Speaker Oceguera using old data to exaggerate the scope of Nevada’s budget problems

Victor Joecks

In the past few weeks, Assembly Speaker John Oceguera has made presentations in front of the Reno, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson city councils. In each appearance he's presented this PowerPoint, which he is using to describe Nevada's fiscal situation.

Unfortunately for anyone interested in having an accurate discussion about Nevada's budget, Speaker Oceguera is using old data to make Nevada's situation seem worse than it is.

His third slide:

His fourth slide (click to enlarge):



In case you can't read the bold print, it says: "States Reporting a Budget Shortfall for Fiscal 2010-2011." Fiscal Year 2011 runs from July 2010 to June 2011. The budget for Fiscal Year 2011 was set two years ago in the 2009 Legislative Session and modified in 2010's Special Session.

In other words, that shortfall is over! Fiscal Year 2011 (and its supposed "budget deficit") has already been taken care of. Instead, Oceguera's using this slide to make the case that Nevada's budget situation is the worst in the country and the state needs a tax increase. His misleading slides and testimony are, unfortunately, making their way into the media:




Oceguera noted that the deficit is 54 percent of Nevada's budget – the largest percentage of any state in the nation. The deficit is estimated at $2.7 billion, Oceguera said.

Completely outdated … as Oceguera's own slide shows! The 54 percent statistic is also of dubious accuracy, because of the baseline-budgeting process and the denominator used, but that's an entirely different discussion.

What's even more outrageous about this is that NPRI e-mailed Oceguera about this inaccuracy two months ago – and he's still using it.

NPRI's original email (click to enlarge):







Speaker Oceguera responded to that email and even acknowledged that percentages, in this context, are "somewhat irrelevant" and are largely dependent on the chosen denominator.

While I give Oceguera credit for taking the time to engage in a substantive discussion with NPRI, it's distressing that he's now knowingly misleading elected officials, the general public and the media about the size of Nevada's budget deficit using an outdated statistic.

Don't be deceived and manipulated. When politicians – especially those looking to increase taxes – start talking about Nevada's budget deficit, make sure you have the facts handy.