Eugene T. Paslov: Will Tuesday’s winners be able to make hard choices?
Where do we go from here?
Will those who won this election be able to make a difference?
Our state is at risk. The demographics are dismal. Unemployment is at a record high. We’ve lost population and the K-12 school population has declined. We continue to have high rates of mortgage foreclosures and business closings. There appears to be little discussion of creative/workable solutions to these serious problems. History has shown that when you lose population in both the state and the public schools, it means that middle-class families are leaving.
I know we have a creative, thoughtful local and state cadre of political policy makers, scholars and business leaders who, if they work together, may be able to find solutions to Nevada’s problems. However, many are caught up in the midst of anti-government, anti-tax, anti-development, and anti-intellectual sentiment, fear and anger that has a numbing impact on cooperation and the creation of solutions.
There are actions needed to stimulate the state’s economy. The first is to wean ourselves off the “culture of exploitation” which encourages our political leaders to shift taxes to others. It’s a historical problem. We also have a “no new tax” mantra which strikes terror into the hearts of elected officials. No new taxes forces political leaders to oppose all taxes to gain support. Such actions are reprehensible. Taxes are a means, not an end. Most responsible people don’t want to see their schools, public safety and other critical services disappear. The debate should not be about taxes, but rather what is needed to maintain and improve our quality of life and our willingness to pay for it.
Secondly, we must analyze spending. Are our public agencies being sufficiently frugal in managing budgets and are they producing required results? This is an empirical question. My experience in Nevada is that state and local governments are remarkably efficient. The studies I have seen over the years suggest that Nevadans are getting “great value for their tax dollar.” Our government is the right size and efficient. But that does not suggest that there is no need to adjust budgets. However, these budget reviews need to be conducted by objective parties, not political entities with axes to grind.
Finally, policy makers must stabilize our tax base, look at tax equity (are businesses/industries currently paying fair taxes to support needed services), revisit the income tax prohibition, and create economic development incentives that will bring new, high paying career positions to the state over the long term.
If policy makers begin to pay attention to these initiatives, we may regain our economic footing. If not, we will not.
• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.