Tyrus W. Cobb: Hey, tax hikers – at least throw the ‘Wobblies’ a bone | NevadaAppeal.com
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Tyrus W. Cobb: Hey, tax hikers – at least throw the ‘Wobblies’ a bone

by Tyrus W. Cobb
For the Nevada Appeal

Here we are less than a month from the scheduled end of the Legislative session and we still are searching for the elusive alternative to the Sandoval austerity budget. The governor’s opponents have concentrated on conducting hearings and issuing statements that deplore the severity of the proposed reductions, but have provided little in the way of specific revenue increases to alleviate the budget gap they see.

Even more perplexing is the failure of the leadership to make any serious attempt to fashion a compromise tax hike and reform package. Instead, these critics have chosen to stiff-arm any serious education and fiscal reform measures. They have, to date, wrung their hands and proclaimed there is no way that a reduction/tax hike/ reform package could be passed, given “Republican intransigence.”

Nonsense! While the GOP in both houses have proclaimed their steadfastness behind the governor’s reductions, several members have also explored alternative approaches. There is no doubt that a politically adept Democratic leadership could sway the two Assemblymen and three Senators necessary to override a likely Sandoval veto of an alternative budget.

Almost daily we hear what it would take to move these Legislators, as well as representatives of the business community. The Las Vegas Chamber, for example, seems to be pleading to be thrown some bones in the way of even modest reforms to gain its support.

Rather than advocate for a reform package, the leadership has remained adamantly opposed to serious changes.

They adopted a modest set of modifications to K-12 tenure requirements and would require greater teacher contributions to the retirement system, but they have rejected the bulk of Sandoval’s visionary education reform proposal.

Likewise, in the critical area of reform of the collective bargaining/mandatory arbitration process (NRS 280/288), the Legislative leadership will not budge. In fact, they would prefer to extend these rights to state employees, despite the obvious impact this process has had in inflating salaries and benefits of local government employees. Without a serious revamp of 280/288, how can they expect any support from even the most “wobbly” of the Republicans?

As I have often said, I believe we are a low-tax state and can certainly accept certain new taxes. However, I would first require the elimination of public employee unions, believing that government personnel (as I was for 28 years) should not be unionized. With respect to 280/288, I support what the Governors are doing in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Indiana and other states in overhauling this antiquated and wasteful system. I would insist that employees pay more into the almost bankrupt PERS/PEBS retirement system, which is now some $10 billion in the hole.

Finally, I would insist that the state follow the law (NRS 459) with respect to the Yucca Repository. That law specifies the mission of the Nevada Nuclear Projects Agency as “keeping the Legislature and the citizens informed of all matters relating to radioactive waste.”

The law does not permit the agency to simply be a tool of Sen. Harry Reid and others who apparently would circumvent the legal process to halt this project.

The leadership in the Legislature must stop its refusal to even consider the question of the Yucca Repository.

Why are they so afraid to let these bills out of committee and to promote a public debate on Yucca?

The choice is yours, leadership. Demonstrate the courage and flexibility to fashion a reform package that brings our education system into the 21st century and overhauls the unsustainable compensation structure that now exists. Or simply be the party of “No we can’t.”

• Tyrus W. Cobb is a former Special Assistant to President Reagan.