Case study: How CCSD avoids transparency

There's a very interesting story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal today about the Clark County School District writing a $100,000 check to remove CCSD Board president Erin Cranor from a lawsuit.

The lawsuit story is interesting in its own right, but the story also contains two examples of how CCSD avoids transparency.

First, CCSD's offer of a $100,000 settlement meant it wouldn't have to obtain board approval for the check. Per its regulations, the board votes on settlements over $100,000. When reporter Trevon Milliard asked school board vice president Linda Young about the settlement check, which was issued over one month ago, she didn't even know the check had been sent out.

School Board Vice President Linda Young, who said she expected a board vote on the settlement, was flabbergasted when she learned the check was cut more than a month ago. Other board members did not return calls for comment.

“It’s hard for me to respond because I don’t know anything about it,” Young said after the Review-Journal told her of the payment. “The only information we’re (the School Board) getting right now is it’s ‘in the process.’ ”

Second, there's a tidbit at the bottom of the story that shows exactly how CCSD responsed to many of NPRI's requests for information.

The Review-Journal reported on Aug. 19 that Business Benefits had accepted $100,100 to drop Cranor as an individual defendant, subject to board approval. On Tuesday, after four weekly board meetings had come and gone, the newspaper asked when the settlement would come up for a public vote.

[CCSD spokeswoman and chief of staff Kirsten] Searer’s response: “The Business Benefits lawsuit is still pending. I will let you know when we have additional information on this.”

When asked Wednesday why she didn’t disclose the payment had already been sent without board approval, Searer said: “That’s not what you asked.”

In 2013, taxpayers paid Searer over $150,000 in total compensation to have her hide information from reporters and taxpayers. If you're looking for school district waste, stopping CCSD from spending hundreds of thousands or millions per year fighting transparency is an obvious place to start.

Unfortunately, hiding information and misleading about embarrassing incidents is par for the course for many CCSD officials.



Video: Mom talks about how the margin tax would hurt her family

In recent weeks, I’ve stressed the importance of communicating the stories behind the free-market policies we hope to advance.

It’s not enough to tell your friends and neighbors that the margin tax will hurt the economy; you have to show them how their lives will change for the worse if voters approve the new tax this November.

To help that effort along, NPRI has just released this short, 90-second video highlighting the story of a Nevada mom struggling to make ends meet, fearing that she may be one of 3,610 people who will be laid off if voters approve the margin tax.

I urge you to watch this video and then forward this email to your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers and anyone else you think needs to hear the truth about the margin tax.

Use this video to help them see how a destructive policy proposal can affect individuals personally.

Until next time,


P.S. Speaking of the margin tax, did you know we’ve compiled all our margin tax publications in one easy-to-navigate place? Check it out here:


Week in Review: ‘Fact checker’ full of 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.

‘Fact checker’ full of spin

One of Groucho Marx’s best lines was this quip: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

That’s the thought that echoed through my head as I read Mark Robison’s recent “Fact checker” column in the Reno Gazette-Journal. Robison decided to examine a statement Lt. Gov. candidate and current state Sen. Mark Hutchison made about the so-called Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare.

During a debate with his opponent and current Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, Hutchison said, “Obamacare has not been right for Nevada. We’ve seen prices go up for the government, for patients who are insured.”

Government (a.k.a. taxpayer) costs have certainly gone up — from Nevada’s decision to expand Medicaid to ACA being projected to cost the federal government $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years.

But Robison didn’t look at that. Instead, he contacted the Hutchison campaign for details on the statement that prices have gone up for “patients who are insured.” Hutchison’s campaign pointed to an excellent study conducted by the Manhattan Institute that examined the price difference between the lowest-cost plans before ACA and after ACA’s mandates.

The Manhattan Institute found that premiums for the lowest-priced individual plans in Nevada had increased by a whopping 94 percent to 289 percent.

