Taking a pay cut

The sky-is-falling rhetoric in response to Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed state budget cuts is as overdone as a grade-school hamburger patty.

Spending reductions for most agencies and 5 percent pay cuts for state employees are nothing to celebrate, and will not be without some consequence for thousands of Nevadans. Everyone understands that.

But Thursday's remarks from Democratic Controller Kim Wallin seem a bit exaggerated.

Ms. Wallin, who just started her second term as the state's chief financial officer, told the Senate Finance Committee that if 5 percent pay cuts are imposed, "Some of my staff at the very low end may end up needing public assistance, so I don't see where we are saving any money." She said at least five of her 45 employees are paid less than $30,000 annually.

Considering Nevada leads the nation with an unemployment rate near 15 percent, if anyone fortunate enough to have a job that pays close to $30,000 per year with great benefits is eligible for welfare, no wonder the state is broke.

Ms. Wallin is an accountant by trade, and a very good one at that, so she should be able to do the math. If someone who is paid $29,000 per year takes a 5 percent pay cut, that's a $1,450 reduction -- about $120 a month.

Yes, it will hurt. In this economy, every dollar is precious.

But the assertion that such a pay cut will send the employee onto the government dole must be considered against the backdrop of the thousands of Nevada private-sector employees who have not only accepted pay cuts, but lost their jobs entirely and now struggle with shattered livelihoods and foreclosed homes. Businesses have been shuttered. Saving accounts emptied. Entrepreneurs who are working 60-hour weeks and taking home nothing so they can make payroll.

No doubt Ms. Wallin is trying to boost her office's morale and let her staff know she is fighting for them. But let's not forget that her staff, along with all other state employees, got 4 percent raises less than three years ago amidst a full-blown recession. Gov. Sandoval's plan merely rolls back that raise.

The fact is, if Gov. Sandoval's budget becomes law and state workers must make sacrifices, they'll still have nothing on the taxpaying public.