As the state forages beneath the couch cushions for every bit of pocket change it can find to eke out its biennial budget, there is one expenditure the governor should immediately consider cutting.
In his State of the State speech on Jan. 24, Gov. Brian Sandoval said the budget he presented to the Legislature contains spending to prepare for compliance with the national health care reform law, even though he considers the law unconstitutional and vowed to continue to fight to assure it is overturned.
"In the meantime, however," said Gov. Sandoval, a former federal judge, "the law imposes many deadlines, and we cannot wait until litigation is resolved. We must plan for a major expansion of Medicaid, which may cost Nevadans $574 million between 2014 and 2019. We must also plan for a Health Insurance Exchange so that we -- and not the federal government -- control the program. My budget includes funding to address these issues."
But a week later, a federal judge in Florida in fact declared the law unconstitutional.
Even though White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, "Implementation of the health care bill rightly continues to move forward as the law of the land," the judge's ruling clearly indicates this is not the case.
In fact, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson wrote that he declined to issue a requested injunction to halt enforcement of the law because his ruling was the "functional equivalent of an injunction."
Judge Vinson quoted an opinion from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia written when he was on the District of Columbia Circuit Court. "Declaratory judgment is, in a context such as this where federal officers are defendants, the practical equivalent of specific relief such as an injunction since it must be presumed that federal officers will adhere to the law as declared by the court," Justice Scalia wrote.
So Judge Vinson concluded, "There is no reason to conclude that this presumption should not apply here.
"Thus, the award of declaratory relief is adequate and separate injunctive relief is not necessary."
So there is no law with which to comply. It is null and void, as though it never existed in the first place. Why spend money preparing to implement a law that has been wiped off the books? There are no deadlines to meet, no health exchanges to set up. There is no need to continue to pay consultants.