Las Vegas Sun

April 17, 2014

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Sun Editorial:

Redefining Nevada

Legislature, governor failed to see what the state really needs

If there’s any lesson to be learned from the 2013 Legislature, it’s this: Nevada needs to come face-to-face with some basic realities.

Once again, the Legislature and the governor failed to take on some of the key problems facing the state, including an underperforming education system, an antiquated tax structure, and inequitable state support between north and south.

Once again, big issues were largely pushed aside and ignored. When it came to education, there was plenty of noise but little action.

Once again, some political leaders declared this a success.

For example, Gov. Brian Sandoval has trumpeted his education plan with what will surely become a re-election campaign slogan, “better schools and no new taxes.” No new taxes, perhaps, but better schools? How? The state cut $700 million from education funding during the recession, and Sandoval’s budget called for restoring just $120 million of it. Considering that the education budget was already underfunded, we don’t see how this will bring about better schools.

But that was the tale of the 2013 Legislature: plenty of issues but little real action. That can be blamed on any number of things, including term limits, which left the Legislature with all new leadership; the 120-day session, which gives little time for real deliberation; and basic politics, which provides little incentive for those who do want to take bold action.

What shouldn’t be missed, though, is that politics in Nevada is held captive by an outdated view of the state. You’ve heard it said that Nevada is just a small, Western state and thus doesn’t need or can’t afford whatever issue is at hand. Really, all Nevada needs is some common-sense solutions, a little elbow grease and baling wire, and all will be all right.

Carson City seems to be stuck in 1980, when Nevada had a population of around 800,000 people, and the state didn’t need as much governing or government, and Nevada still was a small, Western state.

But that’s no longer the case. Nevada has serious challenges that have grown because they haven’t been confronted. Instead, Nevadans gets incremental fixes and proclamations that things are great.

Nevada has more than tripled in size since 1980 and is now the 35th largest state in the nation. With 2.7 million people, it is almost five times the population of Wyoming and nearly three times the population of Montana. It has almost 1.2 million more residents than Idaho.

Nevada isn’t a rural state anymore, either. Eight of 10 Nevadans live in cities or urban areas with 50,000 or more people. And Las Vegas is a major metropolitan area, with no comparison among the other “small” Western states.

State officials seem to forget that Las Vegas is an international city that attracts more than 39 million visitors from around the world each year. And the folks in Carson City often forget that, unlike 1980, there’s no doubt about where the bulk of the population lives — in the south.

Seven of 10 Nevadans live in Clark County’s cities and urban areas, yet those residents don’t see the same support that other parts of the state get because of a bizarre belief that there has to be equal balance between north and south, as if the populations were equivalent. Nearly three-quarters of the state’s population lives in Clark County, yet you won’t see that in the way the state spends money and dishes out resources. As we have noted before, the per-capita state spending of federal grant money in Washoe County is considerably higher than it is in Clark County.

This isn’t a regional issue, nor is it a matter of political ideology or party; it’s an issue of fairness. And it all comes down to how people see Nevada.

Unfortunately, Nevada’s political class has been captive in a world view that champions that status quo and fails to see a real picture of the state.

That needs to change. The status quo and those who support it continue to fail Nevada.

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  1. Things will change when, like our neighbor, California, Nevada puts a Democrat in the governor's mansion, and when there are bullet proof majorities of Democrats in both houses of the legislature. Only then will the inequities be addressed.

    Although Nevada is a "blue state" nationally, locally, where it counts, we are stuck with a "no new taxes" governor, and Gaming and Mining lobbies that are quite content with the same old same old. There are ways to fund education without continually sticking it to the home owning taxpayers of Clark County. A lottery comes immediately to mind, as our money leaves the state via the Primm state line, to fund California schools. Mining enjoys a 3% net tax burden and are quite happy about it. Gaming and Business lobbies refuse to pick up some slack, and Metro rammed through another increase in sales tax, which is regressive and hurts low income and fixed income families. I see no end to this with the status quo.

  2. Governor Sandoval,
    Please know that the ads and editorials of this obviously biased newspaper are
    not the only ones who vote in this great state. The disgraceful wrap around ads on the front page,and lame editorial writing of people who want to turn Nevada into Taxachussettes are not indicative of the majority of individual Nevadans, Please keep up the good work in your most difficult job.

