January 19, 2021 - 9:00 pm
Nevada’s pandemic budget hole isn’t nearly as bad as anticipated last spring, given that Gov. Steve Sisolak’s proposed spending plan would cut outlays by a mere 2 percent over the next two-year cycle. While final revenue projections are months off, the public sector has — all in all — fared much better than the private-sector that funds it.
The governor’s budget — announced last night in his State of the State address — is a tacit admission that lawmakers need not raise taxes. The spending “cut” is largely illusory if you dig deeper into the details and is hardly a catastrophe considering how many small businesses have suffered, if they’ve survived at all. Yet Gov. Sisolak continues to straddle the fence on “revenue enhancements,” refusing to rule them out when they shouldn’t be in the building let alone on the table. Indeed, the objective of the 2021 legislative session that convenes Feb. 1 must be to revive the Nevada economy by encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation, while seeking to ensure the state remains the nation’s premier gaming and entertainment destination.
Unfortunately, a look at the nearly 900 bill draft requests submitted in Carson City so far reveals that the temptation to stray from this objective has overtaken a great many lawmakers. As the state attempts to rebound from nearly a year of economic restrictions and consumer reticence, the Legislature sits poised to waste precious time meddling in virtually every human activity.
There are bill proposals dealing with hundreds of subjects, including falconry, mobile homes, noxious weeds, restroom access, massage therapists, food delivery, youth sports and the “sale of egg products.” There is legislation being drawn up for a Student Loan Bill of Rights, an English Language Learner Bill of Rights and to promote “pay equity.” There’s even a proposal to revise “provisions governing actions concerning persons,” whatever that means.
As for taxes, there are a few vague hints at potential increases, including a measure to impose a levy “on the retail sale of certain digital products.” But the most nefarious scheme — put forth by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas — seeks a constitutional amendment to dilute the requirement that tax hikes be approved by a two-thirds legislative majority, exempting education-related levies from the mandate. This idea deserves the Old Yeller treatment.
It’s true that many of these bill draft requests will never be considered, let alone become law. But if ever there were a legislative gathering that demanded a single-minded focus, it is the looming 2021 session. And that focus must be on economic revival, not tax hikes, restroom access, noxious weeds or falconry.