Hickey: Beware unintended consequences

Victor Joecks

Policy proposals have two types of consequences: those that are seen and those that are unseen.

Policy debates often center on the "seen" consequences, even though the "unforeseen" consequences usually have a larger impact. The perfect example of this was AB 284, which virtually stopped notice of default filings, a necessary step in the foreclosure process, in October 2011 and is creating an artificial housing bubble in Nevada. At the time, legislators debated the "justice" of allowing banks to foreclose on a home where an "owner" had stopped making payments.

That's why it's refreshing to read Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey detail the need to be aware of unintended consequences.

In Australia in the late 1800's, a landed gentleman from England thought "the introduction of a few rabbits could do little harm, and might [even] provide, a touch of home."

The result? Rabbits being the extremely prolific creatures they are, have wreaked ecological havoc on the land of the "Down Under." Cute little Cottontails have contributed mightily to the erosion of topsoils and the destruction of native trees, throughout the Australian bush.

Such is the law at work, of unintended consequences. …

Before deciding that any new taxes, or even a supposed "revenue neutral" new tax structure should be unleashed on the Nevada economy–lawmakers should seriously invite all affected parties to contemplate the implications of any such change: and listen to what they say. …

Despite what may sound like doom and gloom (or cranky conservatism), this is the time to have a serious sit down about Nevada's tax structure. It should also be a time for us to be aware of what is down the rabbit hole. "Wonderlands" can result in chaos and confusion–just ask "Alice."

There's a compelling case to be made for revenue-neutral tax reform — and NPRI's made that case here — but revenue neutral must be truly revenue neutral. For instance, trading temporary taxes for permanent ones isn't revenue neutral.

Regardless of where you are on the tax debate, it's great to see one lawmaker acknowledge that ideas have consequences — and those consequences often aren't the intended ones.