Week in review: alternative

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.

This past January, NPRI had to get some roof repairs done on its Las Vegas office after winter rains led to several leaks, one of which was in my office.

My executive assistant, Patty Andrews, called around to several roofers to get some quotes, finally landing on one company that came out to assess the damage and offer an estimate.

In that instance, as in all the other times I’ve received an estimate for that sort of job, not once did I think to myself, “This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I should offer him more than he’s asking for.” After all, the purpose of getting a quote is not just to get an idea from an expert on the cost of a job, but to enable the buyer to shop around and find the best price.

So I was particularly surprised to learn that Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget, which calls for the largest tax hike in Nevada history, allocates more money to numerous agencies than the respective agencies had requested.

Just like with a roofer offering an estimate for a repair, agencies presumably have a better sense of how much money they need to operate than does someone not working in the department. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services and Clark County Child Welfare agency requested $91.4 million for 2016 and $95.6 million for 2017. Yet Gov. Sandoval’s budget would give them an additional $3.5 million in each year.

In total, the cost to taxpayers to give agencies the higher amounts proposed by Gov. Sandoval rather than the amounts they’ve requested is $38.4 million in general funds and $109.5 million in non-general funds over the next two years.

It’s the array of unnecessary spending increases like this that inspired NPRI to publish our own, alternative budget for Nevada, called the Freedom Budget. Unlike Gov. Sandoval’s current budget proposal, ours would not increase taxes, implement new ones or extend taxes scheduled to sunset.

NPRI’s line-by-line, department-by-department recommendations for each of Nevada’s 441 budget accounts are actually based on the Executive Budget proposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval in 2011, when he was sticking with his campaign promise not to raise taxes.

By increasing spending at a slower rate than Gov. Sandoval has proposed (and by making common-sense recommendations like funding agencies at the levels they’ve requested, not more), the Freedom Budget would save taxpayers $1.3 billion over the next two years compared to Gov. Sandoval’s budget.

The Freedom Budget is based on four principles: increase spending from Sandoval’s 2011 proposal, but at a slower rate than the governor has proposed; eliminate funding for inefficient government programs; fund agencies at the amount they’ve requested, not more; and limit government to its core, constitutional functions. And lawmakers are already showing interest in our recommendations.

Gov. Sandoval’s 2010 campaign for governor was based on his commitment that “we have to balance that budget without raising taxes.” In 2014, he was outspoken in his opposition to the margin tax, which voters overwhelmingly rejected. Now secure in office, he has proposed a budget full of spending increases as unnecessary as paying a contractor more than he’s quoted you — and full of tax hikes like those he once decried.

But as the Freedom Budget makes clear, Nevada can do better and doesn’t need to raise taxes to do so. By spending at a slower rate, eliminating ineffective and unconstitutional programs and implementing policy reforms that require government to become more efficient, we can truly build a New Nevada.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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