Don’t balance budget on backs of state workers

To the editor:

I read with great interest your Dec. 14 editorial ” ‘The money we have is finite.’ ” As a state employee, one of those poised to get the 5 percent step raise and the cost-of-living increase, I was encouraged to see how well state employees were being compensated. Although it is more than likely this will be last COLA we receive for some time.

I was unaware I was doing so well, so I compared paychecks, and you are correct in your article. My monthly gross income went up a whopping $180 a month during the 2006 to 2007 period, and even more encouraging, and by $266, $1.47 per hour, between 2007 and 2008. Of course, my contribution to medical care and retirement went up also.

I knew the pay scale when I accepted the position, and I am not complaining. But, please, do not make it seem as if we are getting fat on our compensation. Many state employees work two jobs to make ends meet.

I did, however, find it very interesting that over the same period of time, from 2007 to 2008, the gaming industry in Nevada had an increase in its win on table games of 13.44 percent and 6.13 percent on slots. And, from 2003 until 2007, its win was up 54.57 percent on table games and 31.07 percent on slots. Even when you factor in the drop in 2008 of 10.41 percent and 6.63 percent, respectively, they did a little better than the employees of the great state of Nevada over the same period of time. All this data can be found at the state of Nevada Gaming Control Board’s Web site.

It is also interesting that Nevada’s 6.75 percent levy on large casinos is indeed the nation’s lowest. Casinos in Atlantic City, the No. 2 U.S. gambling market, pay 9.25 percent. Mississippi gambling resorts pay a rate of 24 percent, and Pennsylvania’s new casinos pay more than half of their gambling revenue to the state. This information can be found on the Reuters Web site.

I also discovered that the mining industry in Nevada, which supplies 75 percent of the nation’s gold, and 10 percent of the world’s, pay a 1 percent tax on the gross. This after paying less than $10,000 for land containing an estimated $8.4 billion worth of gold, at today’s prices.

It costs Barrick an average of $459.33 to mine each ounce of gold from seven of their sites in Nevada, and the current price is $819 an ounce — a handsome profit one might say. Barrick alone mined, in 2008, almost 2.5 billion ounces of gold in Nevada. And by its estimate, 29 billion ounces are still in the ground.

Remember, that is only one mining operation among many operating in Nevada. And it should be mentioned, very little of that stays in Nevada. This information can be verified on the Barrick Mining Web site.

I am certainly not the coldest beer in the fridge, but it seems to me that if we raised the gaming tax by 1.5 percentage points, generating about $200 million in tax dollars each year, and still remaining the state with the lowest gaming tax in American, and raised the mining tax to something a little more reasonable, much of the state’s budget woes would be solved. We may even be able to pay our teachers, who are responsible for the future of our state, a wage that would attract the best possible candidates.

As most of us know, you get what you pay for. The next time you go to a state agency and are less than satisfied with the service; remember where your state went to save Nevada from its budget problems.

Currently, the Nevada DMV, everyone’s favorite state agency, has more than 60 vacant positions, so while you wait, count the empty windows. But remember, it is not the employee who is working that is the cause for your long waits. Then-Gov. Kenny Guinn mandated full coverage for all work stations to service the public. When he left, so did that program.

It seems as if every time there is a budget problem, state employee pay is revisited. And the burden is placed on the people who can afford it the least and are impacted the most.

Taking a 5 percent “step” raise from a state employee in my range amounts to $160 a month, or 88 cents an hour before taxes, the increase in my medical co-pay and the increase in the contribution to retirement. And that, according to your editorial, will balance Nevada’s budget?

Michael S. Voorhees

LAS VEGAS

Unrepentant whining

To the editor:

In his Monday letter to the editor, “Federal judges behind on pay,” U.S. District Judge Lloyd George gives accolades to Nevada Sen. Harry Reid for his heroic stance on making sure our poor underpaid judges receive their cost-of-living raise. He goes on to say that the judges are not the only federal employees who deserve the increase.

First of all, Sen. Reid should not have buried the pay raise in the bailout bill. It should have stood on its own merits in the light of day. Second, I pulled up the congressional report on federal salaries. The lowest-paid judge is compensated more than $150,000 plus benefits. The lowest paid Nevada circuit court judge gets $144,000. All of them have received cost-of-living increases for years.

At a time when Nevadans and, yes, the folks across the rest of the country are having a hard time keeping a job, let alone receive a cost-of-living increase, I find it hard to sympathize with Judge George and his crusade for underpaid judges. He is whining with a loaf of bread under each arm while the taxpayers who subsidize him must be satisfied with crumbs.

Ron Moers

HENDERSON

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