County proposes bribing current employees to cut pay for future employees

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.


County proposes bribing current employees to cut pay for future employees

Imagine a parent offering his 10-year-old boy this deal:

“Son, you make $15 a week in allowance. I’m going to give you a one-time $5 bonus if you permit me to pay your future siblings — who aren’t born yet — $1 less per week once they turn eight years old.”

This would strike most of us as completely ludicrous. Why should a parent have to seek the permission of an older child to change the allowance of a child not even born yet?

Amazingly, that’s analogous to what’s happening right now at UMC, the government hospital run by Clark County. Here’s how the Las Vegas Review-Journal describes the situation: “Clark County has offered University Medical Center employees a $500 one-time bonus if they agree that new, future hires no longer will receive longevity pay.”

In short, county officials are offering a bribe — not an illegal one, of course — to current employees so they can reduce compensation for future ones.

The “bonuses” would cost Clark County $2 million today, but save UMC $150 million over 30 years, although there would be no savings for eight years. That’s when longevity payments currently begin for new hires.

So have Clark County officials lost their marbles?

Actually, no — because county officials are restrained by something no parent is: state-imposed collective bargaining.

You see, even though UMC has lost hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade, county officials can’t just eliminate longevity pay for future and current hires.

That’s because Nevada’s collective bargaining law, NRS 288, gives government employee unions incredible leverage over county officials. Provisions like “evergreen clauses” and “binding arbitration” have put so much power into the hands of union bosses that the county is now resorting to bribing current employees to eliminate pay increases for future employees.

Given the perverse incentives at play in the system, the county’s proposal actually makes sense.

Which is a powerful indication that Nevada’s collective bargaining law doesn’t make sense. And this is far from the only example.

For the sake of sanity, and our fiscal future, Nevada’s collective bargaining law must be repealed or substantially reformed.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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

 

A tax hike not even liberals can love

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 tax hike not even liberals can love

Close your eyes and remember Nov. 6, 2012. President Obama had just won a seven-point victory here in Nevada on his way to a second term. Freedom-lovers were disappointed and discouraged. Leftists were predicting years of liberal dominance. 

Imagine if I told you then that less than two years later, these three things would happen:

  • The highest-profile Democrat on Nevada’s November 2014 ballot would come out in opposition to a tax increase on businesses.
  • The AFL-CIO would come out in opposition to a tax-increase measure it helped get on the ballot. In its resolution opposing the tax, it would reference how raising taxes kills jobs and harms the economy.
  • Delegates to the Clark County Democratic Party Convention would decline to support a tax hike on businesses.

You’d have said I was crazy, right?

But that’s exactly what’s happened in the last two weeks.

Two Mondays ago, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Lucy Flores told a Spanish TV station that she opposed the margin tax because “it can have negative effects on our jobs.”

Last Friday, Nevada’s AFL-CIO voted, by a nearly 3-to-1 ratio, to oppose the margin tax. Yes, you read that right: The AFL-CIO is opposing a tax increase.

Then last weekend, delegates to the Clark County Democratic Party Convention refused to take a position on the margin tax.

I’m been pinching myself all week, but I promise, this isn’t a dream.

Instead, the reality of the impact of a massive tax increase — especially one as poorly written and structured as the margin tax — has caused traditionally liberal individuals and groups to acknowledge that raising taxes kills jobs and hurts the economy. They’re absolutely right, and it’s great to hear them say so.

Our next challenge is to help them remember this important lesson — that raising taxes hurts employees and small-business owners — during the legislative session.

Our biggest challenge, though, is to help these same groups understand that spending more on education won’t increase student achievement.

I’m optimistic. After all, just think about what was “impossible” less than two short years ago.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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

 

6 facts you should know about the City of Henderson’s finances

Over the last several months, City of Henderson officials have been trying to lay the groundwork for proposing a massive property-tax increase. City officials have been paint a bleak picture for city residents while trying to ignore the elephant in the room — its employees' compensation has been increasing while its resident income has declined dramatically.