So it should be a simple decision for a fact checker, right? Premiums were lower before ACA, they’re higher after ACA, so therefore, pointing out that prices have gone up for “patients who are insured” is an accurate statement.

It should have been an easy call, but instead, Robison started spinning. He cites Jake Sunderland, a spokesman for the Nevada Division of Insurance, who claims it is “irresponsible” to compare pre- and post-ACA plans, because ACA mandates that plans cover so much more.

That’s not irresponsible. That’s the point Hutchison made. ACA required more expensive health plans, so premiums went up. You may think that’s a bad or good trade-off, but that’s for policymakers and political pundits to debate, not for a fact checker to label as true or false.

The rest of the column is filled with Robison’s attempts to spin, explain and justify why health insurance costs have increased, and he concludes with this laugher:

Hutchison's source for his claim isn't a horrible one, but it is limited in scope and outdated.

For the small percentage of people Hutchison was referring to who buy their own individual health coverage, the available data for 2014-to-2015 plan changes shows premiums to be generally increasing more slowly than they did before the ACA, in Nevada and across the country.

Truth Meter: 3 out of 10

So here Robison attempts to ignore the changes that took place from 2013 to 2014, which are most pertinent, because that’s when ACA’s mandates first took effect, and focus on just changes happening this year after premiums doubled, tripled or even quadrupled last year. Even in doing so, though, he admits that health insurance prices are going up, which is what Hutchison claimed in the first place.

Who are you going to believe, a spinning “fact checker” or your lying eyes?

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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


Flores attacks Hutchison for ‘false facts’ using falsehoods

On Monday, Lt. Gov. candidate and Assemblywoman Lucy Flores put out a press release attacking Lt. Gov. candidate and Sen. Mark Hutchison. Entitled “Hutchison Campaign Running on False ‘Facts.’” The release stated:

Furthermore, claims that he [Hutchison] joined forces with Governor Sandoval to expand the education budget by $500 million are downright false. $1 billion had already been stripped from the education budget; the $500 million “added” barely covers rollup costs associated with expanding numbers of enrolled pupils. Sen. Hutchison’s position as a fighter for education is nothing but misleading. (Emphasis added.)

As I’ve shown before, even a casual look at Nevada’s education budget documents show that state education spending has increased in each of the last four years. While Flores claims $1 billion was “stripped” from the education budget, state education spending through the DSA has increased to its highest levels ever.

As I wrote yesterday,

A review of Nevada’s education budget, however, shows that Nevada’s state education spending through the Distributive School Account will increase from $5,374 per-pupil in Fiscal Year 2013 to $5,676 per-pupil in FY 2015. In addition, state spending on special education and class-size reduction will grow from $263.9 million in FY 2013 to $295 million in FY 2015.

Less than $28 million of Nevada’s increased education spending in FY 2014 and 2015 comes from projected increases in student enrollment at FY 2013 spending levels.

So where did Flores come up with this claim? I don’t know, and I wonder if her campaign does either.

I have called the Flores campaign seeking documentation of this “$1 billion” claim four times. I was even promised an email with documentation. The campaign has provided nothing. I will provide an update if documentation is ever provided.

It is impossible to overstate how important it is to get the facts right here.

Liberal’s solution to education — spending more — hasn’t worked and won’t work, but it won’t be defeated in the court of public opinion if liberals can get away with claiming that record-high spending equals a $1 billion spending cut.


Proposed CCSD teacher contract contains five types of pay increases

Pay increases are unrelated to performance, highlight need for collective bargaining reform

Clark County School District officials love secrecy. In the last month, they held invite-only meetings to consider teaching kindergartens about masturbation. CCSD is fighting a public-records lawsuit filed by NPRI seeking government email addresses. They also routinely provide little notice about how they plan to spend tax dollars.

That’s exactly what’s happened with the new contract between CCSD and the Clark County Education Association, which negotiates a single contract for over 18,000 teachers.

