(Jim Clark) – The headline in last Sunday’s edition of Northern Nevada’s largest daily newspaper screamed in 2” letters: “CAN JOBS BILLS HELP?” The article went on to describe how Democrats, with majorities in both houses of the legislature, are trying to boost Nevada’s construction trades industry by ramming through public works legislation. “People in my district want jobs,” Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, (D – Las Vegas) said. Maybe, but is that what’s best for Nevada?
Currently pending are: AB 183 (Smith, D – Sparks) which would free up funds held by Nevada school districts as reserves to pay school bond debt and redirect those funds into building and rehabilitating schools, thus providing construction jobs. School districts would be able to leverage these funds by borrowing. And this is despite the fact that Gov. Sandoval (R – NV) wants to use those funds for school district operations to avoid teacher layoffs. AB 144 (Kirkpatrick, D – Las Vegas), which would require that public works project contractors hire at least 50% Nevadans and use at least 25% Nevada materials, a protectionist proposal that will reduce competitive bidding and trigger corresponding “anti-Nevada” legislation in other states. SB 192 (Horsford, D – Las Vegas), which would use property tax revenues “stolen” from Nevada counties in the 2009 session and leverage the funds by allowing Clark and Washoe County regional transportation commissions to borrow against the revenues for road improvements.
How will these proposals affect Nevada? It may be premature to ask because they draw zero Republican support meaning that Democrats do not have the votes to override Gov. Sandoval’s inevitable veto. But assuming for the sake of discussion that these bills somehow become law, what would be the probable result?
Clearly if the legislature diverts freed up school bond reserves into make-work construction projects, teachers will be laid off. We will end up with shiny new schools and no one to staff them. It is also clear that if the politicians continue to divert property tax revenues away from counties and cities, local governments will have to curtail services. Don’t count on that emergency medical technician getting to you any time soon if you’re having a heart attack. Another clear result in view of the substantial borrowing contemplated by these proposals is that taxes will have to be raised in the future to repay the debts.
Moreover legislators should ask themselves what happens when the money runs out? Will they have “primed the economic pump” and created new enterprises for Nevada or will we just end up having to lay off all the construction workers employed as a result of this stimulus spending?
History tells us that bills like these don’t work. In 1929, US unemployment was 3.14%. Then the Great Depression hit. In 1932 Franklin Roosevelt was elected president and began the New Deal stimulus spending. By 1934 unemployment was 21.6%; by 1938, after 4 years of stimulus spending to create jobs, unemployment was 18.9%. In 1942, as the US industry shifted to wartime production, unemployment fell to 4.7%. These statistics infer that while stimulus spending might create a few jobs, it does not jump start an ailing economy.
So why are Nevada’s Democratic legislators so focused on creating construction jobs with public monies? The Center for Responsive Politics suggests a reason . . . between 1990 and 2010 construction unions have given over $150 million to Democrats.
The answer to the headline: ‘CAN JOBS BILLS HELP?” appears to be “Yes, they will keep Democrats in elected office.”
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates, a vice chair of the Washoe County GOP and a member of the Nevada GOP Central Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)