Will Reid or Sandoval accurately describe Nevada’s projected budget deficit during tonight’s debate?

Victor Joecks

Gubernatorial candidates Rory Reid and Brian Sandoval will meet tonight for another debate. The Nevada Broadcasters Association is hosting the debate and said today in an e-mail newsletter that the most important part of the debate will be finding out each candidate’s specific plan for addressing the state’s budget situation.

While each candidate’s budget plan is important, what’s even more important is for Reid and Sandoval (or even the moderator, if he/she cares about accuracy) to accurately describe Nevada’s projected budget deficit.

As NPRI reported last month and State Budget Director Andrew Clinger confirmed two days ago, Nevada doesn’t have a $3 billion projected budget deficit. Nevada only has a $3 billion deficit if you assume a massive, $1.8 billion spending increase. That’s a 28 percent spending increase from our current $6.4 billion general-fund budget.

Both Reid and Sandoval have publicly stated that they do not support raising taxes, but this position is less tenable politically if the general public believes the widespread lie that Nevada is facing a $3 billion, 50 percent budget deficit.

If either candidate is serious about implementing a budget without tax increases, he must redefine how the budget discussion is being framed, and tonight’s debate – with a large portion of the electorate watching – is the best time to do that.

As I wrote on Tuesday:

If politicians and the media can convince the general public (like they have been trying to do) that increasing spending by 28 percent – from $6.4 billion to $8.2 billion – will keep services at existing levels, they win. It’s that simple.

It’s all about the assumptions the public is making. If the public believes that a $1.8 billion spending increase is “keeping services at their current level,” tax increases are inevitable, because a spending increase is assumed. But if the public discovers the truth – that a $1.8 billion spending increase is, in fact … a $1.8 billion spending increase, believers in a limited, accountable government have a chance to begin the debate about the size of government on equal footing. [Spending increase numbers updated from $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion to reflect the latest from Clinger.]

Reid and Sandoval are opponents in the election and the debate, but on this one issue they should have agreement. Tonight, both have a chance to provide the clarity that Nevada’s budget debate so desperately needs.

Reid and Sandoval should clash and have a vigorous debate – but only after the terms of that debate (Nevada’s projected budget deficit) have been defined accurately.