During her town-hall forum Monday, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley made a nice presentation replete with facts. Facts are exactly what the tax-hike advocates should provide. They rarely give us any.
However, most of Buckley's facts dealt with Nevada's spending rankings, which are largely useless – unless your only objective is to increase government spending. Since government spending does not correlate with a better quality life, higher economic growth or better student achievement, it is unlikely that spending more will improve the state.
Buckley did, however, present one interesting graph.
With this graph, Buckley attempts to show that general fund revenue per capita has fallen since 1996. Note, however, that her graph shows a higher level today than in 2002 and 2003, also times when we witnessed cyclical market collapses induced by government (Federal Reserve) policies.
Her graph differs from a previous NPRI graph in two ways: 1) it appears she adjusted for inflation to 1996, and 2) her population estimates are not clear.
General fund revenue data from the Economic Forum (May 2007, June 2008 and the 2007-2008 Comparison) and population estimates at a generous 4 percent growth rate for 2008 and 2009 yield the following graph, adjusted for inflation to 2008. It should be noted that 2008 dollars are weak compared to previous years. That said, Nevada's revenue shortfall is linked to both declining revenues and a weaker dollar.
Still, from the data we have available, Nevada's FY 2009 general fund revenue collection will come in ahead of 1996. It is only when better than 5 percent population growth for 2008 and 2009 is assumed that per capita revenues for FY 2009 come in lower than for 1996. It is unclear if Buckley's graph assumes such high rates of population growth or if some general fund revenue sources were eliminated from the data.
Even if Nevada's general fund revenue per capita for 2009 were to come in below 1996, this should be welcome news. Nevada government needs to learn how to be more efficient with the dollars it receives from taxpayers – especially in difficult economic times.
UPDATE: NPRI discovered that Buckley's graph assumed higher population growth rates and used spending figures from the Legislative Council Bureau's Fiscal Division, which had higher general fund spending figures from 1996-2000 than the Economic Forum's figures (which NPRI used). This allows her to make the claim that Nevada's general fund has not kept pace with population growth and inflation.