The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz
Website: Liberty Book Shop
One after another, the major gubernatorial candidates of both parties who oppose state Sen. Bob Beers’ modest “Tax and Spending Control” initiative have trouped through the Review-Journal editorial offices this summer, insisting the proposed constitutional amendment to limit government growth is not necessary, because of an obscure 1979 state law that -- guess what -- limits the growth of state expenditures to no more than inflation plus population growth.

But the expenditure limit approved by the 1979 Legislature -- the one they’re referring to -- set the 1975-1977 biennium as the base period for measuring state spending.

Thus, “Because of high inflation rates in the late ’70s and ’80s combined with nearly double digit population growth, the state has never hit the statutory cap in NRS 353.213,” the Nevada Appeal reported last month -- despite the fact Nevada state government has grown at a rate of 12 to 15 percent per year over the past five years. “As a result, most people -- including legislators -- don’t know it exists.”

More to the point, Geoff Dornan of the Appeal’s capitol bureau reports, “The Legislature itself does not have to abide by the cap, according to a legislative analysis.”

Want some indication of whether TASC and an accompanying initiative to ban the use of eminent domain to seize private lands and turn them over to the politicians’ wealthy friends -- the People’s Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Lands -- would have more real impact than some “we-promise, cross-our-hearts” 1979 statute? Just look at the level of irrational panic seizing the political establishment as they face the prospect of constitutional amendments that would really have some bite.

Last year, Gov. Kenny Guinn appointed a special “blue ribbon task force” to recommend ways to cover a potential $4 billion shortfall in highway construction funds between now and 2015. Hardly a group that one would expect to be involved in debating TASC and PISTOL.

But Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, who last week filed a lawsuit attempting to keep voters from even casting ballots on PISTOL come November (Democracy? Not in my town), sits on that blue ribbon panel. And Commissioner Woodbury is upset.

At Thursday’s meeting of the group, he and Carole Vilardo of the Nevada Taxpayers Association -- which might be better dubbed the Nevada Tax Us And We’ll Pay Association -- urged their cohorts to come out against both TASC and PISTOL.

A lawyer with the state attorney general’s office warned the group they would have to place such a vote on a future agenda if they wanted it to be considered as official policy.

But Mr. Woodbury and Ms. Vilardo would brook no delay.

The November election “is not that far off,” fumed Mr. Woodbury, whose privileges are being threatened by mere peasants. “If we are going to be relevant, it is time to do something!”

“I don’t think it is time to waffle on this issue,” agreed Ms. Vilardo.

Seized with urgency, the panel voted 12-2 -- unofficially, of course -- to recommend that the state Transportation Board oppose both TASC and PISTOL.

Why? Earlier in the meeting, state Transportation Director Jeff Fontaine said passage of TASC might force the state to hold statewide elections before it could issue bonds to build highway projects.

But that claim is absurd on its face. TASC does not call for every state expenditure or bond issue to go before the voters. That’s a lie. TASC is closely based on Colorado’s Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, and it’s had no such effect there, according to sponsor Bob Beers and TASC Executive Director Bob Adney, both of whom say the state transportation fund would not be affected by TASC.

TASC merely sets a rising cap for government expenditures. Legislators remain free to allocate those adequate and growing revenues as they see fit, without going to a vote of the people on anything. A popular vote on a specific spending proposal would be required only if lawmakers refuse to live within their means, and insist on seeking permission to “bust the cap.”

And what about PISTOL? That amendment might increase the price the Transportation Department must pay to acquire rights of way for highways, Mr. Fontaine told the group.

But only if NDOT has been cheating land owners -- paying them less than fair market value.

There’s little indication NDOT does much of that -- most land seizures for highway projects go unopposed. Nor would the main thrust of PISTOL -- allowing land owners to seek jury trials if they believe their lands are being seized for something other than a real “public use” -- have much impact on NDOT. No one denies bridges and highways are legitimate “public uses.”

The objections are strained, exaggerated and ridiculous. What’s really going on here is that these members of the established political elite have had it their way for years, patting the poor peasants on the head and telling them “Trust us; we’ll protect your rights.”

Now, though -- now that hundreds of thousands of Nevadans have gotten fed up and are demanding that the people’s rights to their property and most of their earnings REALLY be protected against an insatiable ruling class -- this gang is rushing around like a nest of termites when someone picks up their rock.