Four problems with the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group

Victor Joecks

The Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group is holding its second meeting tomorrow at 9 a.m. And unlike last time, the meeting is going to be viewable online (scroll down a little bit to the NVSG item). And here’s my live blog of the first meeting, in case you want to get up to speed. I’ll also list all the scheduled, upcoming meetings at the bottom of this post.

For the uninitiated, the NVSG was created by the Nevada Legislature “to develop a long-term strategic plan for the next five, 10 and 20 years, identifying the quality-of-life goals that ‘we, as Nevadans, would like to see [accomplished] in our state,’ says Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford.”

In turn, those goals will be used to justify the higher taxes (most likely including a broad-based business tax) that the Interim Finance Committee’s tax study is all but certain to call for.

With that background in mind, here are four significant problems with the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group.

1. The Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group shouldn’t exist: The NVSG’s goal is to identify quality-of-life goals for Nevadans. Problem is, it isn’t the government’s job to identify, define or pursue quality-of-life goals for anyone.

Government should provide essential services, like education, roads and fire and police protection. Government should fund those services with a uniform and low tax and regulatory burden. Government should be concerned with preserving and increasing freedom, not picking the winners and losers in an economy or a society or under the guise of “quality of life.”

2. People should define their own quality-of-life goals: Every individual is unique, so “quality of life” means something entirely different to each individual person.

The beauty of freedom is that it enables us each to pursue our own interests and define what “quality of life” means to us as an individual (and the beauty of capitalism is that individuals pursuing their own interests creates enormous wealth and opportunities for everyone). And “quality of life” might mean the opposite thing to two different people. As long as they don’t infringe on another’s rights, they are free to pursue their own quality life.

This isn’t possible if the government is defining and imposing its own views of “quality of life” on a community or society.

Imagine the reaction if a religious institution tried to impose its quality-of-life beliefs on a society. There would be understandable outrage. Why aren’t we as outraged when government does the same thing?

Now, there is nothing wrong with religious beliefs or, likely, even some of the quality-of-life goals the NVSG is going to produce. The problem occurs when a government or any institution uses coercion to force those beliefs on other people.

3. The Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group doesn’t represent Nevada: The NVSG has 19 voting members. Of those 19 members, nine (or 47 percent of the committee) are current government employees. The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce recently did a study that concluded that there are fewer than 44 state and local employees for every 1,000 Nevada residents, which is less than 5 percent of the population.

The other 10 members of the committee include a retired government employee (Paul Dugan) and a representative of the Nevada State Education Association (Brian Rippet). Most of the representatives of the business community represent gaming and mining or businesses that rely heavily on government contracts.

The Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group doesn’t represent Nevada. It represents a combination of rent-seeking business interests and the 5 percent of Nevadans who are employed by the government.

To top it off, the NVSG’s non-voting chair is Dr. Robert Lang of Brookings Mountain West, who moved to Nevada in January of 2010. Lest you think that’s a typo, I called the Brookings Mountain West’s office at UNLV, and got this information confirmed. Also, Dr. Lang’s bio on the Brookings Mountain West at UNLV website still says: “Currently, Dr. Lang is a professor of urban planning and director of the Urban Affairs and Planning Program at Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region in Alexandria, VA.”

Here’s a screenshot:

Dr. Robert Lang bio reveals he's not from Nevada. Why is he leading the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group?

As I said before, the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group doesn’t represent Nevada. It should be renamed the Nevada Tax Consumers’ Vision Stakeholder Group.

4. The outcome is predetermined. The Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group is going to select quality-of-life “goals” that require more tax money: This the natural result of a gathering of tax consumers and special interests. What makes tax consumers’ lives better? More taxes from the 95 percent of Nevadans who don’t have a seat at the table. The outcome was never in doubt, and was predicted by NPRI’s Geoffrey Lawrence in early October.

Instead, the NVSG is likely to be a coalition of public employee unions and other rent-seeking special interests eager to craft a deal that makes all of them happy – at the taxpayers’ expense, of course. Those who would be required to finance the grandiose schemes that result from these “stakeholder processes” are rarely considered relevant “stakeholders” themselves.

For the reasons above, the Nevada Tax Consumer’s Vision Stakeholder Group is a sham. Liberal legislators will use its skewed and illegitimate findings to justify calls for tax increases in 2011. Nevada’s citizens should know the truth about the N(TC)VSG and reject legislators’ soon-to-be announced call for increased taxes.

For more, read Geoffrey Lawrence’s fine work exposing the N(TC)VSG’s and IFC’s underhanded attempts to raise taxes.

Puppetmasters on the throne
Nevada’s future is at stake
A ‘vision’ of extortion and control
IFC to hide behind unelected stakeholders
Nevadans deserve honesty from IFC

Here are the scheduled meetings of the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group. All meetings begin at 9 a.m. at the Grant Sawyer Building and are videoconferenced to the Legislative Building in Carson City.

Meeting No. 2: January 29, 2010
Meeting No. 3: February 11, 2010
Meeting No. 4: February 25, 2010
Meeting No. 5: March 12, 2010
Meeting No. 6: March 22, 2010
Meeting No. 7: April 6. 2010
Meeting No. 8: April 21, 2010
Meeting No. 9: May 2010 (to be determined)