Reporting on the budget: Vogel does it accurately, Damon doesn’t

Victor Joecks

It’s been nearly two months since the Nevada Policy Research Institute exposed the claim that Nevada faces a $3 billion projected budget deficit as a myth. The $3 billion claim assumes a 30 percent spending increase. Nevada really faces about a 20 percent budget deficit of $1.2 billion – $1.5 billion.

Since then, Andrew Clinger, the state budget director, has clearly stated the truth about Nevada’s budget situation on Jon Ralston’s “Face to Face” program. Clinger said, “What you’re talking about and what NPRI is talking about is the current two-year budget when we look at general fund appropriations … So when you look at just the general fund appropriations we’re going from [$]6.4 [billion] to [$]8.2 [billion]. So we’re increasing appropriations $1.8 billion.”

The Agency Request Budgets, released on Oct. 15, show that the agencies want to spend $8.34 billion – even more than Clinger stated or NPRI originally reported. Write on Nevada has also continued to highlight the truth about Nevada’s budget situation.

As a result of this information, many of Nevada’s top journalists and reporters have reported accurately on Nevada’s budget situation.

Unfortunately, there are still a few journalists who are reporting inaccurate information, including Anjeanette Damon in today’s Las Vegas Sun.

Indeed, some speculate Raggio will hold sway over the budget as lawmakers grapple with a $3 billion gap between current spending and projected tax revenue.

This is inaccurate. Current spending is $6.4 billion. Projected tax revenue is $5.2 billion. Only by government math does that equal a $3 billion gap.

It doesn’t matter if you can cite a misleading article from six months ago, either. That statement is factually inaccurate. I don’t know if Damon doesn’t understand this, chooses to ignore it, is just unwilling to drop an old and discredited narrative or something else. In any event, the information she’s putting forward is inaccurate. It’s unfortunate, too, because, when she’s not reporting inaccurate information, her stories and columns are quite enjoyable.

What makes this mistake all the more glaring, however, is how aptly and accurately Ed Vogel of the Las Vegas Review-Journal described the budget situation today.

The new governor is expected to try to balance the budget on existing revenues, about $5.2 billion over the next two years, which would be about a 20 percent cut from current spending.

There it is – the truth. Recently, I credited Vogel with the best two-paragraph description yet of Nevada’s budget situation, and I’d like to add to that – the above is the best one-sentence description of Nevada’s budget situation, so far.

You’ll note here that the truth doesn’t end the debate; it just accurately describes the facts.

Fiscal conservatives now need to make the case that it’s better to decrease spending by about 20 percent and live within our means than to increase spending by 30 percent and continue Nevada’s pattern of unsustainable spending increases.

While it’s been encouraging to see Governor-elect Brian Sandoval start to make this case, it’d also be nice to see the few remaining political reporters, like Damon, who haven’t accurately reported on the state budget correctly begin to report the facts.