As political columnist Jon Ralston noted last week, I've been advocating for a Nevada version of Ronald Reagan's "Grace Commission" almost since the day I came out of the womb. The Grace Commission was charged by Reagan in the early 1980s with the task of going through the federal budget to find waste, fraud, abuse and other areas where federal government spending could be cut or streamlined.
Done right, a similar commission chartered by Gov. Jim Gibbons - as he announced last week on Sam Shad's "Nevada Newsmakers" program - could and would do wonders for Nevada's fiscal future. Of course, the operative words here are "done right." And already there are troubling signs that this idea is wandering off course.
Keep in mind, the purpose of this commission is to recommend cuts in government spending and government programs. Cuts. Not increases. Cuts. As in, make smaller. Not in "limiting the growth." Or growing exponentially. Cuts.
Nevertheless, some folks are already saying the commission has to be "bi-partisan." That it has to be "diverse." That it has to include folks representing government employees and the unions.
No, it doesn't. And it shouldn't.
The only criteria for being on a commission charged with making recommendations for cutting government should be a predisposition toward, passion for and record of favoring cutting government. If you can identify a Democrat who fits that description ... fine. Good luck. And while you're at it, see if you can find that that leprechaun with the pot of gold.
There is absolutely no reason to have Democrats on the commission simply for the sake of being able to call it "bi-partisan." Instead, were I put in charge of naming people to a "Muth Commission" to review and make recommendations for cutting government, I'd consider folks such as:
Former state Sen. Sue Lowden, former state Sen. Ann O'Connell, former state Sen. Sandra Tiffany, former Congresswoman Barbara Vucanovich, State Sen. Bob Beers, Assemblyman Ty Cobb, Nevada Policy Research Institute director Steve Miller, former Assembly candidate James Dan, former Nevada Libertarian Party Chairman Terry Savage, former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, attorney Craig Mueller and former state Treasurer candidate Mark DeStefano.
Give those folks a meat cleaver and a dump truck full of red pens and let 'em have at it. And not just one department at a time. The whole shebang. Then taxpayers would get a true look at just what is possible as far as the state budget is concerned and exactly how big of a tax cut they could enjoy simply by limiting government to its legitimate purposes.
I remember when I suggested a Nevada "Grace Commission" to former Gov. Kenny Guinn a number of years ago, I recommended that Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Vin Suprynowicz be tapped to chair it. To which the governor jokingly responded, "Geez, Chuck, then we wouldn't have any government at all."
While a bit of an exaggeration - although if you know Vin, just a bit - that's exactly the point. A serious conversation about the proper role of government and how to fund those legitimate functions of government is long overdue. If such a commission is watered down for political purposes in a misguided attempt to make it "diverse" and "bi-partisan," then there's no sense in doing it at all. You may as well leave it up to our current Legislature. And I think we all know where that would go.
When it's time to put together a tax-hiking commission, THEN we put Democrats on it. Otherwise, if you want to do a Nevada "Grace Commission" correctly, you put nothing but fiscal T-Rex's on it. So let it be written; so let it be done.
• Chuck Muth, of Carson City, is president and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a political blogger. Read his views Fridays on the Appeal Opinion page or visit www.muthstruths.com.