On the agenda for tomorrow’s board meeting is approving this new contract. As CCSD officials routinely complain that they don’t have enough money, even scoring a recent New York Times piece featuring administrators fretting about the growth in student population, the public might expect that this contract pinches pennies.

After all, if old facilities are really harming the learning of CCSD students, wouldn’t CCSD negotiators insist on a contract that reflects that priority?


The proposed one-year contract for teachers contains five separate pay increases — none related to how effect a teacher is helping students learn.

These include:

  • A “step” increase for experience, including new “steps” for CCSD’s longest tenured teachers
  • A “column” increase for earning advanced degrees
  • Paying for teachers’ share of increased PERS contributions
  • A 1 percent increase to the salary table effective March 2015
  • Eliminating employer and employee contributions to the Retiree Health Plan

Teachers will also have to pay $20 a month more per employee and dependent(s) for health insurance. The District is continuing to negotiate a district-wide health plan, which the public should make sure doesn’t consist of putting all CCSD employees in union-controlled Teachers Health Trust.

In total, these raises will cost the district over $43 million. These additional expenditures will also do nothing to increase student achievement.

Contracts like this, which feature spending increases without any additional accountability, are part of the reason why Nevada’s inflation-adjusted, per-pupil spending has nearly tripled in the last 50 years, while results have declined for decades.

This kind of spending is hardly an isolated incident. Last year’s contract with teachers contained six different types of pay increases.

This contract also gives a preview of how — without substantial reforms to NRS 288 — additional education funding from the margin tax or legislative action will be wasted without increasing achievement.

Fortunately there are dozens of ways to increase student achievement without spending more.

Victor Joecks is executive vice president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan, free-market think tank. For more visit


NPRI responds to Vice President’s call in Vegas for a higher minimum wage

In response to Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Las Vegas where he argued on behalf of raising the minimum wage, NPRI released the following statement from its Director of Research and Legislative Affairs Geoffrey Lawrence.

The minimum wage is an illusion by which we are led to believe that a government price control on labor will lead to prosperity. In reality, markets have never reacted favorably to any form of price control.

Price controls, such as the minimum wage, that make low-skilled or entry-level labor more expensive, lead to fewer jobs. Instead, business owners tend to find ways to mechanize these jobs rather than paying wages they cannot afford. This is why the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would cost 500,000 jobs.

Of course, few business owners want to lay off existing employees and so the full effects of minimum wage laws aren’t always immediately visible.Frequently, business owners will allow entry-level jobs to disappear through attrition, and so there are clear winners and losers from a minimum wage hike: Current employees who remain in their jobs might experience slightly higher wages in the short-term, but future job seekers will find it even harder to do so as entry-level opportunities dry up. When workers cannot secure entry-level employment, their entire career progression may be thwarted because they cannot get their foot in the door.

Statistically speaking, minimum wage laws are also associated with high unemployment rates among particular demographic groups consisting primarily of women, teens and minorities.

Most observers have now forgotten that the idea for a minimum wage law was originally developed by the early Progressives in the late 19th Century as a massive social engineering project designed to price minorities out of the labor force.  At the time, proponents believed that a minimum wage law would prevent minorities from being able to sustain their families and, thus, result in a racially whiter population.  While that is no longer the explicit goal, the historical legacy of minimum wage laws is still evident in its demographic effects.  That’s why Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman called the federal minimum wage law “one of the most, if not the most, anti-black laws on the statute books."


Week in Review: Communication

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.


Some of you may remember that I started here at NPRI as the Institute’s communications director, and so from the beginning I’ve always had a deep appreciation for the importance of communicating our ideas in a clear, powerful and effective way.

Through the years, our communications operation has grown tremendously, and we’re blessed today to have that operation in the very capable hands of Chantal Lovell. Chantal is hard-working, intelligent and, most important, an outstanding communicator. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

I mentioned last week that I was in Denver for the annual meeting of the State Policy Network, and SPN’s program included the final rounds of the first-ever Great Communicators Tournament. Think Freely Media, the tournament’s sponsor, kicked off the tournament weeks earlier by inviting participants to submit a short video making a moral argument for a free-market policy position.

