The not-so-special session

Andy Matthews

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.

The not-so-special session

It had barely begun, and already the 27th Special Session of the Nevada Legislature was over. And just like the regular session that had unfolded over the previous 120 days, this week’s brief special session provided no reason to believe Nevada’s woes are going away anytime soon.

The most notable outcome of the special session was legislative authorization for a constitutionally dubious sales-tax increase in Clark County, which will take effect if and when the county commission passes it, with the additional revenues targeted for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s coffers.

The main takeaways — from your wallet — of the regular session? The extension of a series of “temporary” taxes that were supposed to expire in 2011 (and had already been extended once); legislative authorization for sales- and property-tax increases in Washoe County to fund school construction; the passing of an energy plan that will increase your power bill; and, overall, about a $300 million increase in general-fund spending for the next biennium.   

Just as significant as what did happen is what did not. There were no meaningful reforms to our broken education system. Liberals killed three such reform efforts — proposals for a tax-credit scholarship program, a parent-trigger law and funding for the successful Teach for America program.

Nor was any legislation passed that would reform PERS or address the fiscal and economic problems stemming from Nevada’s prevailing-wage, construction-defect or minimum-wage laws. And no serious effort was made to remove the many regulatory barriers to job creation in Nevada.

In other words, there were things that could have been done that would have made a real difference for struggling Nevadans, but weren’t. What was done will not.

Does anyone think that raising sales and property taxes will help put more Nevadans back to work? Or that increasing spending on the same education system that has been failing for decades (even as spending has increased dramatically during that time) will do anything to improve student achievement?

Liberal ideas have failed Nevada and are continuing to harm students, taxpayers and business owners.

Yet those politicians who bill themselves as fiscal conservatives were, for the most part, content to allow the debate to be controlled by those who advocate for higher taxes and more government spending. Many supported raising taxes without insisting on the passage of proven, free-market reforms. A great case in point was Gov. Brian Sandoval’s decision to put the Clark County sales-tax hike on the special-session agenda, while leaving his tax-credit scholarship plan — an idea the governor himself had earlier claimed as a top priority — off.

The bottom line? The 2013 regular and special legislative sessions, on the issues of greatest importance to Nevadans, essentially upheld the status quo. And the status quo isn’t good enough.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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