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Time For a Major Change

Author: Kate King
September, 2005 Issue


Whether you believe our current governor is a good one or not, the need for reforms and changes in how our state is operating is obvious. We’ve managed to get the greatest state in the union into some major financial and structural problems that must be addressed soon or the “great” state will become the “late” state. How did this happen? Well, in my personal view, I think we can lay the blame on three things—partisanship, out of control public employee unionism and too many entitlements. Here’s what I mean.

Partisan politics. Partisan politics aren’t good for anyone. When every bill that gets introduced in Sacramento (and there are about 4,000 each year) is only weighed on the fact that there’s either a (D) or an (R) after the author’s name—that’s a problem. Where is the representation that our elected officials are supposed to be giving us? When you are doing business with someone, does their political party even come into the equation? Of course not! But that’s not the case if you’re an elected official in Sacramento. If someone of the other party authors a bill, the knee-jerk reaction is to be against it—regardless of its merits—unless, of course, it is on a subject that has gotten so much press that you can suddenly be a hero if you vote for it. (Remember the workers’ compensation reform bill that finally got passed last year?) A solution: No bill should have the author’s name or party on it when submitted. Then, everyone would have to actually read the thing and judge it on its good and bad points, not on the initial after the author’s name.

Public employee unionism. You know, at one time in this country, unions were a true blessing. I’d like to say they’re no longer needed, but unfortunately, we can’t always trust ourselves to do the right thing by our workers. However, the tables have really turned over the past 40 years, and now the unions (some, not all) tend to be no longer representing their members, but instead working to personally enrich the top layer of union bosses. They’ve become such a political force, with so much money to wield in the political field, that winning a political battle has become more important to the unions than helping their members with work-related issues. Fair pay and fair and safe working conditions ar0e no longer even on the union leaders’ agenda. Now it’s all about benefits. Well, guess what? Many union leaders receive a commission fee on the sale of higher benefits packages to their members. You don’t think that influences their efforts on behalf of their members, do you? So higher benefits mean higher dividends to the union people in charge. Hmmm, how important is it to them to make sure the folks who get elected don’t ever want to rein in the costs of benefits to unions? You decide.
A solution: Let union members agree (or not) about whether they want their union dues used for political campaigns or to improve their working conditions in some meaningful way.

Entitlements. These are government-supported programs that, once put into place, can never be undone. Yep, even if the program turns out to be unnecessary, duplicated, inefficient—whatever—it can’t be dismantled. Oh sure, if an elected body is strong enough to cut the funding down to nothing and let the program languish, it can be dormant, but the possibility of that is slim. Why? Because someone is running that program and no elected official wants to cut someone’s job off—even if it means saving money for the state. Understandable, but come on. In business we know that if something isn’t working or it’s not cost-effective we quit doing it. Not so in the government.

When times were good and the state started tons of warm and fuzzy programs (because it could afford it and it garnered votes from constituents) the cost of running these entitlement programs grew to a huge amount. Now we can’t seem to get out from under them—even though the state doesn’t have the revenue to pay for them. So instead, the business community will continue to have “fees” (another word for tax that can be instituted without a vote of the people) imposed on them as a way for the state to generate enough money to continue these entitlement programs forever.

A solution: Allowing someone (who cares who it is, just someone) to cut state programs that are no longer efficient, relevant and cost-effective.

The time is now. In my view, we must make these changes—and soon. Every day I see ads from Nevada inviting our businesses to come across the border and do business for less. If we don’t get a handle on these and other significant cost drivers, more and more businesses will take Nevada up on that invitation. That’s my view. What’s yours?


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