Tax consumers on the government payroll have been trying their best to convince Nevadans that raising taxes is the only solution to balancing the state budget, because there’s no possible way spending can be reduced any further. Are you willing to take their word for it, or would you like a second opinion?
Luckily, we do have another source of information about how our tax money is being spent, along with some suggestions on how to keep a tighter rein on it. The Nevada Piglet Book 2010 was produced by the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI), with the assistance of Citizens Against Government Waste. Its findings are based on hundreds of public records, official financial documents and audit reports. You can find it online at: www.npri.org/publications/the-nevada-piglet-book-2010.
Here are just a few examples from this report that illustrate how our tax money is being wasted:
A 2008 study by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce found that public employees in Nevada are paid 28.1 percent more than private-sector workers doing similar work, and that’s not even counting the difference in benefits. In fact, earlier this year The Cato Institute reported that state and local government workers in Nevada enjoy the third-highest annual average salary in the nation.
Since we’re paying government employees so much, are we at least getting our money’s worth? Apparently not. The Piglet Book is full of examples of people on the public payroll who are failing to do their jobs. Auditors working in the Unclaimed Property Division of the State Treasurer’s office performed fewer than half of required audits. State health inspectors failed to do 40 percent of the required inspections of food service establishments in three consecutive years, and 81 percent of restaurants cited for “critical violations” received no follow-up inspections.
The Department of Public Safety failed to develop state-mandated emergency management plans, and the department doesn’t maintain a database showing where emergency equipment is located. Many agencies lack sound inventory control mechanisms, so that huge items like portable storage units and street lights are misplaced, along with a myriad of smaller items like laptops and furniture.
Agencies and school districts have used unlawful accounting techniques to avoid having funds revert back to the state treasury – for example, by transferring expenses from one year to the other. You or I could go to jail if the IRS caught us doing that.
Local governments across the state paid lobbyists $3.2 million over a four-month period in 2009 to ask the Legislature for more money. It’s ironic that taxpayers’ money is funding efforts to have the government spend more taxpayer money.
“The Nevada Piglet Book 2010 barely scratches the surface of the mountain of taxpayer dollars wasted by Nevada’s state and local government bureaucracies,” according to Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. Isn’t it time we cut some of the fat out of Nevada’s government spending?
One way for taxpayers to keep a closer eye on how their money is being spent is for the state to put its checkbook online for citizens to examine. Since the Texas Comptroller’s Office began putting itemized expenditures online in 2007, Texas taxpayers have saved $51 million by identifying areas of wasteful or inefficient expenditures. NPRI has launched its own initiative to shine the light on government spending through a website called TransparentNevada.com, which contains salary information on public employees and details on contracts approved by the state Board of Examiners.
Before we hand over more tax money to support the current system, we should first demand more accountability from our elected officials and investigate ways to cut government waste, eliminate duplication of services and stop competition with the private sector.