Here are six facts you need to refute their spin.

1. The City of Henderson’s general fund spending has remained remarkably consistent throughout the recession. It peaked at $221 million in 2008, fell to $203 million in 2011 and is projected to be $219 million in 2014.

2. A city spokesman has admitted that, despite the City of Henderson’s claim to have made $127 million in “cuts,” many of those “cuts” weren’t actual reductions in expenditures, but desired increases in spending that didn’t come to pass. In real terms, they weren’t cuts at all.

3. As reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, City Manager Jacob Snow told a panel looking at Henderson’s budget to ignore 80 percent of Henderson’s budget — pay and benefits for its employees.

4. Pay and benefits for City of Henderson employees has increased dramatically over the last 6 years. Henderson employees who worked full-time at the city from 2008 to 2013 saw their average base salary increase from $75,204 to $81,220, an 8 percent jump.

Full-time workers employed by the city from 2011 to 2013 saw their total compensation increase from an average of $117,487 to $123,560, a 5.2 percent increase.

5. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in Henderson dropped from $67,617 in 2007 to $61,404 in 2012, a decrease of 9.2 percent.

6. In 2013, 462 City of Henderson employees made over $150,000 in total compensation, including 84 who made over $200,000.

Henderson’s budget challenges are driven by the compensation increases given to its highly paid employees. Henderson officials owe it to city residents to be honest about how public employee compensation increases have caused its budget problems and the role collective bargaining has played and continues to play in driving up employee compensation.

 

AFL-CIO abandons margin tax

It’s not often NPRI agrees with the AFL-CIO, but in the case of the economic problems that would come from the proposed margin tax, it seems everyone except the Nevada State Education Association understands the tax is terrible idea.

Today, the AFL-CIO — which once supported the tax and assisted the NSEA get the initiative on the ballot, voted overwhelmingly to oppose the measure that would result in lost jobs and an even weaker economy than we have now.

NPRI highlighted this reality just days prior to the vote in telling the story of a long-time Las Vegas construction company that could be forced to close and lay off its 70 employees if voters approve the margin tax in November.

AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Treasurer Danny Thompson was quoted in the Las Vegas Review-Journal as saying:

The vote today in opposition to the margins tax initiative is not a vote against education. It is a vote against a flawed initiative that will cost many of our members their jobs and raise the cost of living on Nevadans on a fixed income and on citizens that are still struggling to make ends meet after years of a terrible recession.

The full resolution, reportedly passed in a 229-78 vote, was published by Jon Ralston as follows:

Resolution # 3 (as amended, May1, 2012 in Committee)

RESOLUTION CONCERNING THE “TEACHERS” EDUCATION INTIATIVE

Whereas:   we feel tax policy is best established through the Legislative Process where the effects and implementation can be discussed and the issues resolved; and

Whereas:  we understand the need for implementation of tax policy where the effects, the levels of revenues and the utilization of those revenues are clearly defined; and

Whereas:  the Education Initiative does not clearly address the effects on all businesses in the State of Nevada; and

Whereas:  the Supporters of the Education Initiative have themselves argued different applications of the tax on businesses in the State of Nevada; and

Whereas:  the provisions of the Education Initiative do not clearly define how it would be applied to the construction industry; and

Whereas:  Supporters of the Education Initiative have advertised the tax as a Net Profits margins tax when in fact it is a Gross Income tax;  and

Whereas:  many of the signatory contractors of the Building and Construction Trades Council have been operating on their reserves for the last several years as the State of Nevada tries to work its way out or poor economic times;  and

Whereas:  the Education Initiative does not take into consideration the losses those contractors have endured but instead burdens them with a tax based on the Gross Revenues from work they may perform; and

Whereas:  many contractors have gone out of business during these poor economic times and the Education Initiative may place a tax burden on the contractors and business which have been surviving on marginal returns forcing them out of business as the tax burden may be higher than the profit margin; may it therefore

Be Resolved:  that he Nevada State AFL-CIO and our affiliated Unions oppose the passage of tax policy while it is not clear what the effect on our signatory partners will be; and be it  

Further Resolved:  until the effects of the Education Initiative are clearly defined we oppose the passage and implementation of the measure, and that the Nevada State AFL-CIO will review and reevaluate its position relative to this measure at the 2014 Constitutional Convention.

