90 for 90: Nevada’s projected-budget-deficit myth

Victor Joecks

Welcome to the debut of a new video series that we here at Write on Nevada will be breaking out for the most important issues facing our state.

The series is called “90 for 90,” and its premise is simple: You give us 90 seconds and you’ll know more about a certain issue than 90 percent of Nevadans.

This video explains what is the most important issue facing the legislature in 2011 – Nevada’s projected budget deficit. Widely reported distortions from Andrew Clinger, the state’s budget director, have led many to believe that Nevada faces a $3 billion, 50 percent budget deficit. As you’ll see in the video below, though, that isn’t the case – you give us 90 seconds and you’ll know more than 90 percent of Nevadans.

If you need more proof of how important the framing of the budget deficit is, check out the opinion poll being reported by the RJ.

In funding human services programs such as food stamps, welfare and children’s programs, what would you do?

Raise taxes to improve human services such as these: 17.8%
Raise taxes just enough to keep these services at existing levels: 46.8%
Eliminate or reduce these services rather than raise taxes: 31%
Don’t know/undecide: 4.3

First, given that there’s no option for reform or eliminating waste, it’s impressive that 31 percent selected less government. Second, nearly half want to maintain the current level of service.

But what is the current level of service? If politicians and the media can convince the general public (like they have been trying to do) that increasing spending by 23 percent – from $6.4 billion to nearly $8 billion – will keep services at existing levels, they win. It’s that simple.

It’s all about the assumptions the public is making. If the public believes that a $1.5 billion spending increase is “keeping services at their current level,” tax increases are inevitable. But if the public discovers the truth – that a $1.5 billion spending increase is, in fact … a $1.5 billion spending increase, believers in a limited, accountable government have a chance to begin the debate about the size of government on equal footing.

But for conservatives and libertarians, the first debate to be won is the debate over the terms on which the debate takes place. And that’s why this “90 for 90” video is so important.

If you agree, please pass it on to your friends and colleagues.

(h/t to The Sports Guy for inspiring the great title idea)