There is no finer example of legislation rewarding dysfunction than Assembly Bill 503 — better known as the North Las Vegas bailout.
The city is a fiscal and political disaster area, devastated by the Great Recession, then scorched anew by the political battles over how to survive downturn-driven revenue declines. Services have been slashed. Resolving the city’s $18 million deficit for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is dependent on police and firefighters agreeing to forgo pay raises.
AB503 would allow the city to raid an enterprise fund for sewer repairs and upkeep. The money would be used to restore police, fire, recreation and library services and settle legal disputes with unions. Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, acknowledged that this “loan” probably won’t be paid back.
What happens when the city’s sewer needs repairs and maintenance? Ask the Clark County School District, which has seen its already-inadequate maintenance budget cut back time and again. Stuff that breaks doesn’t get fixed. And taxpayers are asked to hand over more money.
If the city can’t get its house in order, the state could be forced to take over North Las Vegas government. AB503 appears to be the city’s Hail Mary, a last-minute bill to avoid more tough decisions.
Like every other local government in Southern Nevada, North Las Vegas has a payroll crisis, not a budget crisis. Its police and firefighters are among the best-paid public employees in the country. According to 2012 salary data provided to the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s TransparentNevada.com, 180 of the city’s 200 highest-paid employees are public safety workers. All received at least $176,000 in total compensation. More than half received at least $200,000. The other 20 top-paid employees were department heads, city administrators and judges.
There must be no bailout for North Las Vegas. If the city’s public safety workers won’t help the government live within its means, let the state take over — and make the city start over with salaries it can sustain.