Questions that should be answered at Saturday’s town hall meetings on Nevada’s budget

Victor Joecks

Tomorrow, Saturday, March 14, is a chance for residents in Las Vegas and Reno to tell some of Nevada's legislative leaders what they think about the state's budget and the third largest tax increase in Nevada's history.

The best part is that you don't have to go to Carson City. You can participate in a town hall held in Las Vegas or Reno.

Full details are here, but here's the scoop:

Date: Saturday, March 12, 2009
Time: 9:00 am
Location: Grant Sawyer State Office Building-Room 4401, 555 East Washington Avenue, Las Vegas, NV and Washoe County Commission Chambers, 1001 East Ninth Street, Reno, NV

The Las Vegas hearing will be chaired by Sen. Majority Leader Steven Horsford and Assembly Ways and Means Chair Morse Arberry.

The Reno hearing will be chaired by Senate Finance Co-Chair Bernice Mathews and Assembly Majority Whip Sheila Leslie.

Here are some questions worth being asked of—and answered by—our elected officials:

  • The Review-Journal has reported that total state spending (not just general fund spending) will increase by 5 percent after Nevada receives stimulus money from the federal government (and not including the room tax increase). Many families and businesses in Nevada would be overjoyed by a 5 percent increase in their personal lives or businesses, and yet the Nevada Legislature continually refers to the current budget situation as a "crisis." Why shouldn't Nevada's government prioritize its spending just like families and businesses across the state are doing?
  • Sen. Horsford, you were quoted in the Review-Journal as saying, "Cutting teacher salaries is the same thing as putting a tax on teachers of the state. We can do better." Do you also oppose raising taxes on the other citizens of this state? And if not, why are teachers given a special exemption from the salary holds and decreases that are affecting private-sector workers and their families?
  • Per-pupil, inflation-adjusted education spending has tripled in Nevada over the last 50 years, but results have been stagnate. Nevada now spends over $10,000 a student per year, but more than 40 percent of Nevada's fourth graders can't read at grade level. Graduation rates have dipped below 60 percent. Since dramatically increasing funding has not solved these problems, what structural changes do you think will increase educational achievement?
  • The Legislature has just passed the third largest tax increase in Nevada's history. Will you support any other measure that raises taxes this session?
  • Speaker Buckley has been talking for months about Nevada's boom-bust cycle. She says we spend too much in the boom part, and we can all agree that Nevada is now in the bust part of the cycle. Therefore, previous legislatures have spent too much during the boom times. Do you agree that Nevada's government is affected by this boom-bust cycle and, if so, what specific programs grew too large during the boom part of the cycle and need to be cut back?
  • The Las Vegas Sun reports that the state has given out over $45 million in tax incentives to solar and geothermal projects to create 89 permanent jobs. The Nevada Department of Business and Industry has given away hundreds of millions of tax dollars over the years to businesses. Why is it the government's role to pick the winners and losers in an economy through tax incentives, and would you support the elimination of these taxpayer subsidies?

Is there another question you want our politicians to answer? If so, leave it in the comments.