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|SEVEN BILLION IN SPENDING, AND IT'S ALL FOR FREE!
Nevada lawmakers, due to convene in early February for the 2007 legislative session, have big plans for lots of expensive new government programs -- but vow that no tax hikes will be needed to fund them.
Wow. Talk about an offer we can’t refuse! It sounds like one of those old-time television game shows, where contestants get to race around the supermarket, helping themselves to as much stuff as they can throw into their carts, until the buzzer sounds. Lace on those track shoes, ladies!
Top of the list is a mandatory program to round up all of Nevada’s children and lock them away from the subversive influence of their biological parents in day-long tax-funded baby-sitting centers not at the age of 6 (which is bad enough), but at the age of 5. (This program borrows the Prussian name “kindergarten,” meaning not a garden in which children play, but rather a garden in which children are planted in evenly-spaced rows, the better to grow them into uniform and obedient subjects of the state.)
Teacher salaries? Have to go up, of course. The squealing chorus that first-year teachers can’t yet buy new $500,000 homes in the posh suburbs of Summerlin or Green Valley during their first month in town shows no sign of relenting.
Social workers to take children away from poor parents who don’t meet the state’s standards? Gotta have more of those, baby.
High-priority highway construction projects face a $3.8 billion funding shortfall. The obvious solution is to shift all sales tax receipts from vehicle sales and repairs from the state general fund to a highway construction fund, though a few lawmakers of both parties will probably also try to slip in higher charges for driver’s licenses when no one is looking. If caught, they’ll look as innocent as the kid standing next to the broken cookie jar, asking “Tax? Is that a tax? Says who?”
Then there’s the huge, long-term liability of up to $4.1 billion to fund lifetime “free” health care benefits for current and future state government workers.
Beginning in fiscal 2007, all states must report such unfunded liabilities, and Wall Street bond-rating agencies will be taking note. If a state doesn’t take action to reduce them, those agencies could downgrade its rating.
Covering just the recognized unfunded liability could cost more than $200 million per year for 30 years. The growth of this gorilla in the closet could have been reduced somewhat if lawmakers had embraced outgoing Gov. Kenny Guinn’s proposal to stop offering free lifetime health care to new state hires. But the public employee unions said no, and lawmakers in Carson City promptly said “Yes, sir” not to the governor, but to their real bosses in the Nevada State Education Association and the Service Employees International Union.
Then, of course, there will be the inevitable proposal for the state of Nevada to mandate and/or fund total socialized medicine, on the model of Canada, Massachusetts, and the former Soviet Union.
“Providing health care benefits to workers and kids is absolutely paramount,” explains Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, who channels Marx, Lenin, and FDR interchangeably at Democratic seances. “That’s going to be the biggest issue our state has to grapple with in the next session.”
Add it all up, and it starts to look like a $7 billion spending package -- for a state that’s still one of the least populous in the nation.
Can all this be done without immediately raising taxes? With enough short-term creative bookkeeping, sure.
Why? Because -- abetted by a treasonous state Supreme Court that said lawmakers could ignore a constitutional limitation that stipulates taxes can’t be raised without a two-thirds vote -- the 2003 Legislature enacted such a whopping, unequal, unnecessary and counterproductive mess of tax hikes (a fee on each bank branch? Do we want fewer nuisance bank branches?) that the state is still awash in excess revenue nearly four years later, despite the best efforts of the 2005 Legislature to spend this ill-gotten loot as fast as they could.
The plan now, for the big-spenders of both parties (just listen to Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio whimper about how the state’s statutory spending cap will now begin to “take away” money he could otherwise spend) is to use the remaining glut of surplus tax receipts to put “down payments” on numerous new programs (see list above), without any concern for how they’ll be funded in future.
Once in place, my crystal ball tells me, these programs will defy all expectations by immediately start to grow, costing far more than currently projected.
Then, when the 2009 Legislature realizes it no longer has enough money to fund all this stuff, will our delegates say, “Gee, too bad. I guess we have to give up this mandatory all-day incarceration of Nevada’s 5-year-olds, starting tomorrow”?
Ha! Instead, they’ll play Name That Tune, and the familiar melody will sound an awful lot like “These greedy taxpayers just aren’t ‘contributing’ enough to meet all our ‘underfunded needs.’ Our only choice now is to ...”
To what? Anyone?