Want a handout? Raise taxes

Let's stop using the word "stimulus" to describe the overflowing septic tank that's seeping through the hallways of Congress. Its sole purpose isn't to stimulate the economy, but to beef up government budgets, purchase the loyalty of dependent constituencies and leverage even more spending by the drunken sailors who've run their state operations ashore.

That liberal federal lawmakers are willing to lead President Obama's full-court press for the debt-funded welfare giveaway isn't surprising. That they've brought state legislators onto the bandwagon is shamefully audacious.

The Nevada Legislature has been in regular session for only one week, and already lawmakers are leaping to conclusions that not only do they know for certain what's inside the pork-laden monstrosity, but that the state will have to increase taxes to get its cut of the lard.

In a joint statement issued Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, and Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said Gov. Jim Gibbons' public schools and higher education budgets need to be bolstered by at least $550 million to make Nevada eligible for up to $1.3 billion in federal handouts.

"In order to qualify for the money, we are going to have to change the governor's proposal," Sen. Horsford said.

Yeah, that's the ticket! For months, Nevada Democrats have been building opposition to the governor's budget, saying it needs an undetermined amount of additional revenue but never specifying that it will take tax increases to make the money magically appear.

But now comes salvation in the form of the federal stimulus -- scratch that -- "stabilization grants." Nationwide, states that overspent during better times this decade now have hats in hand, hoping for billions upon billions of dollars to augment teacher and professor salaries and benefits, subsidize health care for the middle class and provide cool makeovers for public buildings. That's a foundation for recovery if we've ever seen one.

Now the Democrats' pitch amounts to this: Instead of raising your taxes a ton now, we'll raise your taxes a lot now and a lot later, and your children can repay the federal government the balance -- plus two decades of interest -- when they grow up.

In a Friday conference call with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., state Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, sounded surprisingly conservative in pointing out that recession-ravaged Nevada doesn't have the dough Congress supposedly wants spent.

"We don't have funding, particularly for education," Sen. Raggio said in a berating tone, calling Congress' social engineering experiment a "so-called sound stimulus package."

"We can't be required to give what we don't have for funding."

"You are crying wolf before the wolf is at the door," Sen. Reid snarled back.

But the wolf certainly is on the prowl. The Legislature's majority Democrats won't let Gov. Gibbons' two-year, $6.17 billion budget stand. And if Sen. Reid can offer help in getting the tax increases they need to avoid state worker pay cuts, layoffs and university system cuts, he'll do it.

Sen. Horsford deserves some credit for at least pointing out the budgetary burdens that would be created by taking federal funding.

"We need to ensure that the funding is there once the stimulus is gone," he said. "But I have not heard from anyone in the private sector that we will get back to a 2007 economy anytime soon."

Exactly. This isn't a sweet deal for Nevadans. It's a deal with the devil, one that takes state spending to economically unsustainable levels and ensures budget calamities become a biennial affair.

Gov. Gibbons' communications director, Daniel Burns, nailed it when he said Democrats were using a "scare tactic" to justify their desire to raise taxes. "All these numbers are subject to interpretation, and our budget office is discussing them. Some of this stuff changes every day."

Unfortunately, Nevada Democrats' cries for increased spending never change.