LAS VEGAS — As Nevada’s new and returning lawmakers prepare to convene in Carson City for the 2015 Legislative Session, the Nevada Policy Research Institute has equipped them with a sourcebook identifying 12 areas in need of reform and the solutions outlining how to accomplish those reforms.
Today, the non-partisan, free-market think tank publicly released Solutions 2015: A Sourcebook for Nevada Policymakers. The 114-page publication — which will be sent to lawmakers today — expands on the 2013 version of the book and includes additional solutions to help the Silver State improve its failing schools, rein in ballooning costs associated with public employee pensions and unions, and cope with the ramifications of Obamacare.
“As a lawmaker, having accurate information helps me do my job better,” Assemblyman Wes Duncan said. “That's why the in-depth research in Solutions is so helpful. It provides background on what's happening, best practices from other states and recommendations to improve the lives of Nevadans. It's a valuable source of information.”
With voters’ overthrow of Democrats’ control of the Nevada Legislature, the 2015 class of legislators has a great opportunity to implement much-needed reforms and make Nevada a better place to live.
Here are four steps legislators can take to improve Nevadans’ quality of life:
1. Give parents the freedom to choose the best education for their child
Nevada voters made clear through their overwhelming rejection of the margin tax that they want schools to make better use of the money they already have in educating their children. Universal school choice, through programs like Education Savings Accounts, is the proven way to improve educational outcomes for all students without spending more.
No child is the same as another and choice enables educators to meet the diverse needs of every student, thereby leading to better outcomes for all. Nationwide, students in private schools score higher on standardized tests, and public school students that have alternative educational options also have higher test scores and graduation rates.
Private schools cost less than public ones, so equipping families with the freedom to choose alternative institutions would benefit students who take advantage of school choice, students who remain in public schools — and taxpayers.
2. Let taxpayers see into the collective bargaining process
Those who foot the bills in Nevada’s local governments should be privy to the back-room deals they make with public employee unions because those union contracts account for the largest chunk of municipalities’ budgets. Unfortunately, bargaining sessions with union leaders are specifically exempted from Nevada’s public meeting law.
By combining transparent bargaining with other collective bargaining changes — such as eliminating compulsory bargaining — Nevadans and local governments would have the ability bring public employee compensation in-line with private sector salary and benefits. When the public is able to see what’s happening with its money and has a voice in the process, it is more likely that public-employee contracts will reflect the community’s values.
3. Give workers a say in who represents them
While many workers value professional representation when it comes to negotiations with their employer, Nevada’s public employees are forbidden from seeking representation outside the approved union to which they are assigned by their job title; only the approved employee organization can bargain on that employee’s behalf.
Union security provisions violate workers’ freedom of association, as guaranteed by the First Amendment. Many government employees have never had the chance to choose the union representing them, as bargaining groups were approved decades before they began work. Putting the power back in the hands of employees would also make union officers more responsive to members.
4. Get a grip on debt by restructuring PERS benefits
If the new crop of legislators wants to improve the lives of Nevadans, it must rein in the accumulating public debts that are already pushing cities like North Las Vegas to the brink of insolvency . The unfunded liability — using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles — of the Nevada Public Employees Retirement System is around $41 billion, nearly seven times the annual payroll of all state and local governments participating in the program.
By moving public workers to a hybrid plan that includes a defined-contribution plan, legislators could reverse the growth in the system’s unfunded liability. Defined-contribution plans protect taxpayers from investment risk. Similar to a 401(k), taxpayers would contribute a set amount to employees’ retirement and the government workers would assume their own investment risk, as is the case with most private-sector workers. Utah created a hybrid plan in 2010 allowing workers to participate in either a defined-contribution or defined-benefit plan, but limiting taxpayer contributions in either case.
Employees would also benefit by gaining the freedom to take their retirement savings with them when they change jobs and keep those savings as a tangible asset that their children can inherit.
Accompanying the release of Solutions 2015, NPRI’s Director of Research and Legislative Affairs Geoffrey Lawrence released the following comments:
Solutions 2015 is the most comprehensive policy guide for Nevada legislators available and can serve them as a reference throughout their years in office. Each recommendation includes background information, documented research and supporting data. Every lawmaker, new and returning, should read Solutions to learn how they can improve the lives of their constituents and all Nevadans.
Republicans have a great opportunity to succeed where Democrats have failed, if they implement the intelligent solutions the Silver State so desperately needs. The reforms detailed in Solutions can guide new and experienced legislators who want to fix the problems created by years of rapid growth in government spending and tax rates without any commensurate improvement in the quality of core government services.
A consensus has emerged, from left to right, within the academic community about the need for fundamental reforms to education and other policy areas, but entrenched special interests traditionally allied with Democrats — primarily public employee unions — have successfully blocked these reforms to date. If Republicans follow the playbook outlined in Solutions 2015, they will be able to restrain the growth in government spending and provide tax relief to spur economic growth, all while improving the quality of education and other core government services in Nevada.
Find out all the ways Nevada Legislators can improve the lives of Silver State residents by reading Solutions 2015 in its entirety here: http://www.npri.org/docLib/20141105_Solutions2015.pdf