A tale of two graphs

Patrick Gibbons

It was the best of graphs, it was the worst of graphs…

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley has graciously sent NPRI the data set she used to generate a graph showing Nevada's general fund revenue per resident for FY 2009 will be below the 1996 level.

Buckley's graph was indeed adjusted for inflation back to 1996, but she used population estimates for the end of the fiscal year, not the beginning as we had assumed.

Our own look at this matter featured a very small difference in the way we adjusted for inflation.  For example, Global Insights (which did the calculations for Buckley) assumed 6 percent inflation for 2008 and 2.3 percent inflation for 2009.  We had assumed 4 percent for '08 and 6 percent for '09, just to make our FY '09 figure lower than '96. Additionally, Buckley's population estimate was more than 46,000 residents higher than the State Demographer's most recent estimate (see page 16).

The biggest difference between our graphs surprised us.  Actual general fund revenue figures differed from $85 million to $126 million between 1996 and 2002.  Not surprisingly, Buckley's revenue figures in the early years were higher

The larger early-year figures will make today's shortfall appear that much bigger.

Barbara Buckley's graph used the Legislative Council Bureau's Fiscal Division (LCB) general fund numbers, whereas NPRI used the Economic Forum's numbers.

From 1996-2002, the LCB figures are higher than the Economic Forum figures by as much as $126 million, but from 2003 onward the numbers are identical.

If you want to say that Nevada's general fund revenue cannot keep pace with inflation, use the LCB data.  If you want to disagree, use the Economic Forum's data.  Either way, be disturbed that Nevada's government cannot even get the actual general fund revenue data to be uniform.

Whether or not the government has more money per resident is not important.  The more money the government has per resident, the less each resident will have to use in the private sector. Focusing on the government's wants and not the people's is the wrong approach to take.  Nevada's government needs to address our rapid growth by getting creative with its policies. Raising taxes, especially in these difficult economic times, will only make matters worse.