  3. #Vegas money needs to stay in Vegas. Nevada is Vegas. The $$ comes from here and we need it. The people are here yet 50% of the funds are sent to the north? We cannot continue to be governed by the rural communities who do understand urban lifestyle. We need to keep our money to fund our schools, hire safety personnel, and run our communities. No more Nevada Plan it is a huge Nevada Scam. And our political leaders need to step up and take control of all the leadership roles to make it happen.

  4. This is not about increasing taxes. We can "fully fund" education, but it won't do anyone any good unless the K-12 and Higher Ed funding formulas are restructured to meet today's distribution of population. We can have more money for transportation projects, but what good does it do us if all those projects are going up North?

    Northern politicians vote region first, party second. While there were some improvements this session the fact that the Majority Leader appointed the ONLY Democrat from Washoe County to chair Senate Finance knowing that funding formulae were coming down the pike was a harbinger of the poor leadership we saw later in the session.

    Nothing will change in Nevada until we have someone from Clark County sitting in the Governor's mansion.

  5. In Nevada, the rich get richer, and poor get poorer. Every legislative session makes one thing clear: those who experience "record breaking profits," continue to NOT share the wealth with those who work for those organizations, as the workforce continues to experience stagnant wages or salaries, and now face increased costs of living.

    The question is: WHO benefits from what our Lawmakers legislate?

    It appears that keeping the "status quo" is standard operating procedure for partisan career politicians. They already made up their minds before setting foot into the legislative building. Playing it "safe" gets one REelected. But is all this truly government service for, to, and by the People? Who are these Lawmakers "fighting" for? As every session passes, it becomes apparent that it sure ain't the little guy everyday Citizen. Where are the champions for the little guy everyday Citizen? The silence we all hear is no one stepping forward out of their comfort zones to do the "fight" they were elected to do.

    Someone has to have the guts to help our ailing infrastructure with FAIR funding...that in reality, did NOT happen. With all the wealth in precious natural resources, and in tourism, besides the growing service industry, one would think that Nevada would be having gold plated roads, school desks, and medical services. Instead, it appears to be bottom of the nation on nearly every list. What is going on here?

    The Leadership in Nevada is stuck in political gridlock. We can trace today's problems to decades of career Lawmakers who served/serves their master: political partisanship, coupled with old fashioned horse-trading. Nothing changes but the faces, politics, not.

    God help our country and Nevada. May Divine intervention prevail amongst the decision makers of humanity.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  6. Author, spending more money on schools doesn't get you better schools. Fix the system. Just don't pour money at it. But you can't fix the system until parents begin to parent again....like parents did in the 50s. But that is impossible. So what is the real solution? There isn't one.

  7. Perhaps it's not that the Legislature is ignoring reality. Perhaps they are WAITING FOR THE FEDS TO ENFORCE our immigration laws. Removal of 100,000-plus illegal students in K-12 would free up mega millions of tax revenue for ESSENTIAL services such as mental health, crisis intervention, long-term unemployment....

  8. Spending our tax revenue should be PRIORITIZED for American CITIZENS not all the illegal students and illegal housing vouchers and illegals stealing health care at UMC.

  9. There was too much crowing from legislators over their near successes. Some needed changes were passed on to voters for referendum approval, others left for future action. This is not progress. Particularly in Southern Nevada, until UMC is fully funded, police and school funding is adequate, and we have an equitable share of highway funding, the real work remains undone.

  10. bimmerdude: I'm a senior CITIZEN who sees friends and neighbors who are cold and hungry, senior Americans who've worked and worked and paid and paid while illegals take and take. We give illegals K-12, free housing, free food, free health care while Baby Daddies work sometimes off the books and the Moms wear designer clothes, drive new SUV's, have smart phones and network the Food Bank giveaways. What don't you get. Ripping off the American people by ripping off government programs and non-profit agencies while Americans go without the basics. Many, many Nevadans worked in the service industry for years. Now they get all of $800 a month in SS and perhaps $16 a month in EBT food stamps. They do NOT qualify for the free utilities we give illegals. American seniors are told to not come back to the food banks--while we feed illegals and encourage more to come here.

