(Frank Partlow) – Chairman, Bruce James’ Jan. 7 final report to Gov. Jim Gibbons observed that “the average state worker is paid considerably more than their private sector counterpart. This is unaffordable in the short run and unsustainable in the long run as many states are now experiencing.”
On May 8, 2008, when he signed the executive order forming this commission, a passionate and articulate Gibbons said, “We have hit a wall. We don’t have enough money to continue doing what we did yesterday the way we did it yesterday.” An unpopular governor and his kitchen cabinet crony, right? Read on.
“The only way to truly cut costs in a general fund of $1.5 billion when payroll (wages and benefits) is over $1.2 billion is to cut staff, hours, salaries and/or benefits,” states the Dec. 30 Clark County Committee on Community Priorities, adding, “The rise in employee compensation is unsustainable.” Democrat gubernatorial candidate and Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid said the work of this Committee “is going to be seriously considered.”
In November, Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval reportedly said that his strongest vision for Nevada was to implement the recommendations of the SAGE Commission.
On Jan. 3, the Editorial Board of this newspaper opined, “Government must change. The process must begin with a serious look at what government does, what it should do and what it can afford to do.” 2010 Nevada electioneering, right? Read on.
In September, Indiana Gov., and possible Republican Presidential candidate, Mitch Daniels wrote, “State government finances are a wreck.” State and local government officials “will soon have to choose between a major downsizing or permanent decline. The Obama administration’s ‘stimulus’ package in effect shared the use of Uncle Sam’s printing press for two years. Washington can practice denial for a while longer. But for the states the real world is about to arrive.”
On Dec. 12, the respected news magazine Economist wrote: “Public sector workers continue to gobble up money — in Philadelphia they account for 61 percent of spending.” (Apparently, in Clark County, it’s 80 percent.) The recession crisis, however, “illuminates a simple fact. The status quo is unaffordable.
Only 21 percent of private sector workers enjoy a defined benefit pension, which guarantees retirement income based on years of service and final salary. But 84 percent of state and local workers still receive DB plans. This might be grand if states and cities could afford it, but they cannot because, unlike the federal government, they have the pesky obligation to balance their budgets.”
No sane politician wants to raise taxes in a recession. Democrats, however, depend on public sector workers as electoral “foot solders.”
As James concludes in his report, the SAGE Commission hopes “our elected officials can now set aside their partisan differences to put the public’s interest first. If not now, when?” It is up to Nevada’s voters to elect such public officials, foot soldiers and lobbyists notwithstanding.
(Mr. Partlow was executive director of the SAGE Commission)