(Chuck Muth) – Las Vegas Sun reporter Richard Velotta inked a story on Friday that every gubernatorial candidate ought to read. Twice. Or more. The story explains how gaming giant Harrah’s avoided bankruptcy in the “Great Recession” by deploying “time-honored formulas of hard-nosed cost-cutting and getting back to basics.”
“Jan Jones, Harrah’s senior vice president of communications and government relations, recalled how she tried to fight dramatic cuts to her budget in 2008 by arguing her case with CEO Gary Lovemen,” Velotta reports. However, Lovemen didn’t buy it or budge.
“These are your numbers,” the CEO told Jones. “Make them work.”
And she did. So did the rest of the company. In fact, Velotta reports that in just nine months, “Harrah’s cut $550 million in annual costs.”
“Looking back at it,” Jones says of Lovemen’s tough love intransigence over budget cuts, “I know now that it really took a leader who was saying, ‘Hey, get over it.’”
And that’s exactly the attitude the governor of Nevada will need to take into the 2011 legislative session.
As we saw in the just-concluded special session, the majority of state legislators bent over backwards to avoid the dramatic but necessary budget cuts required by the ongoing Great Recession.
Instead, they raided local government piggy banks and hiked taxes and fees so as to avoid eliminating unnecessary programs, commissions and agencies (hello, Equal Rights Commission!), dramatically reducing public employee salaries (hello, Clark County firefighters!), laying off large numbers of non-essential government workers (hello, Department of Cultural Affairs!), and scaling back obscenely generous health care and retirement benefits (see, “SAGE Commission”).
Whoever the governor is next January, he’s gonna have to submit an extremely lean, fiscally responsible budget that doesn’t ask the government to do more with less, but demand that it do less with less. In other words, get back to basics. Only do those things which are truly essential and legitimate functions of government.
That also means getting rid of the cost-inflating organized labor welfare program known as “prevailing wage,” as well as dramatic reforms, if not outright repeal, of collective bargaining for government employees.
Legislators will, of course, throw a temper tantrum along the lines of Violet Beauregarde being told she can’t have an Oompa-Loompa. To which the next Nevada governor needs to reply, “Hey, get over it.”
Gov. Jim Gibbons, looking ahead to next year’s legislative session and an estimated $3 billion budget deficit, told that Nevada Appeal that “there are going to be a lot of agencies and departments that are going to have to be completely revamped. Some may be closed. Nevada may no longer be able to be everything to everybody.”
Well, um, yeah. So why wait, Governor? Why let the problem get worse over the next year and half? Why not revamp those agencies and departments NOW? Why not close many of them NOW? Why not lay off non-essential government employees NOW? Why not reduce unsustainable pay and benefit packages for state workers NOW?
And when legislators and bureaucrats and administrators squeal like stuck pigs, why not provide the necessary leadership and tell ‘em, “Hey, get over it”?
Is it too late for Mr. Lovemen to run for governor?