiscal conservatives. No doubt their principles and ideological instincts point that way. But talk is cheap. And the citizens of our nation deserve serious action that leads to the implementation of fiscally responsible policies.

Cutting federal aid to the states — ours included — would be a great place to start.

Thanks for reading, and take care.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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PERS response to NPRI pension study confirms accuracy of NPRI’s study

PERS response to NPRI pension study confirms accuracy of NPRI’s study

Last week, my colleague Robert Fellner and I released a study that compared the pensions of recent full-career government employee retirees with their final year of base pay.

What we found was shocking. For local government employees, with 30 years of service credit or more, the average government retiree made more in yearly pension payouts than in their final year of base pay. For just police and fire employees, the average jumped to 114 percent.

When confronted with information like this, PERS had three options. First, it could acknowledge the study’s findings are accurate. Since PERS officials have a vested interest in downplaying the severity of PERS’ unfunded liability and declining investment returns that was unlikely.

Second, it could have pointed out factual errors in the study.

But it did neither of those things. Instead, it chose option three: Change the subject. Spin, spin, spin. PERS officials have a lot of experience with that.

Which is expected, and I’ll address their spin in a moment. But first, it’s important to point out that PERS has identified no factual errors in NPRI’s report, which relied heavily on information from PERS itself.

Instead, PERS officials are trying to change the subject in two ways. First, PERS administrators claim that NPRI’s study only covers a small portion of retirees or in the words of PERS executive officer Tina Leiss, “It appears that the analysis was based on a review of 790 retirees whereas there are currently 49,179 retirees.”

While that’s true, it also misses the point. We limited the study to recent retirees for two reasons. First, we needed to have corresponding salary data, and the oldest records on Transparent Nevada are from 2007. For some of the agencies we looked at, the first year of salary data available on Transparent Nevada is 2009.

Second, and more importantly, we wanted to exclude older pensions that could include numerous cost of living adjustments. Because the payout data PERS makes available doesn’t separate base pension amounts from COLAs, a pension that today is paying out $100,000 a year to a 2008 retiree could have started off as a $90,000 pension in 2008.

So we excluded older retirees in order to not compare base pay with pensions that included numerous COLAs. Doing so would have inflated the findings.

If PERS would like to provide better data, we’d be happy to run a more detailed analysis, but PERS has a history of fighting public records requests.

Leiss than acknowledged that for the past three years around 12 percent of retirees have 30 years of service credit.

Leiss' acknowledgement highlights the inequity in the current defined-benefit system. If you are one of the 12 percent who retire with 30 years of service credit, the system provides extraordinarily high benefits immediately, as our study shows. But if you only work for government for five or 10 years, PERS is a rip off. If you work for a local government for less than five years, you get nothing if you leave government employment.

That’s why NPRI recommends a pension system that is personal and portable.

The second argument PERS is making involves the “cap” that limits pensions to 75 percent of average compensation for employees hired after 1985. For government employees hired before 1985, the cap is 90 percent.

If you take the time to read the study, you’ll find that we address this on page 5. In short, the cap sounds nice, but is largely meaningless in practice, which is why employees under the 90 percent cap, are taking home pensions worth 110 percent, 120 percent or more of their base pay in pension payouts.

PERS has a huge math problem, and the legal income-replacement-level pensions identified in NPRI’s study are a big part of that. The first step to fixing this math problem is acknowledging the math.

While PERS officials appear committed to ignoring this reality, I’m optimistic that most lawmakers feel differently. 

 

Week in Review: Retirement

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.


Do you ever have one of those days that are so hectic you find your mind wandering off, dreaming of the day you get to retire and spend the rest of your life on some distant, tropical island?

For most of us, such thoughts are nothing more than dreams we use to get through the grind.

But for government retirees in Nevada, such thoughts may be more realistic than not. As revealed in our new analysis of Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System data now available on TransparentNevada.com, many public employees get a pay raise upon retirement.

That’s right. Many full-career government retirees in Nevada are receiving more than their final year’s base pay once they retire. Considering most of the taxpayers who fund those rich retirements receive far less after they quit working, and that NVPERS has an unfunded liability around $40 billion based on a realistic rate of return, the findings are something that should give everyone in Nevada, especially policymakers, pause.

Fortunately, the study received some great media attention. In addition to being discussed on multiple radio shows across the state, Nevada’s largest paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, featured the study as its lead story on the front page of Thursday’s edition, and as its top story online. The headline called the data “shocking,” and it truly is.

According to the report, authored by our own Victor Joecks and Robert Fellner, people retiring after at least 30 years of employment with Clark County, Washoe County, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Las Vegas Metro, Henderson or Reno are doing so with 100.59 percent of their highest year’s base pay. Police and fire retirees receive even more, getting a 14 percent pay increase upon retirement.

