Chuck Muth: Government math: Two plus two equals $3 billion
Almost every liberal Democrat, moderate Republican and member of media is claiming with “metaphysical certitude” that there’s going to be a $3 billion budget deficit facing the Nevada Legislature next year. Not surprisingly, they’re wrong.
Rounding for simplicity’s sake, and so that union officials can keep up, the current general fund budget is balanced at about $6.5 billion. Meanwhile, budget czar Andrew Clinger estimates that available revenue for the next two-year budget will be around $5 billion. This, in part, because the “temporary” tax hikes approved last year are supposed to sunset next year and because the Legislature foolishly spent one-time federal “stimulus” money on ongoing programs despite warnings against such irresponsibility by conservatives.
Now take $6.5 billion (the current operating budget) and subtract $5 billion (the next biennium’s projected revenue) and you’re left with … a budget deficit of $1.5 billion.
Not $3 billion.
So where the heck does the $3 billion figure come from? Sean Whaley of the Nevada News Bureau explains:
“Nevada state agencies and public education have submitted budgets calling for nearly $8 billion in spending for the upcoming two years; about $3 billion more than what is expected to be available with current tax revenues.”
That’s right. The so-called $3 billion budget deficit is based on the government’s desire to increase spending next year by $1.5 billion over and above what is currently being spent despite the reality that tax revenue will be lower, not higher.
That’s like making $50,000 a year at your job – not getting the $5,000 raise you wanted, but instead a $5,000 pay cut – and then claiming your salary was reduced by $10,000.
Government math at its finest.
Again, Nevada is currently running the government on a $6.5 billion budget, give or take. Our budget czar says he thinks we can expect about $5 billion in tax revenue for the next biennium, leaving us with a $1.5 billion budget deficit which even Democrat Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford has admitted can be closed via additional spending reductions.
So why do people keep saying we have to raise taxes – especially Republican Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, who unbelievably proposed taxing our groceries recently – to balance the budget when (a) the budget deficit is $1.5 billion, not $3 billion, and (b) we can close the $1.5 billion budget deficit with budget cuts?
On the other hand, if you’re of a mind to increase the government’s revenue to sustain existing spending without raising taxes, why not just legalize and tax prostitution, marijuana, gay marriage and riding around on a motorcycle without wearing a helmet?
I mean, if “everything” is supposedly “on the table” to deal with this $1.5 billion budget deficit, shouldn’t “everything” mean, like, you know … everything?
• Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public policy grassroots advocacy organization. He may be reached at email@example.com.