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.
Where we all should agree
Earlier this week, we at NPRI updated our government-transparency website, TransparentNevada.com, with 2012 salary data for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
The release of this data has generated a lot of media coverage, helping to bring increased public attention to the handsome compensation levels that many Metro employees enjoy. The data shows, for example, that 149 employees took home more than $200,000 in total compensation last year, and that 888 of them brought in more than $150,000.
The timing of this release was appropriate for two reasons. One is that this week, March 10-16, is Sunshine Week, a national effort to raise awareness of the importance of making government more transparent. The other reason is that Metro is currently pushing for a sales-tax increase for the purpose of generating new revenue for the department, and wants “flexibility” in how the additional funds would be spent — meaning the money would be unlikely to go toward the hiring of new officers, the original justification offered by tax-hike proponents.
Most of the responses to the release of this data, and to NPRI’s commentary on it, have reflected outrage — over both the high compensation levels and the claims by Metro brass that the department is underfunded.
Some people, however, have expressed a different view. These folks have argued that Metro employees deserve the salaries they draw and, in fact, should make even more. A few have even directed some unfriendly words toward yours truly for arguing otherwise.
I’ve been asked a few times whether this criticism bothers me. It doesn’t, and here’s why: I’m grateful for the opportunity even to have this debate.
Our chief motivation for launching TransparentNevada back in 2008 was our recognition of the fact that for far too long, government in Nevada had been extremely opaque. This meant that debates over government spending were held largely in the dark, with neither side of the discussion knowing much about what we were already spending, and where. The debates may have been lively, but they were mostly uninformed.
Making information on government financing readily available to the public changes that, and that’s what TransparentNevada does. Whether you believe government is currently spending too much or too little, you now have the ability to base your view not just on ideology, but on fact. It’s a very important shift.
And there’s another reason why government transparency is especially important today. Given all the economic and fiscal challenges Nevada is now facing, it’s more crucial than ever that government operate as effectively and efficiently as possible. Taxpayers of all ideological stripes need to be able to see for themselves how responsibly Silver State politicians are allocating public funds.
Make no mistake: That NPRI falls within the limited-government camp is certainly no secret. And we will continue to be firm in our support for public policies that rein in government spending and empower the private sector to drive economic growth.
But whether you agree or disagree with that position — whether you think we need bigger government or smaller government — I hope you at least share our view that we need open government.
After all, it’s your money. And you deserve to know what your elected officials are doing with it.
Until next time, take care.
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