In conjunction with the release, we’ve updated TransparentNevada.com to include more detailed pension information. Now, users can see retiree names, pension payments, years of employment and last employer, meaning legislators, reporters, activists and ordinary citizens now have all the information that’s necessary to make the case for pension reform in Nevada.

Last night, I spoke at a meeting of the Sun City Summerlin Conservatives about reforms made to the retirement system in Utah, which now works for both taxpayers and retirees. During the Great Recession, Utah’s public pension system saw its assets crash, right along with the stock market. Rather than require taxpayers to make significant increases in payments to the system, as we’ve experienced in Nevada, Utah legislators chose to make the system sustainable and viable for generations to come.

The State of Utah contributes 10 to 12 percent of each worker’s salary toward his or her retirement, but beginning in 2011, new employees were given a choice in what to do with that money: invest it in a 401(k), or enroll in a defined-benefit plan knowing that taxpayer contributions would be capped at 10-12 percent. The move has lessened the risk to taxpayers and eventually will cut the state’s pension liabilities. And it’s also beneficial to retirees, as the new system means they can take their retirement with them if they switch jobs, can pass the asset on to their children upon their death, and no longer have to worry that politicians will raid the fund to pay for other government expenses.

And the move was apparently popular with voters. Not one Republican who supported the plan lost in the following election. In fact, Utah Republicans picked up seats.

Fortunately, NPRI has created the framework for a similar reform in Nevada. In addition to Thursday’s PERS analysis, we’ve published multiple studies and commentaries on the subject. Most importantly, PERS reform was a key focus in our most recent Solutions book, our sourcebook for policymakers that was sent to every Nevada legislator and Gov. Brian Sandoval. And our executive vice president, Victor Joecks, has relocated to Carson City so NPRI can have a full-time voice in the capital during this important time.

It’s undeniable that PERS reform needs to be a top priority this Legislative Session. Policymakers owe it to taxpayers and public employees alike to take action.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Nevada will collect more in taxes next biennium without sunsets than it did in this biennium with sunsets

In FY 2014-15, Nevada will collect $6.27 billion in taxes for its general fund, which includes around $600 million in sunset taxes.  For FY 2016-17, Nevada will collect $6.33 billion in taxes without the sunset taxes.

 

General Fund taxes

Biennium spending

2014

$3,066,946,360

 

2015

$3,205,289,294

$6,272,235,654

2016

$3,069,593,035

 

2017

$3,260,982,435

$6,330,575,470

So does Nevada have a spending problem or a tax-collection problem? You be the judge.

 

Why Nevada’s tax base is more diversified than you think it is

With Gov. Sandoval proposing the largest tax increase in Nevada’s history, including a modified version of the margin tax voters just rejected by a 4-to-1 ratio, you’ll be hearing a lot about how Nevada doesn’t have a diversified tax base.

Liberals love to claim that Nevada’s tax base is a “two-legged stool,” and that’s why Nevada needs a business tax.

That type of rhetoric makes you wonder how many people have actually seen the composition of the taxes funding Nevada’s general fund. There are a lot of legs on that stool.

Does Nevada needed revenue-neutral tax reform, like the plan proposed by NPRI? Absolutely.

But the number and types of taxes funding Nevada’s General Fund are much more diverse than most people realize. Nevada doesn’t need a third leg for its tax stool. It already has a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth leg.

 

Week in Review: Sound the alarm

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.


Do you remember President Bill Clinton’s 1996 State of the Union address when he declared, “The era of big government is over”?

Watching Gov. Brian Sandoval’s State of the State last night made me wonder when Sandoval would declare “The era of big government is here.”

While Sandoval never spoke those words, that was the theme of his speech, which included the following:

  • The largest tax increase in Nevada’s history — $1.15 billion. That would include the creation of a new type of tax: a graduated business license fee. That’s a modified version of the margin tax, which voters just rejected 4 to 1.
  • The governor announced that he wants to make the sunset taxes permanent, even though lawmakers promised voters they would expire in 2011, and then 2013 and then 2015. As a candidate for governor, Sandoval himself promised to let them expire in 2011.
  • Sandoval proposed allowing school districts to raise property taxes to pay for school buildings without voter approval. Sandoval wants to bypass the will of Clark County voters who rejected a related property-tax increase in 2012 by a 2-to-1 margin. Citizens of Washoe County also spoke out in force and caused the Washoe County Commission to reject a similar tax hike in 2013.
  • He gave a laundry list of new education spending, including tens of millions of dollars for failed programs like full-day kindergarten and pre-K.
  • Overall, Sandoval proposed an expansion of general fund spending by 10.6 percent, from $6.6 billion to $7.3 billion.