 

 

Fact-checking the RGJ’s fact ‘checker’ for failing to check on his ‘facts’; UPDATE

Update 5/2/2014: I just had a very nice conversation with Kelly Ann Scott, executive editor of the RGJ about Mark Robison’s column. Mark is currently on vacation.

It turns out that searching for Reno firefighters one way produces accurate data, as reflected in the below statement, and searching for it the way Robison did produces duplicate entries and does show there’s something wrong with the way the site is compiling data. It’s important to note that none of the records were inaccurate, but searching in a particular way did produce some records twice.

I apologized to Kelly for my inaccurate charges and have emailed Mark an apology as well.

Of course, I’d like any reporter to call for comment before writing something negative about our site, but I know deadlines made that challenging in this case.

As I said in my statement, we do make mistakes and this was one. I’m happy to report we’ve identified the problem and are about to fix it.

________

We’ve just sent the following statement to the Reno Gazette-Journal about an inaccurate column today impugning NPRI’s TransparentNevada.

Mark Robison, in his May 2 “Fact Checker” column, inaccurately describes the government-employee-compensation data at TransparentNevada.com, which comes directly from the City of Reno, and then implies that the website’s information is inaccurate and unreliable.

The inaccuracies, however, are Robison’s.   

Among his column’s many factual errors are two that stand out in particular. First, there are no Reno firefighters with duplicate 2013 compensation records at TransparentNevada, despite Robison’s claim to the contrary. Many Reno firefighters have 2012 or 2011 salary records, but those aren’t duplicate records that require “cleaning up,” as Robison puts it.

Second, TransparentNevada’s records include 127 Reno firefighters who meet Robison’s compensation criteria — not 101, as Robison claims.

The bigger problem, however, is that Robison never reached out to the Nevada Policy Research Institute, which operates TransparentNevada, to ask for an explanation of what he believed to be problems with the site. This would have been an important thing for a “fact checker” to check.

Everyone makes mistakes — including us — but if Robison had simply called, we would have been happy to point out his mistakes before his error-laden column went to print. Unfortunately, his decision not to check with NPRI before impugning our site in print and online has left his readers misinformed.

The RGJ should immediately correct his column online, and notify its print-edition readers of the errors.

You can read Robison’s column to get the full context, but rest assured the data on TransparentNevada comes directly from the government entities. It is the most reliable and accurate source for government compensation data in Nevada.

 

Stalling

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.


Stalling

We all knew that kid in school who was full of excuses when it came to missed homework assignments.

One day he was sick and couldn’t finish the essay, the next day he forgot it at home.

Unfortunately, lawyers with the Clark County School District are taking a nod from some of their more delinquent students when it comes to responding to our public records lawsuit against the district.

CCSD’s lawyers have filed not one, not two, but three 30-day extensions for their answering brief.

You may remember that NPRI has sued CCSD for refusing to follow Nevada’s public records law by not releasing the government-created, government-provided email addresses of government employees. Our case is currently before the Nevada Supreme Court, where we filed our opening brief on Jan. 16, 2014. The Americans Civil Liberties Union of Nevada also filed an amicus brief on our behalf on Jan. 28.

In its effort to defy Nevada’s public records act, CCSD has available its internal legal staff of about 10 lawyers and a budget of nearly $3.1 million, and CCSD has hired an outside firm with a staff of at least 40 attorneys in its Las Vegas office to respond to our lawsuit.

