Wrong way Republicans

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.

Wrong way Republicans

Do you remember Jim Marshall?

No, I’m not talking about the former congressman from Georgia. I’m talking about the other Jim Marshall, the former professional football player who was a defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings in the 1960s and ’70s.

Marshall had a very solid career, setting multiple records and earning a couple of Pro Bowl appearances. But what he’s most remembered for is something he probably wishes we’d all forget: In one of the most embarrassing blunders in sports history, Marshall, playing in a game in 1964, recovered a fumble and ran 66 yards — into the wrong end zone.

Now, there are all kinds of mistakes an athlete can make (and as a former amateur athlete myself, I’ve made most of them). But nothing is as bad as scoring for the wrong team.

I thought of Jim Marshall this week while reading the latest big news out of Carson City. A half-dozen Senate Republicans have announced what they’re calling the “Education Priority Initiative,” which would slap the mining industry with a $600 million tax hike over a two-year span and funnel the money into Nevada’s broken education system.

These Republicans, of course, campaigned for office as champions of limited government and responsible fiscal policy. To taxpayers, they essentially said: We’re on your team.

Yet here they are, like Jim Marshall, running in the wrong direction.

Of course, here in Nevada, there’s nothing new about self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives advocating for liberal policies. But it’s especially troubling to see it today. Our state’s economy is in a highly precarious position, and the unity of Republicans and Democrats in calling for higher taxes will only make matters worse.

The six Republicans behind this tax increase would likely protest that no such unity exists, since the tax increase on mining has been proposed as an alternative to a new margin tax, which is being pushed by the Nevada State Education Association and is supported by some legislative Democrats. Said Republican Senator and tax-increase proponent Scott Hammond: “The margins tax is a job-destroying tax that will force businesses to close and drive jobs out of Nevada, and it fails to ensure that more revenue actually goes to the classroom. On the other hand, the Education Priority Initiative will bring more equity to the current tax structure.”

Don’t fall for it. The differences between the two proposals, pace Sen. Hammond and his allies, are far less significant than their most fundamental similarity. That similarity is the false and dangerous premise on which they both rest: that Nevada doesn’t spend enough on education.

As NPRI’s Geoff Lawrence pointed out on Wednesday, Nevada over the past 50 years has nearly tripled education spending on a per-pupil, inflation-adjusted basis, yet student achievement remains unacceptably poor.

So both the margin-tax and mining-tax proposals would take more money out of our already fragile private economy and waste it — by throwing it at a problem that 50 years of evidence have proven can’t be solved with more money.

And it’s actually worse than that. By echoing the union-peddled hogwash that increased spending is the key to educational improvement, these senators are not only hampering Nevada’s economic recovery — they’re also undermining efforts to implement the kinds of structural reforms that would actually help students. And as their campaign-season rhetoric from not too long ago suggests, they know it.

As Jim Marshall reminded us, we’re all capable of folly. But at least Marshall’s wrong turn was accidental.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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