The speech did include a couple of positive specifics: school choice in the form of opportunity scholarships and what sounded like a recovery school district for failing schools.

While Sandoval did mention things like reforms for collective bargaining, PERS and construction defects, the details he gave paled in comparison to the energy and attention he gave to his proposals to expand government. That set off alarm bells for me, and it should for you as well.

Especially worrisome is Sandoval’s claim that spending will be paired with accountability. While it sounds nice, consider what happens in practice. The Legislature passes a new spending measure. It immediately gains advocates who benefit from the government largesse.

Those advocates turn into a special-interest group dedicated to preserving the program, even when it doesn’t perform as promised. By the time we get to two, four or six years later, when there is ample evidence that the program is obviously not working as promised, a new crop of lawmakers and a new governor are faced with “cutting” a vital program “for the children” that has a special-interest group dedicated to protecting it.
Exhibit A is class-size reduction, a waste of money that only a few brave lawmakers will point out is a waste of money.

Exhibit B is the set of “temporary” sunset taxes, which elected officials promised would expire in 2011. Four years later, Sandoval wants to make them permanent.

That’s why it’s so important for lawmakers to demand and obtain accountability for the money Nevada is already spending. Without doing that, you just end up spending more and more for the same or even declining results.

The true tragedy is that all this new spending won’t help Nevada’s children learn more. We know full-day K and pre-K only produce small and temporary gains. We know that giving more money to school districts without changes to NRS 288 only leads to paying more for the status quo. We know that nearly tripling inflation-adjusted, per-pupil education spending doesn’t increase spending achievement and quadrupling it won’t help, either.

And we know that the largest tax increase in Nevada would cause many parents to lose their jobs, causing untold upheaval for their children and harming their ability to learn.

Sandoval and other politicians know that ushering in the “era of big government” isn’t politically popular. Which candidate ran on growing government and passing the largest tax hike in Nevada’s history?

The good news is that — despite President Obama’s desires — a chief executive is not a dictator. Sandoval’s proposals now go to the Legislature, where they will be challenged and debated.
Sandoval’s speech sounded the alarm. It’s time to answer the call, or more importantly, to make a call. I encourage you to call your legislators and let them know what you think.

Contact information for Assembly members is here and contact information for senators is here.  You can find out who your legislators are here.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Week in Review: Shared priority

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 was overjoyed this week to read that Gov. Brian Sandoval has dedicated his second term to helping Nevada’s children succeed. It just so happens that providing solutions to make that happen is NPRI’s top priority for 2015, too.

And, with Republicans in full control of Carson City for the first time in 85 years, the opportunity to bring school choice to Nevada has never been greater. In case you missed last week’s column amid the hustle and bustle of the holidays, Geoff Lawrence, who had served as NPRI’s director of research and legislative affairs, has left the Institute to counsel the Nevada Republican Assembly caucus as its new policy director. While Geoff’s departure from NPRI is certainly a loss, the majority party, if it wants to bring school choice to Nevada, couldn’t have a better individual directing its policy efforts.

I trust that Gov. Sandoval has already read Geoff’s last two NPRI publications — 33 ways to improve Nevada education without spending more and Solutions 2015 — in which he details what it means to truly make Nevada children our top priority. It means taking steps to improve educational opportunities, and equipping students with the tools they need to create a brighter future for themselves. Contrary to what liberals repeatedly claim, it doesn’t mean throwing more money at an education system that is plagued not by insufficient funding, but by inefficiency. It means enacting genuine reforms to that system.

I’ve disagreed with Gov. Sandoval on multiple issues, but I know he’s sincere in his desire to improve educational quality in our state. The policy ideas contained in those recent NPRI publications — such as Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), charter school reforms and alternative routes to teacher licensure — would be a great place for him to start.

Education Savings Accounts were first implemented in Arizona to bring hope to students by giving families more choices in education. Through the program, the state puts money it would already spend on a student’s education into an account designated for that student, to be used for educational purposes. Parents can spend the money on private-school tuition, homeschooling or tutoring, among other options, to ensure their child gets the education that fits best. 

Improving existing charter schools and removing roadblocks to opening others is another proven way that Gov. Sandoval can make kids his top priority in the coming year. Because they operate outside district-level policies, charter schools are free to innovate and find better ways to educate. Traditionally, they have existed to serve more at-risk students, and the evidence shows that students who win lotteries to participate in charters do significantly better than those who do not. Charter school reforms that policymakers should pursue include implementing a parent trigger law and establishing an incubator system for charter school startups.

And reforming the teacher-certification process would remove a chief obstacle that currently keeps many qualified educators out of the classroom. The research has shown that traditional licensure has no impact on student achievement, whereas allowing for alternative paths to licensure has indeed produced educational gains. The reason should be obvious: Under the current system, many highly skilled professionals dismiss the idea of pursuing teaching as a profession because they find the process of getting credentialed far too onerous.