  11. Bimmer: we have 50 million Hispanics--some through previous amnesties and some currently illegal. They REFUSE TO DO THE MENIAL WORK for which you suggest work Visas. POINTLESS. They won't do the work, not after they get free everything from our governments and non-profits. CCSD says about 55,000 are ELL's (English language learners, vast majority illegals) and another 56,000 who've made it through ELL and are English language "proficient". Therefore about 1/3 of CCSD students are ILLEGALS. Cut K-12 funding by 1/3 and we'd have the revenue to provide ESSENTIAL services to CITIZENS.

  12. Another LAME session from Nevader Lawmakers...

    A continuance of the status quo; Bow to the Corporate Masters! For they wield the power. 'Don't you DARE question how we run this stinking desert outpost! We should CUT our 'contribution' just to prove the point! The BARE minimum! That's how we roll out here, & if you aren't on board with that, HASTA LA VISTA, baby...CAPISH?"

    @ Tanker1975...

    "Because of the Nevada Plan, CCSD gets approximately $5500 per student"...

    I know the tightwads will rail against this, but the GROSS INADEQUACY of this is...mind-boggling.
    Anyone who questions why we're at the bottom of every 'good' list & the top of every 'bad' list is being wilfully ignorant of the facts.

    http://www.nationaljournal.com/thenextam...

    You would think 'smart' people would see the flaw in this most illogical approach to our mucho problemo's...
    It appears that generating maximum profits isn't the most important thing; it's the ONLY thing, regardless of how that thinking is mindless & counter-productive & that ultimately, saving that buck now costs you 2 later.

  13. For Commenter ManFromUncle1: The PERS system invests monies received into STOCKS to generate perpetual funding, so public employees' pensions are reliant on market trends and performance, besides a huge number of public employees also hold investment porfolios in retirement planning. Just so you know, I write during the year on the fly, and will be listening to programs about finance as well as reading, so that multi-tasking practice has left out jotting down financial facts that oft times are short soundbytes (I can't move that fast, nor remember, thanks to fibromyalgia), but since you find it a sticking point, I will make more an effort during the summer break months, when I do further studies. I understand your need for credible information, especially when you invest. NVEnergy is one place that would make sense to invest, especially with Warren Buffet taking it over. They have a hostage public to keep the money flowing into their banks, and minimal losses because Nevada has few natural disasters that dip into profits, unlike their other holdings.

    Bottomline: teachers DO worry about the stock market, because their PERS pensions are invested in it.

    The industries that have a presence here in Nevada that are making such profits are in the gaming and mining industries. Typically, they are expanded to outside Nevada as well. As an example, Gaming has built up and prospered here in Nevada, and now has expanded to other states and internationally on our backs.

    Until Nevada funds based on population, there will be great disparity of services within the infrastructure, and quality of life will be minimal. Our seniors and children are most affected, and their numbers are only growing, while services and goods are not.

    In his post, Commenter Tanker1975 sifts through the facts, with, "In 2013, the enrollment of CCSD is approximately 311,000 students. There are more students in CCSD than the number of residents in Nevada in 1960. In 1970, the population of Nevada was approximately 450,000 people.

    Because of the Nevada Plan, CCSD gets approximately $5500 per student while some of the small rural counties get $15000 per student as a result of the Nevada plan. The Nevada Plan doesn't take into account ELL and Special Education students."

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  14. Changing the funding ratio is do able. The suffering is needless. It is a crime against humanity for Lawmakers to continue using the antiquated,"Nevada Plan" which no longer serves Nevadans fairly. Lawmakers know this, yet refuse to change the funding ratio. SHAME SHAME SHAME

    ALL the People of Nevada only ask is to be treated fairly. Apparently, this is too much to ask of the Government that serves them when it comes to equitable funding. SHAME SHAME SHAME

    We want our young people to grow up and become honorable and productive citizens. But how can they, when they have not a model of reference? They will not know righteousness, justice, nor fairness, thanks to their lifetimes being VOID of such exemplaries. This is what decades of inequity has yielded: generations that know not what is right and just and fair, and that suffering is the normal, acceptable condition.

    This state is shooting itself in the feet, now, and for the future generations to come.

    I can do and hope for the present and future, I have not failed in doing my part. But those governing with the public TRUST most surely have failed their mission when it comes to critical fair funding of the state's infrastructure.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  15. The governor is doing a good job.
    The children need to study and learn and they get a very good opportunity to do that in Nevada.
    The only thing that is hurting is the unions as they would love to steal every dollar for you and give it to the Corrupt Obama administration.