Yet on Feb. 18, when its answering brief was due, CCSD filed a 30-day extension. Fine. But when March 20 rolled around, guess who filed another 30-day extension. That’s right: CCSD and its team of lawyers.

Joseph Becker, the head of NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation, immediately filed an opposition to these stalling tactics.

In its response, CCSD wrote that the “requested extension (only three short weeks away) will ensure that this case is carefully considered on its merits.” So what happened in “three short weeks,” when CCSD’s answer brief came due?

Another 30-day extension motion.

It’s beginning to feel like we’re in a Charlie Brown cartoon, with Lucy holding the football and promising, “This time will be different.”

I understand why CCSD wants to delay. The Nevada high court has a history of overturning decisions of lower courts that limit the public’s right to transparent government, and this case has garnered public support from the Nevada Press Association, the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board, Steve Sebelius and, as I mentioned before, the ACLU.

My only question for CCSD is this: Which excuse will you trot out when you request your next 30-day extension? That the dog ate your brief?

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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

 

Free speech under attack in Nevada

Our country has always recognized that people have an inherent right to free speech.

Hi, I’m Andy Matthews.

Even before the Constitution was adopted, founders like James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay embodied the right of Americans to speak freely and anonymously. Nearly 200 years later, the United States Supreme Court recognized that right when it protected the right of NAACP donors to remain anonymous.

In 1995, the court even upheld the ability to distribute anonymous campaign literature.

As the First Amendment makes clear, the right to free speech does not include a caveat that one must state his name before delivering his message.

Unfortunately, Secretary of State Ross Miller has worked hard to hinder the free-speech rights of Nevadans.

For years, Miller has aggressively pushed legislation limiting Americans’ free-speech rights by mandating that groups talking about politicians in a certain way disclose their funding sources. In response to ads criticizing him for accepting $60,000 in gifts from special interest groups, Miller’s supporters have filed a complaint to find out who’s paying for the ad blitz.

In today’s political climate, when individuals are vehemently and personally attacked from the Senate floor for their political positions and groups in the political minority are targeted by the IRS for investigations, it is more important than ever to protect every individual’s right to speak anonymously.

If unchecked, Miller’s efforts to erode free speech will allow the politically powerful to use the government’s power to harass, harm and intimidate minority speech, which is exactly why the First Amendment protects all speech in the first place. 

 

Three reasons most 'average' pension amounts mislead

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by Union Watch. While the focus is on California’s public pension systems, the same factors that create misleadingly low pension amounts in California may well exist in Nevada. The California experience provides a warning for those in Nevada looking to cite average pension amounts.  

Public pension systems in California, most notably CalPERS and CalSTRS, often cite their average pension payout as evidence that their pension benefits are reasonable. Also, many defenders of public pension plans attempt to use these averages to counter evidence that pension benefits have become excessive in recent years.

The following are three very important factors to consider when computing a raw average and then using this value as an indication of what public employees receive in retirement benefits. These are three reasons that “average” pension amounts are often artificially — and inaccurately — low.

Reason 1: Not adjusting for years of service

The biggest and most widely documented factor is ignoring years of service. Most analyses of average benefits include the implicit assumption that the pension benefit cited is for a full career (30 years or more) of service.

Including the pension amounts of those who have not worked a full career produces an average value that is much lower than what those who have worked a full career are receiving. Since a full-career employee is the benchmark used in measuring the equity of pension benefits, it is only appropriate to use the data that reflects that. 

Reason 2: Not accounting for beneficiaries

Many pension plans maintain their records in a way that makes the most sense for processing payments, but are incredibly misleading when used to calculate average pension amounts. The case of beneficiaries is a prime example of this. When a public employee qualifies for a pension, there are set guidelines for each plan depending on how beneficiaries are treated, but most plans default to the surviving spouse. In many cases, the retiree can designate additional beneficiaries as well.

So when calculating average pension amounts, if beneficiaries aren’t accurately identified and segregated from active service retirement amounts, the resulting average will be skewed downward. This is because any beneficiary payment will always be a portion of the full retirement amount, which will be incorrectly treated as if it were its own separate benefit amount. An example found on Transparentcalifornia.com illustrates this effect.