About 150 people entered, 60 of whom were selected to have their videos posted online to be voted on. Of those 60, the top two vote-getters, plus 10 chosen by judges, advanced to compete in Denver. And those remaining 12 competed over multiple days, making arguments on issues ranging from Medicaid expansion to right-to-work laws to pension reform. Finally, on the penultimate day of the conference, the top three contestants competed live in front of about 900 people.

And when it was all over, our own Chantal Lovell was the last one standing.

I know I speak for everyone here at NPRI when I say that I’m incredibly proud of Chantal for her achievement. But I’m not the least bit surprised. As brilliant as she was on stage, she’s just as superb working day-to-day in the trenches, getting our message out.

What makes her so good is that she understands something very important — that to win the policy arguments, it’s not enough just to have the facts on your side. Statistics, data, econometric analyses — these things are necessary. But when it comes to convincing voters of the merits of our ideas, nothing beats having the right story.

This past summer, we published a policy study finding that approximately 3,610 Nevada jobs would be destroyed if voters pass the margin tax, which will appear as Question 3 on this November’s ballot (if you’re not already up to speed on this issue, see here).

Naturally, we’ll continue to promote the findings of that study over the next few weeks. But at the same time, we’ll be sharing the stories of the individuals behind the numbers.

We’ve already highlighted a few, including:

  • Randy and Kathalynn Thwing, owners of New Standard Manufacturing, which for more than 25 years has been building and selling padlocks here in the Silver State. They say they might have to pick up and leave Nevada if the margin tax takes effect, essentially being forced out of the place they’ve called home since the 1980s.
  • Frank and Lelia Friedlander, who own Las Vegas Window Tinting. They estimate that the margin tax would result in an additional $24,000 on their tax bill. Rather than lay off workers or cut wages, they plan to try to absorb the new cost themselves — which means the tax will hit their family directly.
  • Renee Newman, who runs a construction company along with her husband. Renee says that if Question 3 passes, the company could be forced to close altogether — leaving their 70 current employees jobless.

We hear all the time that the margin tax — revenues from which ostensibly will go toward education — is needed because of what it will do for “the children.” But what about the children of those 70 individuals who work for Renee Newman? Will they really be better off if their parents lose their paychecks?

Public policy doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It has a real-world effect on real people. And in the case of the margin tax, that effect would, in far too many cases, be disastrous. It’s important that we spend the next few weeks making sure our fellow Nevadans understand that.

We need to keep sharing the story of Randy and Kathalynn, and of Frank and Lelia. And others, too. You may have a story of your own, or know someone else who does. If you do, I hope you’ll let us know. Those stories need to be heard.
Thanks for reading — and be sure to drop a congratulatory note to Chantal at!

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: Our cause

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.

Our cause

I want to begin this week by thanking all of you who joined us Tuesday night at the Venetian for NPRI’s 23rd Anniversary Celebration. It was great to once again see so many long-time friends and supporters of the Institute, and to see plenty of new faces as well, as we celebrated 23 years of fighting for free-market principles here in the Silver State.

I’ve received an abundance of positive feedback from many who attended, and a lot of praise particularly for our keynote speaker, Judge Andrew Napolitano, who gave an impassioned speech about the importance of restoring and defending constitutional principles and the rule of law.

Again, my sincerest thanks to those of you who attended.

The only downside to the evening was the 4 a.m. wake time that awaited me the next day. On Wednesday morning, I boarded a plane for Denver, location of the 22nd Annual Meeting of the State Policy Network, where I’ve been for the past few days.

The annual SPN meeting always serves as a wonderful reminder that in this great cause of ours, we’re not alone. All across the country, state-based think tanks are working just as hard to advance sound policy ideas as we are in Nevada.

