Compared to "voting against" kids with autism, voting for higher taxes is a walk in the park.
Yet that's exactly what two principled legislators in the Assembly did this week on AB162; a bill that would force private insurance companies to provide coverage for certain expensive treatments for children with autism - which, in turn, will inevitably result in higher health insurance premiums. As if health insurance isn't expensive enough already.
Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, claims this bill means Nevada is helping children with autism.
No it doesn't. The "state," through this bill, isn't doing a thing to help children with autism - other than put a loaded gun to the heads of Nevada's insurance companies and force THEM to pay for a service Leslie is unwilling to ask taxpayers to fund.
It's an unfunded mandate, apparently in an effort to preserve scarce taxpayer dollars for what the Reno liberal believes are higher priorities.
Like funding the Nevada Arts Council.
A central question in all legislative debates should be (but rarely is): What's the proper and legitimate role of government assistance? Conservatives such as me would argue it's to help those in our society and community who can't, through no fault of their own, help themselves. Children with autism clearly fall into that category.
So if legislators determine that helping these vulnerable and unfortunate children and their families is of sufficient importance to the general welfare of the citizens of Nevada (and it is), then the citizens of Nevada collectively should be asked to pay for that assistance rather than mandating that private insurance companies do it for them.
And if budget constraints mean legislators have to cut non-essential government services and programs to pay for that assistance, so be it. This legislative habit of buying dinner and then sticking somebody else with the check has got to stop.
Of course, casting a vote in favor of a bill "for children" was easy. Casting a vote against AB162 on very solid public policy grounds took a world of nerve and conviction. What a pity only two elected members of the Assembly showed it.
What? Who were they? Glad you asked: Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, and Assembly Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley.
Opponents are going to demagogue their votes to death on the campaign trail next year. But refusing to abandon core philosophical principles on an issue as sensitive as this solely for the sake of getting re-elected (as many of their colleagues who voted for this bill clearly did) should be defended and applauded. Thus today's column.
Meanwhile, Sheila Leslie is busy patting herself on the back for doing something "for the children" while ducking responsibility for paying for it. Not exactly a JFK-like profile in courage.
- Chuck Muth, of Carson City, is president and CEO of Citizen Outreach and a political blogger. E-mail him at email@example.com.