In the San Jose Police and Fire Pension Plan, there is no distinction between beneficiary and active service retirees. Consider, however, the following case of multiple beneficiaries. An individual with a retirement year of 2007 and years of service value of 25.02 received a $76,120.10 pension amount in 2013. Two more entries share the last name of this individual, as well as identical years of service and year of retirement but both only received $7,100.32 in 2012. As it is inconceivable that a San Jose police or fire retiree could retire with 25 years of service and receive an annual pension of just $7,100, these three separate entries – $76,120, $7,100, and $7,100 – are all components of one pension. So in this case, a $90,320 pension would be treated as roughly equivalent to three pensions of $30,107, a reduction of nearly two-thirds of the true pension amount that is given three times the weight of other pension amounts, if someone computed a raw average of the plan as a whole.

Reason 3: The same pension amount is reported in fragmented parts

Another potential error is when one employee’s pension is reported in fragmented parts. This could come from a divorced spouse receiving a portion of their pension or even in cases where the retiree changed departments and received a pension amount under two or more different formulas. As indicated above, when calculating an average, this reduces the pension amount by at least 50 percent, while giving this pension the weight of two or more entries, which lowers the raw average.

Conclusion

While it makes sense for pension plans to keep their payroll records in the format that is most efficient and accurate for them, it presents challenges for those citing “average” pension amounts. It is the responsibility of anyone who uses pension averages in their arguments, either for or against pension reform, to use accurate data that faithfully represents the point being made.

As demonstrated above, there is much more to calculating average pension amounts than it appears at first glance.

 

Obamacare

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.


Obamacare

Hindsight is said to be 20/20, but you and I didn’t need to see the implementation of Obamacare to know it would have a disastrous impact on American families and come between many individuals and their doctors.

Free-market analysts, like Cato Institute Senior Fellow Michael Tanner and those on NPRI’s staff, accurately forecasted the consequences of Obamacare years ago.

I’ll bet there were even times during the last seven months when you thought to yourself, “That’s what I said was going to happen ... four years ago.”

Like when the media finally realized that Obamacare kicked millions of Americans off their health care plans — and will force tens of millions more off when Obama stops arbitrarily delaying parts of his signature legislation. Many of those same Americans lost long-time family physicians, and now face exponentially higher premiums and deductibles for what is often less coverage than they had to begin with.

The law is far less popular than supporters have tried to claim, and sign-ups among young, healthy adults who will pick up the tab of the older and sick are lagging. 

As NPRI predicted, Obamacare has caused Medicaid enrollment — and the cost of providing it — to soar, further burdening cash-strapped taxpayers.

The CBO has now projected that Obamacare will increase the federal deficit by $226 billion by 2019, and we now know that Obamacare will cost the nation 2.5 million full-time jobs over the next decade by removing health insurance as a major incentive to stay employed.

As destructive as Obamacare has been, it has shown, once again, why we can and should trust free-market principles.

It’s not enough just to be right about what’s wrong, which is why free-market supporters are appropriately seizing the opportunity to turn from a policy that has profoundly hurt millions of Americans and offer real solutions for health care reform.

Michael Tanner has co-edited a book on free-market solutions to health care problems, and recently, he published an analysis titled Obamacare: What We Know Now.

When it comes to people who understand the current state of health care and the solutions the free market has to offer, Michael Tanner is among the best. And I’m excited to tell you he will be the keynote speaker at NPRI’s Spring Celebration on June 18 in Reno, so you can have the chance to hear his insights first-hand.

The only way to improve the access Americans have to quality, affordable health care is to limit government involvement and give individuals the freedom to choose the doctors and health care plans they like best. As we’ve seen with public education, a government-controlled monopoly is a sure way to run up costs and achieve substandard outcomes.

