Live blogging the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group meeting March 12

Victor Joecks

Welcome to another meeting of the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group. Background here. Basically this is the group that’s going to try and justify a tax increase in the 2011 Legislative Session. Watch online here. Scroll for updates…

9:09 Meeting begins with Chairman Lang hawking recent Brooking Institute publications. Most interesting is his take on the federal money Nevada does (or doesn’t) receive. Nevada needs to “get in the game” when it comes to federal money.

9:12 Lang still going. We’re entitled for this money to be returned to us.

Better idea. Nevada keeps its own money, instead of Washington D.C. taking it and then distributing it as it sees fit.

Lang justifies by saying we’ve benefited from federal largess before.

9:17 Public comments limited to 3 minutes. A vision for Nevada, eh?

9:19 The rough draft of the NVSG vision for Nevada is read into the record. I will type it up in full later, but it’s fairly broad. Basically there is lots of room for liberals to read into this any program they want.

First one that jumps out at me — Nevadans “are safe and connected — through communications and transportation.” Expect transportation (especially mass transit) to be a focus of this group.

9:20 Donald D. Snyder, Smith Center for the Performing Arts: “Tax structure needs to be reformed.”

Snyder: Look at the Sage Commission as well.

9:26 Moody’s guy: Competition for federal dollars is heating up. — Exactly the problem with giving the feds your money and then competing to get it back. Government shouldn’t be picking the winners and losers in the economy or in state government.

9:29 Potter: Not enough incentives to get businesses to come here.

This is the other problem when planners attempt to run the economy. They attempt to lure “important industries” with special tax breaks for them. Now I’m all for tax breaks, but they shouldn’t be given to a particular business or industry. Nevada should have an equal and low tax and regulatory burden. This would allow individuals to choose the winners and losers in the economy.

9:44 Right now they are rehashing the strengths/weaknesses of Nevada that the NVSG members came up with in last meetings’ breakout sessions.

Some things that jump out at me. Strengths: Open government. Really?

Opportunities: Continue NVSG project into future years. Because one tax hike in 2011 won’t be enough for state liberals. Don’t believe — look at the tax hikes in 2003 and 2009. If the Legislature has money they will continue to grow government at unsustainable levels, which will always lead to government wanting more money. Don’t believe me? Check out California. What tax don’t they have?

10:00 Alright, getting onto today’s subjects: Transportation and energy.

10:01 Oh wait, Brian Rippet wants to defend the PERS system. Says taxpayer contribution is only 20 percent — will check with Geoff on this. Teachers/firefighters not eligible for Social Security.

Rippet: Belief that PERS is a threat is without basis.

No there is a basis — a $9.1 billion unfunded liability.

10:08 Janelle Kraft Pearce references Sherm Frederick’s great column on the NVSG. Awesome.

10:15 Allen Biaggi, Director of State Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources begins his testimony. Says green house gases are the major issue of our time. Reviews EPA’s potential regulation of green house gases.

Sorry for lack of updates, I’m not really up to speed on environmental/water issues.

10:29 James Groth, Director of Office of Energy, goes next. Says all of Nevada’s problems are paper problems, not physical problems. I think he’s talking about energy here.

10:39 Okay, I have no idea what he’s talking about. He seems to be trying to cover everything at once.

10:41 Groth says he’s currently a Warrant Officer in the Nevada Army National Guard. Hooah! Not sure how that relates to Nevada’s energy use, but maybe I’m not just up to speed on all this.

10:46 Groth: Lots of energy supply in Nevada, but prices still high. Nevada has best potential for solar energy in USA. Energy companies will come here without subsidies, because of our resources and location.

Anyone know why this is — If we have lots of supply, why are prices high? Are they underdeveloped/overregulated?

Groth suggests part of Nevada’s problem is that large, large portions of the state are owned by the feds. Yep, that makes sense.

10:54 Lang says Nevada should have access to federal lands.

Ironic that Lang bemoans federal control of Nevada’s land, while at the same time advocating more state control of Nevada’s citizens’ tax dollars (through this “visioning process”). What about liberty and the freedom to set your own vision for your life?

11:10 Groth: Education not a help or hindrance when getting energy to Nevada. Not discussed.

11:12 Nevada is suppose to have 25% renewable energy in its energy portfolio by 2025. Semi-related: California global warming law may lead to job losses, report says.

11:23 Last presenter, Scott Rawlins, Deputy Director of NV Department of Transportation.

11:26 Says NDOT will have $4.7 to 6 billion gap by 2016. Gas tax revenue is down. (Also of note, gas tax revenues being taken for none transportation issues)

11:28 Plugs high speed rail. “Congestion can’t be solved just with roads.” Suggests gas tax could be going away. Why? Partially, global warming and green initiatives. Potentially replaced by vehicle miles of travel tax.

11:32 Wants alternatives to gas tax model — Vehicle Miles of Travel Fee Study is currently going on. Did anyone know about this study? I haven’t heard about it.

11:38 Here’s John Stossel’s report on private alternatives to government funded roads.

For more here’s Reason’s Robert Poole on how to fund new roads.

11:46 Setting the details on the final NVSG meeting (there are still three more meetings until that one, but the details of those meetings have been set for a while). Marsha Irvin wants to talk more about education. I think the final meeting is going to be May 14 at 9 a.m. in Carson City and video conferenced down to Las Vegas.

11:54 Small break. Two breakout groups meeting at noon.

12:08 Breakout groups begin. Obviously I can only cover one. I’m in the one that includes Chairman Lang, since he seems to be controlling/guiding everything.

Doing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and weaknesses) analysis on environment, energy, and transportation.

12:09 First comment by Boyd Martin or Boyd Martin Construction. Strength is that construction wants to go green. Really?

12:24 Weaknesses: Water and it’s dry here.

12:26 Thomas Perrigo: Weakness is that we built in an auto-centric manner. Auto-dependent.

Wonder if any of these Stakeholders used mass transit to get here this morning. Doubtful.

This is what I don’t understand about government officials. People like to drive. They like their cars. It’s an issue of freedom of mobility. Why not respect the people’s wishes instead of trying to force mass transit down peoples’ throats?

12:31 Boyd Martin, of Boyd Martin Construction, wants more funding for construction. Shocking.

12:33 Thomas Perrigo: Weakness is that we haven’t invested in light rail.

Reminder: Light rail doesn’t work.

12:37 Lang happy Las Vegas is densely built. Says we need to retrofit. “Remake some of the urban space.”

Yep, that’s their vision. Remaking your life. Idea: Let people make their own decisions or remake urban spaces as a private investor. If it’s such a good idea, you’ll make bundles of money without infringing on anyone’s freedom.

12:42 More talk about high speed rail. Can they name some place where building light rail has worked and hasn’t been heavily subsidized by the government?

12:53 Lang: Concern with global climate change. Could dry up Lake Mead.

Good news Chairman Lang: Global warming is a joke and scientists know it.

12:58 Heh. A little power struggle here. Robert Lee Potter, AFSCME (in Carson City), volunteered to do the presenting for the next meeting on this breakout group. He was ignored as the committee “volunteered” Boyd Martin.

1:03 Setting categories for goals: water/energy use for unit of gross domestic product, renewable energy generation, increase in use of alternative forms of transportation (goal for the Sun Belt: above 5%, currently at 3%), increase recycling, fiscal policies that encourage this.

1:08 Meeting ends. Can’t wait to get food.

Please forgive any spelling errors or changes, this is a live blog after all and I don’t have time to proof read.