For too long, the interests of Nevada’s children have been put on the back burner, as state policymakers have allowed the teacher unions and other special interests to dominate the education agenda. Whether you consider yourself a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or a liberal, or something else, it’s time for us all to acknowledge that the status quo has failed our kids.

The voters spoke loudly and clearly in November. They’re tired of business as usual. They want real change and proven solutions. And there’s no better proof of that than their overwhelming rejection of the margin-tax initiative, the goal of which was to address Nevada’s education problems by simply throwing more money at them. Nevadans want, and deserve, better.

In the coming weeks, NPRI Executive Vice President Victor Joecks will relocate to Carson City so that he can share with incoming and returning policymakers the real solutions to Nevada’s educational challenges. And you can be sure he’ll be reaching out to Gov. Sandoval to thank him personally for his commitment to putting children first, and to share with him some of our ideas on how to make that happen.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Week in Review: The future

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.


Each new year brings with it a number of changes, and it’s no different here at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. Often the change is good — it’s a chance to set new organizational goals for the year ahead, and to turn the page on the occasions in the previous year when you might have come up short.

But there are also those times when change can be hard to swallow, even if you know, from a big-picture standpoint, that the change is necessary to produce s a new and exciting opportunity. And we’ll be facing a couple changes here at NPRI this year that fall into that category.

This week, we at NPRI said goodbye to two members of our team who have provided immeasurable value to the Institute in recent years.

Geoff Lawrence, who for the past few years has quarterbacked NPRI’s policy research efforts, has accepted a new position as the policy director for the Nevada Republican Assembly caucus. Those of you who follow the Institute’s efforts closely are well aware of the incredible contributions Geoff has made to our body of work. His most notable publications have probably been the first two installments of our Solutions series, sourcebooks on dozens of policy issues that are designed to assist policymakers in crafting free-market-oriented legislation.

But that, of course, hardly scratches the surface. Geoff has authored a number of other exceptional works for us, including an alternative state budget (2009), our legislative report card (2009, 2011 and 2013) and our Piglet Book (2010, 2012 and 2014), among many others. He has also served as NPRI’s point man at the legislative session, and in 2013, in a historic development for the Institute, Geoff was stationed in Carson City full-time, giving us a permanent presence throughout the session’s activities.

Eric Davis is a name that might not be as familiar to you. But it’s a name you should know. Eric has held a number of positions at NPRI since joining us as an intern back in 2007, most recently serving as our web developer. He’s had many roles with us, but his greatest contribution has been the design, development and management of NPRI’s transparency websites — transparentnevada.com and transparentcalifornia.com.

These two sites, which rank among the most successful projects we’ve ever undertaken here at NPRI, have garnered 30 million page views combined during their lifetimes, with over 21 million of those page views coming this year alone. More important than the numbers, however, is the impact — the way the government-spending data on these sites has shaped the debate over public financing. Eric has been more of a behind-the-scenes man here at NPRI, but his work has certainly not gone unnoticed, and he has been offered, and has accepted, a new position as a systems engineer with the web-development company eResources.

It may go without saying that we hate to see Geoff and Eric go. In addition to being highly productive members of our team, they’ve been very dear friends to the rest of the staff here at the Institute.

But it’s important that we all recognize these developments as the success stories they are. One of the things we’ve always prided ourselves on here at the Institute is our success in identifying and cultivating talent — bringing in hard-working and skilled individuals and then giving them the chance to develop their skills and achieve greatness. Geoff and Eric have done exactly that, and as a result, they have both earned tremendous opportunities for further career growth and advancement. Congratulations are in order to both of these gentlemen.

And even in their new roles, both will continue to serve the cause that is at the heart of NPRI’s mission. He’ll be wearing a different uniform, but Geoff will still be fighting hard in Carson City to advance the kinds of free-market reforms our state needs. And eResources, the company where Eric will now be working, hosts our flagship website, npri.org, meaning we’ll continue to work closely with him in keeping our site up-to-date with the Institute’s latest work.

Still, these departures do present challenges. And fortunately, we’ve built a team here that has the strength and the versatility to meet them. You’ll learn a lot more about what that means in the weeks and months ahead, but in particular, I’d like to share with you that Victor Joecks, NPRI’s executive vice president, will be running the show for us in Carson City during the session this year. You’ve no doubt read plenty of Victor’s work over the years, and if you have, you’ll agree with me that our policy efforts are in very good hands.

Like I said at the outset, every new year brings change, and every year has a way of throwing a lot of surprises at us, too. But one thing you can count on to remain constant is NPRI’s unyielding commitment to our mission and our principles. Whatever the future holds, that truth will always persist.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Total Records: 1863

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