Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009 | 2:08 a.m.
Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., has been an outspoken critic of the stimulus bill and voted against the plan that passed the Senate on Tuesday. As part of his criticism, he has targeted a provision in the bill that would send money to state governments — including Nevada — to keep them solvent.
On “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Ensign said the provision would allow states to overspend.
“It sends the money to the states, and not only do we have them not have to make the tough cuts that they should be making, we actually encourage them to spend more because to be able to get the money, they have to spend more,” Ensign complained. “And this just encourages more wasteful spending.”
As David McGrath Schwartz reported in Tuesday’s Las Vegas Sun, Ensign has called Nevada’s spending “obscene.” That may come as a shock to many Nevadans whom Ensign represents, including Republicans.
State Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, said in more than 25 years in the Senate, “very rarely have I seen wasteful spending.”
This year that is painfully obvious. The budget that Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons presented to the Legislature gutted state spending — beyond the typical bare-bones proposal. Gibbons and lawmakers are hoping for stimulus money to keep the state from having to slash education and other critical services.
What the Republican ideologues in Congress have failed to understand is the magnitude of the economic recession in their home states. The Legislature is trying to deal with a $2.3 billion deficit that threatens to decimate necessary services in Nevada.
“The notion that we have some kind of fat, bloated budget that can be trimmed is simply wrong,” Gibbons’ spokesman Dan Burns said. “The budget we have submitted is bare bones. We make cuts we don’t want to make.”
Indeed. Ensign and his fellow Senate objectors should put their ideology down and listen to their constituents who are hurting. They’ll find that people need the type of help found in the stimulus bill, not political rhetoric.