Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010 | 2:01 a.m.
Power to the people! Except the people of Southern Nevada.
I can’t tell you how many years — and more so this year than ever — I have heard the cries of so-called conservatives throughout this state against our federal government taking taxes from Nevada and redistributing them across this great country, sending some but not all of them back to Nevada.
Forget why this happens — that is a long conversation about the way we value things where we live — and instead focus on the concept that local government, not Washington, knows best how to spend its money. For the most part, I believe that.
The problem is that some who are screaming the loudest — often the ones who call themselves conservatives but who really aren’t — don’t believe a word of what they say. I know, you want me to explain what I just said. OK, here goes.
If it is true that Washington knows less about how to spend our money than we do in Nevada, it follows that Carson City knows less about how to spend our money than we do in Clark County. So, one might ask, why do we send the vast majority of the tax dollars raised in this state up to Carson City knowing that only a portion will come back to take care of the needs of the people here?
That has been the case forever. In part, there is good reason to make sure that all parts of Nevada have the resources to grow and prosper. If we have an abundance of money, we should be willing to share it because a healthy state is in all of our interests. That is the good part.
The rest of the story is that for decades, even though the population base has been centered in the South, the power base has been centered squarely up North. When we elect governors and other state officials from the North, we should not be surprised when they favor the areas from which they come to the detriment of the rest of the state. However much they mouth the right words — with a few exceptions — it is human nature to have a bias toward that which you know and love. OK, we can understand that, and when we continue to elect Northerners, we know what we are getting ourselves into.
But something else is at play that is far more insidious. There has been a decades-long effort by politicians from the northern part of the state to consolidate power up there. This consolidation has come in many forms: formulas for sharing tax dollars; geography of state offices and concomitant, entrenched bias toward helping first the place where they live; and an out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude of those of us who live so far away from the seat of power. The political shenanigans slowly and inexorably shift our local dollars to the state, removing from us the ability to govern ourselves best at the local level.
In good times, sending a few extra dollars from Las Vegas to the rest of the state didn’t mean much. It was the right thing to do — and who paid attention if they got more than their share and we got less? There was plenty to go around. That isn’t the case now.
Every time there is a budget cut, we in Clark County feel it much worse than those across Nevada because the system is designed to work that way. It has always been a wonder to me why elected officials from Southern Nevada never stood together to make sure we got enough of our own money back to allow us to grow and prosper properly.
But now there is even more reason to wonder.
There is a buzz in Carson City (it’s more than a rumor) that a certain term-limited and very powerful state senator is quietly planning one last push to ensure that the status quo — the one in which the North continues to leech from the South — continues long after he rides off into the political sunset this year.
And, if that happens, those of us in Clark County, where the vast majority of the people live and work and pay taxes, will continue not only to be shortchanged by Carson City but also to be hurt in our quest to grow and prosper using resources derived from our own hands.
That sounds like a communist plot — and it is. And it is being devised and supported by conservatives in the North who decry redistribution but, apparently, only when it suits an election campaign.
Let’s talk about reapportionment. Even with the stalled growth in Las Vegas lately, Clark County will have grown by 700,000 people in the past 10 years. That is an overwhelming majority of the statewide growth and a number sure to dictate increased seats in the Senate and Assembly and on the Board of Regents in favor of Clark County. That means the power shift to the South will be palpable, and the days of Northern control over our money and our lives will end. Unless ...
Unless there is a secret plan to add seats to the Legislature and the Board of Regents, which would mitigate any adverse effects that reapportionment will cause. Those northern conservatives — the ones who scream about the power Washington displays over Nevada — are the same people who want to consolidate more power and more public employees in Carson City so they can exert more power over those of us at the local level.
At a time of major economic stress, conservatives in Northern Nevada think what is best is to hire public employees in Carson City, while they give political speeches favoring smaller government? They propose to add members to the Board of Regents while they cry out for increased cuts in higher education? Does anyone else see the irony? Does anyone else feel how stupid these folks must think we are? Are we?
Rather than expand state government, we should be shrinking it. Rather than adding regents, we should be cutting them back. Why do we need 13 regents to deal with what should be only four institutions of higher learning? The community colleges should be placed under county control as they are in places such as Arizona — which works very efficiently.
And while on the subject of universities, one proposal from the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group was to allow universities to keep out-of-state tuition for use at the institutions that are providing the education. What a brilliant idea! You mean that hasn’t been the case? Not in Nevada! Not in a state where the cards are stacked in favor of the north to the detriment of Las Vegas.
Right now the state takes all that money and gives only a little bit back to universities. The rest goes to pave roads or build prisons. No wonder UNLV is hurting. Out-of-state students pay more tuition at UNLV and actually believe they get more. What they and their parents get is the shaft! And UNLV gets to diminish its dream of becoming a first-rate university.
Education is one area in which this incubating plan to stack the deck against Las Vegas will diminish our futures in Southern Nevada. As time goes by, we will talk about others.
It is time for Nevadans, especially those of us who live and work in Clark County, to wake up and smell the odor that emanates from those who claim to be the conservative North. This is nothing more than a money and power grab and we have allowed ourselves to be the suckers.
Haven’t you had enough yet?