EDITORIAL: Promoting opportunity

There’s no shortage of talk about how low Nevada rates against the rest of the United States in many key areas. When good news comes around, it’s often not trumpeted as loudly as it deserves to be.

Such is the case with the latest Rich State, Poor State rankings published earlier this year by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

For the fourth straight year, the Silver State ranks among the top 15 in the nation, checking in at No. 14 in ALEC’s economic outlook rankings. The ranking is a forecast based on a state’s current standing in 15 state policy variables, according to report authors Arthur B. Laffer, Jonathan Williams and Stephen Moore. Each factor, they write, is directly influenced by state lawmakers through the legislative process, with states that spend less and states that tax less — particularly on productive activities such as working or investing — experiencing higher growth rates than states that tax and spend more.

Shocking, isn’t it?

Utah, North Carolina, North Dakota, Wyoming and Arizona make up the top five. Equally unshocking are the states in the bottom 10, including high-tax and regulatory havens such as Illinois (43), California (46) and New York, which checks in dead last at No. 50.

Taking into account a 2015 report by The Washington Post’s Niraj Chokshi, many states at the top of the rankings identify as Republican to varying degrees (Utah, North Dakota, Wyoming) or at the very least competitive, leaning neither Republican nor Democratic (Nevada and Arizona, among others). Conversely, the bottom is loaded with Democratic-leaning states, including deep-blue Illinois, California and New York.

Nevada can be particularly proud of its current position when one looks back on its cumulative performance ranking from 2004 to 2014, with the state sitting at No. 28.

However, such economic prosperity is never more than a couple legislative actions or an election away from disappearing, and in fact, slippage is already occurring in Nevada. In the 2012 Rich State, Poor State rankings, Nevada was 18th; it then moved to 13th in 2013, plowed into the top 10 at No. 8 in 2014 and remained a very respectable 10th last year. So while the latest ranking is nothing to be ashamed of, it does represent a noticeable drop.

As the state continues to emerge from the housing crash and the Great Recession, Nevada would be wise to emulate its two neighbors in the top five — Utah and Arizona — while eschewing the economic failings of California and so many others. It is incumbent on state legislators to continue promoting policies that encourage businesses to open and grow, expanding economic opportunity for all Nevadans.

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