Summarizing the Nevada Legislative Session

Reno Gazette Journal June 23, 2019

The Nevada Legislature has adjourned following its biennial session and several hundred bills have been passed. While it is not possible to summarize all the activities of the four-month session in a short column, this column will attempt to give you a high-level view of the key legislation.

Fancy footwork on taxes: The governor, in his state of the state speech, outlined several spending measures and promised his balanced budget will have no “new taxes”. I guess that depends on the definition of “new”, “tax” and “emergency”. In addition to raiding the “rainy day fund” which is there for an emergency, the governor increased the Modified Business Tax rate, extended the vehicle registration fees, and authorized counties to increase sales tax, all skirting the two-thirds requirement the state legislature needs to raise taxes. The courts will likely decide the legality of this move. This entire argument that increasing the tax rate, or extending a sunsetting tax, is not really a “new” tax is just verbal gymnastics. Using that logic, you can increase the state sales tax from 6.85% to 30%, quadruple the state budget, and still claim that’s not a “new” tax.

Collective bargaining for state employees: Collective bargaining works as follows: unions collect dues and fund campaigns; lawmakers get elected with the help of union funds; lawmakers then turn around and negotiate with the unions and give them lavish raises using taxpayer money. No conflict of interest there! This will increase state spending by $500 million annually when state workers already have better job security and earn 29% more in compensation than identical jobs in the private sector. The governor signed the bill surrounded by union leaders and proclaimed that the unions now have a seat at the table. What the governor failed to mention is that the taxpayers are now on the menu.

Minimum wage hike: The current minimum wage of $8.25 will increase to $12 over five years. This will result in higher prices, lower employment and robots replacing humans. I covered the many reasons why increasing the minimum wage is a bad idea in my column Higher minimum wage lowers incentive for college in March 2017.

Office of New Americans: Nevada now has a new “Office of New Americans”. Explain to me again why we are spending money to assist illegal immigrants who are not supposed to be here in the first place? While you are at it, tell me why these “New Americans” keep waving other nation’s flags on our streets?

Expansion of “prevailing wages”: “Prevailing wages”, which is a fake term for overpaying employees on government contracts by an average of 45%, were expanded. If you are an iron worker, your average pay is $26.25 an hour. But if you are doing the same job for a school building, you will get paid $56.74. This is the difference between conservatives and liberals: conservatives are frugal with taxpayer money like it were their own; liberals spend it like it is someone else’s.

One final point: At the federal level, the legislative branch which did not want to make the tough decisions, has surrendered its responsibility to the executive branch (e.g. immigration crisis), and in some cases, to the judicial branch (e.g. Roe v Wade). A similar dynamic is at play at the state level. When the legislature approved the new school funding formula, it gave the governor inordinate amount of flexibility. A similar approach was taken to collective bargaining for state employees. This is nothing short of an abdication of responsibility by the legislative branch. The liberals will come to regret this precedent when there is a Republican governor.