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Buckley should share the blame for state’s budget problems

Conrad Velin

I hope many Nevadans had a chance to catch Speaker Barbara Buckley’s (D-Las Vegas) response to Gov. Jim Gibbons’ radio address Thursday evening, regarding the budget predicament the state faces.

Whereas the governor methodically outlined what the current problems are, and was equally specific about what areas were on the table/off limits, Speaker Buckley’s response was absolutely devoid of any specifics and possible solutions. Incredibly, the speaker’s rebuttal turned into one big personal attack against the governor. I was astonished by her mean-spirited and unprofessional conduct during this critical time for Nevada, and I would hope the voters remember this pathetic behavior in the next election.

The governor rightly noted that the state’s taxable receipts were significantly below expectations (mostly related to softer tourism, Nevada’s largest industry), but also correctly stated that government spending was out of control (up 17 percent from the 2005 budget). More importantly, the governor had the guts to admit that lawmakers overpromised on services, which many understand to be the REAL problem in government. That’s perhaps an understatement, given the overly-generous government pension systems, which is a fiscal time-bomb set to explode on the governments/taxpayers everywhere.

After mercilessly lobbing personal attacks against the governor, which seemed quite unseemly given her overly-partisan position, Speaker Buckley had the audacity to state repeatedly that “I will never do this again.” What exactly does that mean?

As a paid public servant, you should have publicly stated that you and your fellow lawmakers from both parties will do whatever is necessary to close this budget gap which, given your position and time in service, you were certainly complicit in helping create. So please, don’t try to fool the voters of Nevada that it’s all the governor’s fault; there’s plenty of blame to go around, including the citizenry of Nevada. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that it’s state law that we have a balanced budget, and that you would not be doing your fiduciary duty if you failed to work with the governor to accomplish that task.

Whether or not the governor reneged on his promise not to call a special session, he was correct to do so, given the severity of the situation. I would suggest that you and your colleagues stop whining or trying to get the partisan upper-hand. I would also suggest that lawmakers structure future budgets to assume future economic uncertainties.

Conrad Velin is the regional finance director for Sierra Nevada Media Group, which includes the Nevada Appeal. You can reach him at cvelin@sierranevadamedia.com.