The Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) recently released the 2016 edition of the Nevada Piggy Book. This is good because Nevada taxpayers need to know about government waste, which is an especially important topic while the Legislature is in session. However, it’s also depressing to see these examples of how our hard-earned money is being thrown away by politicians and bureaucrats.
The Piggy Book points out three facts that all taxpayers should keep in mind: First of all, it’s a lot easier to spend money if it comes out of somebody else’s pocket and not your own. All government spending is based on using “other people’s money,” which means there’s little incentive to stay within a budget. Secondly, when politicians talk about needing “more revenue,” they mean more taxes and fees coming from us, the taxpayers. Lastly, Nevada, like the federal government, doesn’t have a revenue problem – it has a spending problem.
One such spending problem is the $12.1 million budgeted for a three-mile stretch of bike path around Lake Tahoe. At $4 million a mile, is this bike path paved with gold? The Piggy Book points out that not all this money comes from Nevada taxpayers, since it receives funding from a federal grant. This simply means taxpayers across the country are being tapped to finance a bike path they’ll never even see.
Another example is a recent audit which revealed that the Nevada Department of Wildlife (DOW) has “a stockpile of unused vehicles.” The audit concluded that if the DOW sold off the vehicles it’s not using, it could reduce expenses by $244,000 a year, and that’s not including the income that would be gained from selling them.
Finally, it’s well known that the average local government worker in Nevada earns 20 percent more than the average worker in the private sector. As the Piggy Book points out, “public sector unions have added to Nevada’s overspending problem for decades.” The Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) gives government employees lifelong pensions at taxpayer’s expense that are far in excess of anything available in the private sector. After 20 years of service, many firefighters and police employees retire and receive full pensions while they’re still in their 40s. The rest of us have to wait till we’re 62 to claim our puny Social Security benefits, but we’re obviously not supported by highly-paid union lobbyists.
The Piggy Book contains several infuriating examples of government employees taking advantage of this system to retire early and claim pensions of more than $100,000 a year, while working full-time at other jobs. Not only is this system way out of line compared to other retirement plans, but it creates a huge unfunded liability for PERS, which may cause taxpayers to be left holding the bag sometime in the not-too-distant future. To top it off, while state law requires that employees pay for half of their retirement benefits, local governments use our tax dollars to pay the entire cost of these benefits for police and firefighters.
All the information in the Piggy Book is well documented and footnoted, and if you want to read more examples or more details, the entire book is available online at NPRI’s website (NPRI.org). The most important thing to keep in mind is that, during the legislative session, you’re sure to hear lots of talk about budget shortfalls and the need for more revenue. This is after the Legislature passed the largest tax increase in Nevada’s history during the 2015 session. Ignore the oinking and remind your elected representatives that you know the difference between a revenue problem and a spending problem.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”