We are All Stakeholders, Aren’t We? Tax Decisions Affect Us All – The Farce

Stakeholder: a person or group that has an investment, share, or interest in something, as a business or industry. (Dictionary.com)

The Nevada Legislature will not convene again until February 2011, but the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee is already preparing the arguments it will use to raise taxes as soon as the next session begins.  They have created what’s called the “Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group” (NVSG), a hand-picked 19-member panel tasked with developing a strategic vision for the state in conjunction with a paid consulting company, Moody’s Analytics.

According to Senate Concurrent Resolution 37, the group will “review proposals for broad-based taxes which are fair and equitable,…assist in developing 5-year, 10-year and 20-year strategic plans for improving the State’s quality of life,” and “propose strategies and recommendations to advance the State of Nevada in nationwide rankings in key quality-of-life areas.”  The NVSG will work with Moody’s to develop a plan by July 1, 2010.

Instead of holding a series of town hall meetings to find out what Nevadans want, or what their vision for the future includes, the professional politicians have stacked the deck in their own favor.  Legislators asked for nominations of individuals willing to serve from November 2009 through October 2010, putting in at least 20 hours a month without compensation and paying their own way for travel and all other expenses.  Who would be likely to apply, other than people whose “stake” in the outcome involves political payback? Hard-working employees or small-business owners would be highly unlikely to apply for this group - they’re too busy trying to make ends meet.  And they would be even less likely to be chosen, since the final decision on NVSG membership was made by the politicians themselves.

They divided the group into five committees, corresponding to the five largest areas of government spending: commerce and industry, education, infrastructure, health and human services, and public safety.  If those five categories are where they’re looking for solutions, they are unlikely to find solutions anywhere else, especially not in the private sector.  Instead, this approach will lead to a top-down plan, in which the politicians will decide what programs they want to fund, and the taxpayers’ only role in the process is to fund their wish list.

Predictably, the 19 members of the NVSG represent tax-consuming groups instead of tax-paying groups.  Brian Rippett was nominated by the Nevada State Education Association (the Teachers Union) to serve on the Education Committee.  Robert Potter of the Nevada Department of Transportation was nominated by the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees to serve on the Infrastructure Committee. The Commerce and Industry Committee consists of three members associated with major gaming properties, as well as Joe Dini, a former legislator nominated by the Nevada Mining Association.

This group will vote on whether to establish new business taxes, but where are the representatives of the Chambers of Commerce or the National Federation of Independent Business? Its recommendations will impact everyone in Nevada, but where are the members representing rural counties? Who will speak for the average working parent or the small business owner? Not these 19 “stakeholders.” Their only job is to justify large tax increases, rubber-stamping recommendations made by an out-of-state consulting firm with no interest in Nevada’s future.

The NVSG, working behind the scenes and between the sessions, will make decisions that affect all of us.  Let’s pay close attention to what it does, using the provisions of the state’s Open Meeting Law.  This may be the only way that stakeholders other than tax consumers and big-government proponents can be heard.