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How to Balance Nevada’s Budget without Cutting a Single Program

(Chuck Muth) – On one hand, everyone seems to agree that there is about a $1 billion government overspending deficit in Nevada’s general fund budget. On the other hand, some peg the overspending deficit at $3 billion.

But that $3 billion figure is based on Nevada’s super-fund budget, which includes transportation and other items not included in the general fund, as well as local government spending. That brings total government spending in Nevada to around $20 billion.

So here’s the reality. If you’re comparing apples to apples, then the $1 billion figure represents about an 18 percent overspending deficit in the general fund budget. If you want to use the $3 billion figure for total government spending, then you’re looking at about…an 18 percent overspending deficit. Not 42 percent as some organization comparing apples to oranges suggested a couple weeks ago.

Still, how can we close our overspending deficit without eliminating a single existing government service (that is, if you wanted to; I don’t)?

Simple. Most of the state’s spending is on salaries for government workers. You have to reduce those salaries for the same reason people rob banks: That’s where the money is. And you start right off the bat by rescinding that 4 percent cost-of-living pay hike state workers never should have gotten in the first place back in 2008 when we were right smack dab in the middle of this full-blown recession.

But Chuck, I hear some say, if we lower the pay of government workers, we’ll lose them; they’ll quit?

Really?

Have you seen what the job market is like out here in the real world lately? Does anyone really think government workers, most with little to no real world work experience, are going to voluntarily leave their cushy government jobs – including benefits – to take the risk of finding work in the private sector where, in Nevada, the effective unemployment rate is around 20 percent?

And with unemployment at around 20 percent, does anyone really think it would be hard to replace any government workers who quit rather than take the necessary pay cut? Get real. I mean, how many of those Clark County firefighters hauling in $200,000 or more a year are going to find $180,000-a-year jobs in the private sector if their pay is cut 10 percent?

None.

But if any of them do, how many people do you think would stand in line to submit an application to fill that $180,000 a year firefighter position? (How long is the Strip again?)

So that’s where you start: government employee payroll reductions. That’s how you could close the state’s overspending budget gap without eliminating any of the existing government programs, departments and services.

Which is not to say there aren’t also plenty of non-essential programs, departments, government services and employees who shouldn’t be axed. There are.

So not only can we balance the budget without eliminating any essential government services, programs or personnel, we could probably operate at a surplus if we cut some more fat by eliminating NON-essential government programs, departments, services and personnel in addition to the salary reductions.

Wahoo, let the tax cuts begin!