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Depends on Your Definition of “Essential”

As state legislators grapple with the problems they caused themselves by over-spending the budget for the last few years, one thing has become crystal-clear: The Left will oppose any budget cuts to any program of any amount for any reason anywhere at any time. In their minds, every taxpayer dime the government spends on every program, agency or service is “essential.”

Take for example this quote by Martha Gould, a card-carrying blue-blood liberal from Washoe County, which appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal this week: “The human needs of the citizens of this state are a high priority, but you know, food for the soul and food for the mind come from libraries, from schools, from the arts and museums.”

You see, according to liberal-socialists it’s not enough to just assure that poor children get a hot meal in their tummies. In their left-brain minds “food for the soul” is also considered “essential” – no matter how much it costs taxpayers. And that, dear reader, is what this entire budget debate should really be about: The very definition of “essential”?

There seems to be consensus that education, welfare and public safety are essential and legitimate functions of state government. However, once you dig deeper into the education, welfare and public safety budgets things aren’t quite so simple.

Reading, writing and arithmetic in elementary schools are essential. The Culture of Pizza and the History of the Beatles courses at UNLV, not so much so.

Spending $45,000 a year for a high school science teacher, fine. Spending $250,000 on a college basketball coach? Um, dicey.

Immunizations for impoverished rural children, sure. A railroad museum in Ely, not.

Yet Republican state Sen. Dean Rhoads says otherwise. “The railroad (museum) there in Ely is really the pride of White Pine County,” he explained to the RGJ, “and it’s one business that could really provide the revenue for the people in White Pine County. The people of White Pine County depend on that museum.”

Um, hello? If it’s a “business” then why does it need taxpayer funding? And if the people of White Pine County depend on the museum so much for revenue, shouldn’t the people of White Pine County be the ones funding it? I’m just asking.

Anyway, if this debate over what is “essential” in government miraculously breaks out during this legislative session, we might just get somewhere. But as expected, a number of Republicans have already come to the conclusion that establishing exactly what constitutes “essential” government and cutting out all of the rest is too hard. Apparently cooperating and compromising with the Democrats to raise taxes is a lot easier.

Mass layoffs of non-essential government employees? Shuttering the Department of Business and Industry? Repealing the prevailing wage law? Privatizing the DMV? School vouchers? Too hard. Raising taxes? Piece of cake.

Legislative Republicans are wimps. Well, most of them anyway. They stand for nothing and, therefore, will once again fall for anything. Including another massive tax hike. All in the spirit of “compromise” and “cooperation.” A spirit you and I will once again pay for through the nose.

How depressing is that?