Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2024

Sun editorial:

Targeting county funds

Nevada Legislature goes overboard in quest to fill state budget gaps

While the Nevada Legislature has struggled to solve the state’s budget mess, it has turned Clark County into a convenient scapegoat in what could turn out to be a raid of local government treasuries to generate needed revenue.

As reported Wednesday by Joe Schoenmann and David McGrath Schwartz in the Las Vegas Sun, there are at least eight proposed bills that, if approved, would cost the county big — $343 million total over the next two years. The county would have to absorb the cost of lost property tax revenue coupled with unfunded mandates.

County Commissioner Tom Collins, a former state assemblyman, was right to be concerned when he told the Sun that legislators forget about the roles their budget solutions can play in creating “problems back home” for people who use local government services.

But the county is defenseless under state law against legislative raids because it does not have home rule. With home rule, the county would have more control over its own budget and more flexibility to respond to mandates from Carson City.

Home rule would also force the Legislature to act more responsibly by finding better ways to fix inherent weaknesses in the way state government is funded.

Another advantage of home rule is that in Southern Nevada it would give local government more freedom to respond appropriately to community issues. The way it is now, a lawmaker in Reno or Elko can wield influence over legislation that would be detrimental to the interests of Southern Nevadans.

The Legislature also cannot respond to many community issues in a timely fashion because it meets for only four months every other year.

Those who oppose home rule point out that local governments sometimes waste money. But that’s why local elections are held. A county commissioner or city council member who doesn’t do a good job and ignores the pleas of constituents can be voted out of office.

Realistically, it is probably too late to do anything about it this session, but the Legislature should approve home rule for local governments in 2011.

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