Gibbons caves, accepts federal stimulus funds

Victor Joecks

The bad news is Gov. Gibbons announced yesterday that he would accept $77 million of federal stimulus money. Nevada must use the money to expand its unemployment program. The good news is that he may change his mind tomorrow.

The problem with this "free money" is that when the $77 million runs out, the expanded unemployment program won't. Earlier this week I wrote a piece criticizing Speaker Buckley for complaining about Nevada's boom-bust cycle and then supporting a plan that is a guarenteed to bust. By accepting this money, Gov. Gibbons is also enabling the boom-bust cycle.

The excuse Gov. Gibbons used in his release to justify taking the money was similar to Speaker Buckley's:

"The federal government has recently assured states that the expanded coverage base can be retracted in the future, before funding for such coverage becomes a permanent state obligation," the release states.

Which is ironic, because last week Gibbons used this argument as a reason not to accept the money.

Gibbons in recent weeks has questioned whether Nevada should take the money. By accepting it, he expects that Nevada would be bound to continue paying greater benefits to greater numbers of people even after the stimulus money has run out.

"It is totally unacceptable," said Gibbons when told of Buckley's move. "The people (of Nevada) will have to pay for this change forever."

And Buckley spent months touring the state using responsible-sounding rhetoric like this:

I Believe We Must Re-Design The Financial Underpinnings Of State Government

Spending: prioritize goals for government services in a long-term plan, allocate spending according to these priorities, and only pass budgets that are consistent with the plan.
Revenue: Re-evaluate revenue for adequacy to fund priority services and to ensure fairness, stability, and transparency.
Stability: we must stop boom-or-bust cycles by creating a budget reserve account large enough to allow us to maintain a consistent level of priority services, regardless of any rise or fall in state revenue.

I guess when the rubber meets the road, it's just easier to pass the buck to future legislative sessions, even if you know that's not the responsible thing to do and you've spent months complaining about how other legislators have done it to you.

Don't worry. You and I will be paying for it while Gov. Gibbons and Speaker Buckley are retired or in different offices. Awesome.