I hope you’ll join us in June to learn more about the free-market solutions to our nation’s health care problems. If you’d like more information on the event or if you’re ready to reserve your seat, you can do so here.

Thanks for reading 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.

 

Spotlight

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.


Spotlight

It’s the day every overpaid government bureaucrat dreads.

It’s the day when the sun shines in and everyone can see exactly how much government employees make.

This year, that day was yesterday. What day am I referring to?

The day NPRI releases government salary information on TransparentNevada.com, and everyone in the state can see exactly what government employees made in the last year.

Thanks to NPRI’s TransparentNevada, everyone can now see that, in 2013, a whopping 2,022 government workers made more than Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $183,120.29 compensation package. It didn’t stop there — 22,052 public workers made over $100,000 and 1,290 made over $200,000.

Beyond just the raw numbers, TransparentNevada reveals shocking increases in government compensation.

Take the City of North Las Vegas, which is still teetering on the brink of insolvency. Did its employees see a big pay decrease? Nope. Just the opposite.

The 500 highest earners in the city saw their compensation increase by an average of $5,000 apiece, for a total increase of $2.52 million. This included the cash-strapped city’s library director, who took home $427,487.15. And she wasn’t even the highest paid employee. North Las Vegas had a deputy chief of police pocket $458,146.39 in 2013.

With salaries like these, it’s no wonder that governments are constantly demanding more and more from taxpayers.

In Washoe County, citizens had to fight tooth and nail to stop a property- and sales-tax increase. Clark County has recently increased its gas tax, and there are attempts to raise sales and property taxes, too. And of course, there’s the margin tax looming on the November ballot.

Why is more never enough with government?

In large part, it’s because of exactly what you find on TransparentNevada — government salaries keep getting bigger and bigger, and union bosses still demand more!

How will spending more on education help anything, when the Clark County School District went from having two administrators making over $200,000 in 2012 to five in 2013? This lack of accountability is just one reason spending more won’t improve education or other government services. How will paying more to the same people doing the same job improve anything?

It won’t.

This is why we need TransparentNevada. TransparentNevada exposes the salaries government bureaucrats desperately want to hide and produces the outrage that makes it politically possible to challenge government unions.

Will you support our TransparentNevada efforts right now by donating $20.22 in “honor” of the 2,022 government employees who took home more than the governor?

The information on TransparentNevada is a crucial part of showing why tax increases aren’t necessary.

Consider Las Vegas Metro, which has been pushing for a sales-tax increase for over a year. In 2013, it paid two assistant sheriffs $512,469.92 and $467,529.63.

Why give more tax money to a government agency that shelled out roughly $1 million to two employees?

Last year, the City of Henderson, which wants to raise property taxes on its residents, paid a deputy fire chief $500,560.95.

And lest you think it’s only Southern Nevada that has high employee compensation, nine of the 10 highest paid government employees are in Reno, including the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority president who collected $521,674.92.

Then there are the three Washoe County Sheriff Deputies who made more in overtime than in base pay in 2013.

And this is happening as the average Nevadan has faced a decline in income of more than 13 percent over the last several years.

It’s outrageous, and only TransparentNevada lets you easily see and share this information, which changes the hearts and minds of those who are exposed to it.

Will you donate $20.22 or more right now to ensure that even more Nevadans learn about these outrageous salaries?

Thank you for support.

Sincerely,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

P.S. Last year TransparentNevada earned almost 2 million page views, and by the end of the week, we’ll surpass 1 million page views for 2014, which will put us on pace to reach more people than ever before with this information.

This salary information — searchable by name — is changing the public’s attitude about government employee compensation and helping voters realize that high salaries are causing budget problems throughout our state.

Will you help us share TransparentNevada with more people than ever before by making a donation of $20.22 or more immediately, in recognition of the 2,022 government employees who last year made more than the governor?

Your support of TransparentNevada will make a difference for liberty. Thank you.


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

Total Records: 1820

« previous 10 next 10 »