Las Vegas Sun

July 4, 2015

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WHERE I STAND:

Again, legislators fail to stand up for Southern Nevada

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Show us the money, Governor.

With the end of the 2013 Legislature in sight, the kudos going around the Legislative Building are enough to make one think that something good happened these past few months.

If you were one or two of the state’s major industries, then something good did happen, as it probably should. But if you were one of the 2 million people who live in Southern Nevada, where more than 70 percent of the state’s population lives, then there is not much good to report.

When the Legislature meets, the rhetoric of the political campaigns almost always turns into just so many words hollowed out by the political reality that, whether people like to admit it, turns on a north-vs.-south competition that the south is determined to lose. Every time.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not just squeezing some sour grapes. Having lived in this state and having been an observer of all things legislative, I can say with confidence that the millions of people who live in Clark County have, once again, done the bidding of the hundreds of thousands of people who live in the north and who have come to expect that for the past century.

And we make it so.

There will be hand-shaking, high-fiving and some glowing reports about how what the governor accomplished — without raising taxes — was miraculous. And the southern-based senators and assembly members will come back home either lamenting or secretly extolling the virtues of the two-thirds vote needed to raise new revenues in this state.

The northern politicos will rightly go back to their fiefdoms as victors, having vanquished, once again, all real efforts for some fairness in a system that has been rigged against Las Vegas since the 1950s.

And Gov. Brian Sandoval will characteristically crow about how he saved the state from taxing itself to death while repairing some of the damage inflicted on our public education system and the tens of thousands of school-aged children who will forever suffer from this madness.

And all will be well in the kingdom.

Except that there has to come a time when the people who have the ability to decide a political race in this state actually get off their butts and vote in their own interests. And when that happens, look out.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a very simple fix to what ails us in Southern Nevada and what it would take to start getting a few hundred million dollars headed our way.

While it wouldn’t solve the school problems directly, it would have the benefit of making sure that Southern Nevada, as the economic engine for the entire state, got the kind of roads and transportation systems it needs in order to create jobs and advance the cause of commerce. That, in turn, would create the impetus for fixing our schools and create the ability and tax revenues to pay for it.

The fix is simple. Since much of the federal money returned to the states is based on population, the Legislature should have mandated that it be distributed the same way once it gets here. And, further, the representation of Southern Nevada on the state Transportation Board — the group that determines when and how to spend the money on transportation needs — would be based on the same thing: population.

Over 200 years ago there was a catchphrase: “No taxation without representation.” It was strong enough in its appeal to capture the imagination of a bunch of colonists who decided to have a tea party (a real, patriotic tea party) in Boston Harbor. The rest is a brilliant history about democracy, majority rule and, yes, no taxation without representation.

What the 2013 Legislature and our good governor have managed to do — albeit there is a little time left in this session — is absolutely nothing toward providing the people in Southern Nevada with anything close to adequate representation when it comes to how our tax dollars are raised and how they are spent.

The governor has been aided and abetted by Southern Nevada’s legislators of both parties who have caved in at every turn to the demands of their northern brethren.

I had high hopes for Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, who came across as a moderate Republican leader from the South. The first chance he got, he embraced Sandoval’s stiff-arming of Clark County. In millions of different ways.

Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis and Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, the two Democratic leaders from the south, sounded like they had the right stuff, but when push came to shove, they allowed themselves to get shoved around by other Democrats. Even though the south had all the numbers in our favor, they capitulated for fear of, what, upsetting the governor? How about upsetting the lives and dreams of tens of thousands of schoolchildren and the hopes and aspirations of hundreds of thousands of Nevadans who expect words like “fair share” and “one for all” to actually mean something?

No, this is not griping just for the frustrating sake of griping. I write this for two reasons.

First: I don’t want our governor and our “legislative leaders” to think they got away with anything by pulling the wool over the eyes of Southern Nevadans. What they got away with is just another big stall tactic designed to short-change the people of Clark County in favor of Reno and the cow counties. Yes, we are suckers yet again, but we know it and we know what you have done.

Second: to sound a warning of what is bad for the entire state. Frustrate us too much and the people will go to the ballot box with so many initiatives we will make Californians jealous. Government by initiative is a proven to way to break a state, but if the Legislature and governor won’t do what is right then the time will come when the people will do what is necessary, no matter how wrong it may be.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Does it, Governor?

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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