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What happened to Nevada?



The Nevada I grew up in is no more. It hurts me to consider moving to a state that has the attitude Nevada once had, although judging from some comments I get ,some will celebrate if that happens,.

As tempting as it is to discuss further the woes of the Obama Administration, they seem to be quite capable of doing themselves in. My discussion today is closer to home, namely Carson City. The flow of this column might seem disjointed, but it will make sense in the end.

There is no question that Nevada has suffered more than most states due to the “Great Recession” started under George W. Bush and in my opinion exacerbated (my big word for the day) by Obama. We have led the nation in unemployment many times. There is no doubt that everyone, including state and local governments, have been impacted.

A recent survey by Thumbtack.com and the Kauffman Foundation shows Nevada to be 12th nationally for business friendliness. This is a comprehensive survey covering numerous factors. Sadly, there are only two years of data. The Chief Executive magazine has Nevada ranked as 10th in 2011, a decline from fifth in 2010.

The Mercatus Center of George Mason University also released an annual study of the states with the most personal freedom. Nevada ranks 20th. In 2009 we were 13th but most saddening is that in 2001 we were No. 4.

A 2008 study by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce showed Nevada to rank sixth nationally in average public employee pay. The study included state, county, and local governments. They also conducted a study that same year that showed public sector employees received on average 28 percent more than their private sector counterparts.

The Nevada Policy Institute just released on May 22 their annual list of government employee salaries for 2012. There are more than 1,200 government employees earning $200,000 or more per year, and more than 2,000 who were paid (I hesitate to say earned) more than the governor.

Enough. There is one common theme binding all of the previous facts. Our state legislature has worked diligently every two years for some time to slowly erode our personal and business freedoms. You either understand this, or there is no help for you.

They (the legislature) have gone on a never-ending quest for more revenue. General taxes have increased as well as “fees” that are less visible. In this state you need a “license” for almost any occupation. They have targeted mining, and the services tax arises every session. Education funding is a convenient excuse. They all want more funding without increased accountability for performance. How about just working with what we have?

I personally find it disgraceful that those in the private sector must work longer (there is another study on that I don’t have space for) to pay taxes that go to paying their public counterparts more and provide better benefits. Public employees used to understand that public employment offered a more secure job but at the cost of lower compensation. When did that change?

They want to regulate our personal lives as well. A bill allowing the right to carry firearms on college campuses was stifled by one committee chairman as his “purview.” By the time you read this, a bill may also have passed requiring background checks for all gun transfers, including private party transactions. What’s next, no cellphones while you drive? Oops, already got that.

The Legislature, primarily Las Vegas Democrats, remind me of several (by no means all) Californians who move to Nevada. They come here to escape the mess created in California, then immediately set out to create here what they left there. Perhaps all legislators should attend a mandatory economic history course which compares the effectiveness of Keynesian economics to those of the laissez-faire system. Oh, and to assure attentiveness they should pass an exam at the end. Maybe they will learn that the Keynes philosophy has never succeeded over time.

Government will always spend at least what it is given and demand more. Rarely is it suggested that a government program be eliminated. There is always the well-meaning but misguided person who believes more is better. I saw it first hand as a school board member and see it continually.

Never has higher taxes and less personal freedom resulted in increased economic activity. It is time to restore some sense into our state legislature, and restore Nevada to the independent minded state with frugal governance it once was.

Tom Riggins’ column appears every other Friday in Perspective.