(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – With each new piece of information that becomes available the budget deal reached in the last week of the Legislature looks worse and worse. The first indications that it was far less than advertised began to emerge while the session was still ongoing. Since adjournment the hits just keep on coming.
Republicans had demanded reforms in five areas in exchange for their support of extending the tax increases that were scheduled to sunset on June 30. These areas were education, Public Employee Retirement System/Public Employee Benefit System (PERS/PEBS), collective bargaining, prevailing wage and construction defect litigation.
Despite the exorbitant pay required on public works projects as a result of the current system, no reform of prevailing wage was offered. New public employees are no longer eligible to have their full health insurance benefits paid for by the taxpayers but little changes to PERS were achieved.
The education reforms, though necessary, were far less than sufficient. There was some reform of teacher tenure, changes to the last-in-first-out system of deciding which teachers are laid off and the ability of schools to discipline teachers for conduct outside the classroom and changes to facilitate the creation of charter schools. But nothing in the way of school choice or other reforms.
The first clue as to the true nature of the deal was when construction defect reform litigation failed to pass. This was supposed to be one of the concessions given to Republicans to secure their support for extending the sunsets. Yet the reform offered was so unpalatable that Republicans opposed it and, with the help of two Democrats in the Senate, were able to kill it.
This was probably the biggest disappointment of the deal. Until now.
One of the few reforms to collective bargaining supposedly prevented supervisors from unionizing. But now it appears that the law will not affect supervisors in Clark County, which has the most public employees of any local government, and may not cover anyone in the state. In other words, that provision of the law is virtually worthless.
The law does have other worthwhile provisions but it is far less than what is needed and there is a danger that the very fact that some reforms were achieved in this session may make it more difficult to revisit these issues in the near future.
Once again, more evidence that the budget deal reached this session offers even less for conservatives to like.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)