Pieces of the government-spending puzzle
December 13, 2005
Our first look at governor candidate Bob Beers’ proposal to limit spending by state and local governments shows us some things we like and some we don’t, which leads us to a conclusion that it may not be the kind of limit that should be chiseled into Nevada’s Constitution.
Here’s what we like:
n The concept that government shouldn’t spend beyond its means. One control is on the ability to raise taxes, which Nevada’s Legislature must do by a two-thirds vote (unless it’s education, according to the Supreme Court, but don’t get us started on that topic.) Beers would add a cap on spending, too.
n Provisions to recognize growth in population and inflation, with safety valves at 3 percent and 5 percent for emergency funds and the state’s so-called Rainy Day Fund. Voters could also approve a spending increase.
n Refunding excess revenues to residents through the Department of Motor Vehicles and to businesses, which seems a fair split.
Here’s what bothers us:
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n The concept that spending decisions must be taken “out of the hands of politicians and put in the hands of taxpayers.” Voters do elect those politicians, and any election on raising taxes or dog-licensing fees is certainly going to be political.
n Remember when gas prices soared and some people called it an “emergency” worthy of suspending the state’s gas tax? Beers would have made up the difference from the Rainy Day Fund. There is no limit on the imaginative ways politicians can figure out to spend tax dollars.
n The constitutional amendment would dictate state policy to local governments. That would seem plausible only if somebody can guarantee that White Pine County is going to sustain the same growth as Clark County.
The out is that the county commissioners can always ask the voters for a tax increase. So could the school district. And the water district. And the general improvement district. And the fire district. And the recreation district.
We’re glad Beers is trying to solve the puzzle of how to rein in runaway government spending. We’re still trying to make the pieces fit, though.
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