I’ve had a chance to talk with some of my fellow think-tank leaders, and it’s inspiring to hear what they’re up to. Whether they’re working to advance school choice, make government more transparent or implement tax and budget reform, they all share a commitment to the same underlying principles that you and I hold dear. And they’ve put in an enormous amount of time and effort fighting for those principles.

In my remarks at Tuesday night’s dinner, I noted that it’s often tempting to look at all the challenges facing us today, and to wonder whether we really have the opportunity to turn things around. And I added that when I looked across that room of supporters, and saw in their faces the passion for what we’re doing, the clear answer to me was: Yes.

And spending the past few days in Denver has reinforced that view. All across our country, dedicated, freedom-loving citizens are committing themselves to creating a nation filled with prosperity, opportunity and hope.

Our cause faces many challenges today. But make no mistake: Our cause is strong.

Have a great weekend,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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


Week in Review: Madison and Henderson

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.

Madison and Henderson

“If men were angels,” wrote James Madison in Federalist No. 51, “no government would be necessary.”

He continued:

If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

One such precaution, of course, is our system of checks and balances — the separation of various governmental powers within government itself. Unfortunately, that framework has begun to break down in recent times — nationally and certainly here in Nevada as well.  

The people remain the ultimate check on government — or, as Madison put it, “the primary control on the government.” And if our elected representatives fail to govern responsibly, we the people have the ability to vote them out of office. Increasingly, however, it has become crucial for citizens to check government with more frequency than every two, four or six years.

NPRI has been proud to be at the forefront of many efforts to check government, and our TransparentNevada website, which contains government employee salaries and other public information, is a very helpful tool in many of those efforts.

This includes a victory for taxpayers that NPRI won recently in Henderson.

Over one year ago, city officials in Henderson began to lay the groundwork for proposing a property tax increase. They convened a special budget committee to make recommendations but instructed committee members not to look at employee compensation, which is 80 percent of the city’s budget. Unsurprisingly, the budget committee then recommended a significant property tax increase to fill a supposed $17 million annual shortfall.

In April 2014, city officials announced a series of community meetings to discuss the findings and gauge the public’s reaction to their property tax increase trial balloon.

Led by NPRI’s Victor Joecks, our team used TransparentNevada information to raise numerous questions about what Henderson officials were telling the public. Through public testimony, media interviews and handing out fliers at community meetings, we showed that Henderson’s officials are some of the highest paid in the Vegas Valley. We also showed that Henderson’s budget “cuts” were really just reductions in desired expenditures.

Henderson residents were furious to learn that the reason city officials wanted to increase their taxes was that NRS 288 had forced them to give raises to city employees making over $200,000 a year in total compensation, while the median household income in Henderson had fallen more than 9 percent in five years.

And the raises continued. Over the summer and fall, Henderson announced it was giving raises and bonuses to its various employee groups.

Rather than risk political suicide at the polls next year, earlier this month the city council unanimously voted to table talk of a tax increase until at least 2016.

No, men aren’t angels, and that certainly includes those in the Henderson city government. But when we as citizens take seriously our duty to serve as that ultimate check on governmental power, we accomplish a lot in ensuring that those who are elected to govern, govern responsibly.

And don’t worry, Henderson residents. NPRI will be there in 2016, too.

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: A lesson from Tesla

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.

A lesson from Tesla

About 34 hours after the 28th Special Session of the Nevada Legislature began, Gov. Brian Sandoval last night signed legislation, passed unanimously by lawmakers, granting Tesla roughly $1.3 billion in tax abatements and renewable tax credits to build a battery factory in Storey County.

