Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee, April 12

Geoffrey Lawrence

Here is my testimony regarding SB 98, a bill that would change Nevada’s collective bargaing statutes by granting more flexibility to local government administrators:

Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you for hearing my testimony today. My name, for the record, is Geoffrey Lawrence and I am deputy director of policy at the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

I’d like to speak briefly regarding the fiscal impact of unionization at the local government level in Nevada. Public employees in Nevada, by any measure, are highly paid – particularly at the local government level. We really have a caste system in Nevada wherein public employees maintain lifestyles far above the taxpayers who support them. On average, public-sector workers in the Silver State are paid 28.1 percent higher than private-sector workers in a similar job classification.

This disparity is most pronounced at the local government level where administrators are required to negotiated collectively with workers. NPRI has reviewed the most recent annual statistics on public employee pay published by the US Census Bureau. Those figures reveal that state workers in Nevada, on average, are paid 7 percent more than the national median for state workers while local government workers are paid 31 percent more than the national median. This is in spite of the fact that Nevada enjoys a relatively low cost of living. In fact, including benefits, public employees in Nevada are the third highest paid in the nation – behind those of CA and CT and ahead of states with remarkably higher costs of living.

This wage premium adds significantly to the labor costs faced by local governments and constrains their ability to respond in cases of extreme fiscal crisis. Based on the Census figures, NPRI has calculated that, if local government workers in Nevada were compensated merely at the national median, local governments would realize a savings of $2.3 billion over a two-year period. I refuse to believe that there is anything extreme to the notion that workers in Nevada should be compensated at a level approximating what comparable workers are paid in other states.

If Nevada lawmakers do not amend the Silver State’s collective bargaining statutes to give more leverage to local government administrators, this trend is likely to be exacerbated even further.

Geoffrey Lawrence

Geoffrey Lawrence

Director of Research

Geoffrey Lawrence is director of research at Nevada Policy.

Lawrence has broad experience as a financial executive in the public and private sectors and as a think tank analyst. Lawrence has been Chief Financial Officer of several growth-stage and publicly traded manufacturing companies and managed all financial reporting, internal control, and external compliance efforts with regulatory agencies including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Lawrence has also served as the senior appointee to the Nevada State Controller’s Office, where he oversaw the state’s external financial reporting, covering nearly $10 billion in annual transactions. During each year of Lawrence’s tenure, the state received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association.

From 2008 to 2014, Lawrence was director of research and legislative affairs at Nevada Policy and helped the institute develop its platform of ideas to advance and defend a free society.  Lawrence has also written for the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with particular expertise in state budgets and labor economics.  He was delighted at the opportunity to return to Nevada Policy in 2022 while concurrently serving as research director at the Reason Foundation.

Lawrence holds an M.A. in international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.S. and a B.S. in accounting from Western Governors University, and a B.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife, Jenna, and their two kids, Carson Hayek and Sage Aynne.