Simplistic answers won’t work for complicated problems
Special to the Appeal
I do not want to pay more taxes. I don’t know anyone who does. But I also don’t want to see the good work of our public policy makers, and the men and women in government service, crumble because of troglodytes like Mr. Muth. Mr. Muth appears to have little understanding of Nevada’s past and no vision for its future.
Nevada is in the middle of a fiscal crisis. This crisis is not the result of a few irresponsible politicians taking “no new taxes” pledges and then reneging; nor is it caused by demanding a “super majority” – a two-thirds majority to pass tax bills. These are the tools of those who are more concerned about their private welfare than the public good.
The real problem is that Nevada has an unstable tax structure. As a state we have difficulty responding to the vicissitudes of the larger economy. When the national economy is good we thrive; when it is bad, we deteriorate. During the down periods we are unable to maintain critical services amid the cries for budget cuts and a Constitutional requirement to submit a balanced budget. Services deteriorate and then have to be rebuilt when the economy improves. But rebuilding never quite equals the deterioration; and we continually fall behind in creating the institutions we need to support a good quality of life for ourselves, our children and grandchildren.
In 1981 we shifted from reliance on the property tax to sales tax. Many economists believed it was a bad decision. Later in that decade ambitious Nevada politicians had a “prohibition of personal income tax” included in the Constitution. It was very popular but also a very bad idea because it removed a powerful tool for policy makers to solve problems during periods of crisis.
If Mr. Muth were really thoughtful, he would be advocating for a major public policy discussion that looks at the Nevada tax structure and the needs of our state. He would not just dismiss public schools, state government and community colleges as wasteful and irrelevant; he would objectively research what it will cost to meet these and other institutional needs effectively and efficiently, and what it would take to prevent our institutions, including schools, and other critical state services, from backsliding. Virtually all of our institutions in this state need to be improved, not destroyed.
There’s little doubt that the budget cuts being enacted will be destructive. Perhaps we should be looking at Lt. Gov. Krolicki’s recent proposal regarding the budget shortfall (selling bonds to be redeemed with revenue from the tobacco industry); maybe there is a possibility of revisiting a Nevada lottery proposal. California and many other states seem to be considering their lottery as part of their budget shortfall solutions. We may want to consider something like this. Some gaming executives have already worked with the Nevada Teachers Union to find a partial solution to the education shortfall. It was a positive start, but we need more work of this sort, with gaming as well as mining industries.
Nevada has an abundance of alternative energy resources – wind, solar, geothermal. Let’s step up the pressure on the feds to provide the Nevada business incentives necessary to cultivate those resources and put new businesses on our tax roles. We may even want to consider a new business initiative for Yucca Mountain – not a dump – reprocessing nuclear waste or employing other related nuclear industry applications. There are many other revenue generating ideas available. We just need to be creative in solving current fiscal problems and trying to provide more tax stability for the future.
We do not need simplistic answers (“no new tax pledges” or “do away with state government”) to complicated public policy questions. We have an abundance of talented and creative people, both in the public and private sectors. We need thoughtful political leadership to bring these people together, taking the best of their ideas to preserve and improve our institutions and generate sufficient revenues to maintain/improve our quality of life. To do anything less would be irresponsible.