Some observers -- count us among them -- are concerned that the 2011 legislative session will be a repeat of 2009. That the slim majority of Nevada legislators who feel more beholden to the public-sector unions than to the taxpayers will wait till the last minute to spring on an unsuspecting public a bigger budget and new tax hikes, without allowing any time for the public to review and debate the likely economic impacts of such potentially disastrous steps.
The fact legislative Democrats remain noncommittal when it comes to proposing their own spending or tax plan -- preferring instead to criticize GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval's $5.8 billion blueprint as insufficient -- doesn't inspire confidence that such last-second chicanery can be avoided.
But Assembly Speaker John Oceguera insisted last week that the budget process will play out in perfectly normal fashion. Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, simply need time, he said, to go through the governor's proposal in detail before reaching specific conclusions.
"There are some things we can see right off the top" that need to be changed in the governor's budget, Mr. Oceguera said in an interview with the Review-Journal editorial board. "Some of the education cuts are too deep. ... Low taxes isn't the only thing that attracts businesses to the state. ... They tell me they don't come because of our bad education system."
So there will be tax hikes?
"We need to go through the process" of reviewing the budget, Mr. Oceguera answered. "In the next several months, if we need more revenue, you'll see proposals."
But Mr. Oceguera wouldn't commit to any timeline, meaning it's entirely possible that, once again, voters and taxpayers will have precious little time to consider and debate these proposals before the session's end.
We've seen the results of previous last-minute budget revisions with more taxes and regulations piled on the backs of long-suffering Nevada businesses -- businesses that continue to throw in the towel and close at an alarming rate. Cobbled together and enacted late at night, unread, without any thorough airing of their likely impacts, such enactments are the essence of bad government, with costs paid in years of dreary recession.
The very least Nevadans can now request of their lawmakers is that, like physicians, they first do no harm.