My NPRI colleagues and I have already spilled a good deal of ink weighing in on this story over the past week. In doing so, we’ve stressed a few points consistently: that the idea of Tesla coming to Nevada was cause for excitement; that the opacity and haste that have characterized the deal raised serious concerns; that lawmakers shouldn’t allow the euphoria of the moment to blind them to their responsibilities to make sure they were truly acting in the state’s long-term economic interests and examining risk as well as reward; and that crafting public policy to give special treatment to one company raised important questions of both constitutionality and justice. 

The deal having now become official, it may be tempting to assume that all the relevant questions have been answered. On the contrary: Many questions remain, and they can and will be answered only by the combination of careful future analysis and the continued unfolding of events.

So while the dust settles, at least for now, I thought I’d take this opportunity to highlight a facet of the Tesla saga that’s been getting far too little attention. There’s an important and fundamental lesson to be learned here, and it shouldn’t get lost amid the hype over this one particular deal.

Let’s start with a basic question: Why did Tesla decide to come to Nevada?

Surely, all businesses take many factors into consideration when deciding where to operate. But at least part of the answer to that question was provided by Steve Hill, the governor’s economic-development chief, who told the Reno Gazette-Journal that, “Without the sales tax abatement, we would've been immediately out of the conversation.”

Whatever you think of the merits of the Tesla deal itself, there is an inescapable lesson here: Favorable tax climates attract businesses. Tesla chose Nevada because of the opportunity to pay nothing to little in taxes, and because of the obvious benefits to the company that will result from that nonexistent to low tax burden. The less money Tesla is paying into government coffers, the more it has to grow, create jobs and increase wages. This benefits Tesla’s ownership, its employees and others in the economy as well.

So here’s another question: If it’s good for Tesla, then why not for everyone? If we acknowledge the power a low tax burden has to attract one business and to create jobs — and 60 lawmakers, plus the governor, just did exactly that — doesn’t it follow that extending such opportunities to other businesses all throughout the economy would lead to broader benefits as well?

The answer, of course, is yes. And since that’s the case, then the converse must also be true. Business owners will respond to higher taxes by shrinking their business, eliminating jobs or even moving away from those high-tax locations (or by not setting up shop there to begin with). And when that happens, the ill-effects are felt throughout the economy.

Still, we’re constantly being told, by advocates of higher taxes, that we can increase the tax burden on businesses without bearing those negative consequences. These folks constantly downplay or even deny the connection between the tax burden a business must pay in a particular location and its likeliness to choose to operate there. Well, the Tesla deal is a big, fat, $1.3 billion argument to the contrary.

It’s important to note that the benefits or negative effects of lowering or raising taxes are felt most acutely by small businesses, which are the primary driver of job growth in Nevada and across the country.

I had a chance to bring this up just yesterday, when I was a guest on Las Vegas Channel 3’s “What’s Your Point?” with Amy Tarkanian and Rory Reid. Rory is a big proponent of the margin tax, which will go before Nevada voters on this November’s ballot and would, if passed, result in a new, 2 percent tax levied against the gross revenues of businesses — even those that aren’t profitable.

Rory expressed his skepticism that implementing the margin tax would actually drive any businesses away, but the irony is that he did this immediately after applauding the decision to lure Tesla to Nevada with a massive tax-break package. Again, if the size of the tax bill was a major factor in Tesla’s decision on whether to do business in Nevada, then surely it would factor into the calculations of other businesses as well.

There’s a fundamental disagreement, even among free-market adherents, regarding the propriety of targeted tax breaks. Some favor them, arguing that it’s always good to let people keep more of their own money, and that we should strive to create as many loopholes as possible until everyone’s tax burden is decreased. Others argue that a true, competition-based market system requires a level playing field, with everyone operating under a uniform set of rules. And I’ve enjoyed hearing from lots of people in both camps over the past several days.

But wherever you fall on that divide, let’s make sure we appreciate the area where we can agree. Taxes do matter, and we should all work to advance public policies that keep taxes low here in the Silver State. With or without Tesla, that’s the path to a bright and prosperous future.

Take care, and have a great weekend.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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

Total Records: 1851

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