Force officials to make the tough decisions
November 7, 2005
We’re generally in favor of putting some kind of limit on government spending in Nevada. The trick is in achieving the right kind of balance.
Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Rights has been in the news lately because voters there decided to suspend its tax-collection limits and allow the state to spend $3.7 billion that otherwise would have been returned to taxpayers.
The argument is whether Colorado’s law is a success or failure. We think it did exactly what was intended, which was to stifle runaway spending, and then gave lawmakers a way out of a deep hole – by asking the voters. In other words, it worked.
Nevada has tinkered with a variety of proposals. It even has one on the books which, since 1979, hasn’t come close to limiting spending based on the state’s growth. Even the record increases of 2003 didn’t bust the limits.
The general theory is that government growth shouldn’t outstrip the state’s growth. But what’s that mean?
Population plus economy plus inflation should create a reasonable formula. Then there are the questions of where to set the baseline, and how to deal with roller-coaster years of stagnation and rapid growth.
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We’re confident a fair formula can be devised. The real question is whether the Legislature needs a hard limit. We think it does, because everybody else must live within a budget.
A Taxpayers Bill of Rights doesn’t take away the decision-making powers of elected representatives. There are plenty of decisions to be made about how resources are allocated within a finite budget, and how taxes are assessed equitably among property owners, consumers and businesses.
Those are the tough decisions. Raising taxes to create a limitless revenue stream is, by contrast, relatively easy.
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