Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013 | 2:01 a.m.
The Sun's opinion page provides a wide range of opinion about the start of the 2013 Legislature.
From the Sun:
The Sun's editorial Break the status quo.
Brian Greenspun's "Where I Stand" column.
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Nevada’s economy has picked up over the past year, and although the recovery is not as fast as anyone would like, there are positive signs, from new projects on the Strip to businesses moving here.
As the Legislature opens its session Monday, lawmakers should be encouraged by that good news, but they shouldn’t forget the lessons from the Great Recession.
Two years ago, lawmakers and Gov. Brian Sandoval took a step by confronting the state’s lack of economic diversity and pushing to develop businesses and bring new industries here. Their work has shown progress, notably Apple’s plans to build a data center in Reno, and lawmakers will have a chance to stoke the effort this year.
But there’s more to do than attract companies. The recession, which seemed to single out Nevada, laid bare the state’s problems, including poor student achievement, an inequitable tax system and a lack of investment in public services.
Not that those problems are a surprise; they’ve festered for years and are quite well-known. Reports and rankings show how Nevada lags behind the rest of the nation in the number and quality of services.
Unfortunately, Nevadans have become inured to such news. The recent news that Nevada’s education system ranked dead last in the nation didn’t exactly send shock waves through the state. Perhaps there’s a lack of perspective. Shouldn’t it bother Nevadans that a major improvement in educational achievement would result in a ranking that some parts of the country would still consider only mediocre?
The painful reality of the state’s situation should jolt us all out of accepting things for what they are, and that’s why this session of the Legislature is so important. The recession put the state’s problems into clear focus, and lawmakers and the governor should act with a sense of urgency before that clarity is gone.
That means that the status quo in Carson City needs to end. It can’t be acceptable anymore for elected leaders to push off the problems to a future time when things are better. That time never seems to come, and that type of thinking is how Nevada arrived in this position. Too few people have been willing to risk the political consequences of making difficult decisions to solve the state’s problems.
There may be no better example of that than the avoidance in addressing the state’s tax structure, which underpins many of the state’s problems. Our tax policies are unfair and fail to provide a stable stream of revenue for government services. That’s not just our opinion; that has been the conclusion of many analysts and studies over the past few decades. But leaders in Carson City have been unable to muster the political will to make the needed changes. The result is many businesses go virtually tax-free. And in the process, public education and other services have been underfunded, and the recession only made things worse.
This year, lawmakers are expected to debate taxes, but that’s only one of a host of major issues, which include education, health care, transportation and social services.
All of that won’t get done in the Legislature’s 120-day session, but state leaders do have a chance to make a real impact. If they avoid rote political posturing, look beyond the next election and consider how their actions will shape Nevada over the next 30 years, they have a chance to courageously shape Nevada and put the state on the path toward a prosperous future.
Nevada’s future starts tomorrow. There’s no time to waste, and this is no time for wimps.