Nevada's current budget crisis stems primarily from state government's inability to raise sufficient revenues to pay for ongoing operations during recessionary times. The traditional methods that Nevada uses to raise revenues work well during boom times, but are incapable of providing a steady cash flow during hard times.
Under current law it requires a super majority of Nevada legislators to vote for increased taxation, which is extremely unlikely given the anti-tax fervor of Nevada voters. Even if the Legislature were by some miracle able to reach a bi-partisan super majority and raise taxes, the governor will keep his campaign pledge and veto the legislation. These being the limiting factors of Nevada's taxation/budget paradox, what's left for the governor and legislators to do to prevent Nevada from sliding downhill into bankruptcy?
One possible solution is for Nevada's elected constitutional officers and legislators to embark upon a fund raising campaign for private donations to keep state government operating. Given current and projected revenue shortfalls, and the limitations upon what the governor and Legislature can and will do, this may be the only viable solution left to prevent State government from holding a "Going Out of Business" sale.
For example, legislators could hold house parties and town hall meetings in their own districts throughout the state where they can explain in person to their constituents why they should voluntarily donate to keep state government solvent (it's the patriotic thing to do). This will raise some funds, but not enough to solve the overall budget shortfall.
Given that charity begins at home, Nevada's big guns (the constitutional officers) along with legislative leaders could take turns hosting a 24/7 "Nevadathon" on live TV to solicit donations from the public. Who knows, some of our constitutional officers and legislative leaders may even have hidden theatrical talent. It's going to take a lot of singing the blues and dancing around the issues to raise enough cash to save Nevada.
To avoid an increase in the gaming tax, the casino industry would be more than happy to donate stage shows and headline performers for Nevadathon. The mining, construction, agriculture, retail, and service industries will be eager to donate goods or services for auction on Nevadathon rather than face increased taxation. The brothel industry might encounter some legal difficulties in donating services, but cash will always be welcomed by the state treasury.
Raising campaign contributions over the Internet has been enormously successful for political candidates. Why not for state government? An Internet version of Nevadathon could potentially raise sufficient funds to solve the budget shortfall all by itself. An Internet campaign could not only raise money, but also attract tourists who invariably pay sales, room, fuel, and gaming taxes during their stays in Nevada.
Draconian budget cuts are avoidable if they can collectively agree upon new and creative means and methods of raising revenues. Given the impending battle between the defenders of state agencies and programs, and the anti-tax cost cutters who view every school child as a bottomless pit of deficit spending, it is unlikely that common ground will be reached.
The Nevada state government may well be reduced to begging which is a time honored profession. Beggars can't be choosers, so Nevadathon may be state government's last best hope for regaining fiscal solvency.
- Fred Kessler of Carson City is a general contractor.