For far too long now, Nevada has been increasing the regulatory and tax burden on businesses, while simultaneously giving special handouts to politically connected companies and industries.
It’s an environment that is ripe for corruption, abuse and political shenanigans. It breeds “protectionist lobbying,” allowing politically connected companies to squeeze out small businesses and innovation.
Given the popularity of anti-crony political candidates on local, state and federal levels in the last year, it’s clear that a sizeable portion of the electorate are tiring of the status-quo.
So, the question is, will voters tolerate more of the same in 2017?
Some people may think the answer to that question was going to be obvious this month, after the elections. But in truth, we will have to wait much longer to fully assess if this is the case.
The individuals we select to head to Carson City aren’t nearly as important as the public policy solutions they advance when they finally convene in February of 2017.
Ensuring that these candidates-turned-lawmakers advance fiscally sound policies that are in line with Nevada’s tradition of individual liberty, requires more than simply showing up to the polling location in November. It requires a constant engagement from citizens, voters and taxpayers.
As with politicians on every level, when lawmakers arrive at the capital, they are bombarded with information from special interests, embedded political powers and profiteers from the status quo of big-government largess. In short, the voice of the voters is drowned out by the bias of well-established crony elites.
This isn’t the fault of any particular political party — in fact, it’s an environmental reality in almost every level of government.
It’s easy for candidates to speak to people’s concerns during election season, but it is substantively more difficult for lawmakers to actually address those same concerns in the bubble of intra-government politics.
Largely, this is because lawmakers simply aren’t armed with a wealth of policy knowledge going into the session — and their “education” is too often instructed by the very special interests they once campaigned against.
For this reason, the Nevada Policy Research Institute makes it a point to widely distribute our Solutions policy booklet, containing limited-government policy proposals and objective policy analysis on more than 60 individual topics.
It’s a good start toward giving average Nevadans a stronger voice in Carson City — but it’s not enough by itself.
In 2015, over two dozen policy proposals from NPRI’s Solutions booklet inspired bills and legislation. The state’s key educational choice program — Education Savings Accounts — was even taken almost verbatim from Solutions.
And yet, the state still saw a $1.5 billion tax increase, a slew of new regulations and special carve-outs for politically-favored industries and companies. Subsequent special sessions have extended this cronyist tradition, giving special tax incentives to key companies — such as Faraday Future.
The truth is, lawmakers did, in fact, have better policy solutions at their fingertips — but the big-government culture in Carson City simply drowned out many of the alternatives that should have been discussed. And that’s why the elections in November are just the beginning.
As the regular legislative session approaches in 2017, there are many issues lawmakers will be preparing to tackle. A legislative fix to the state’s sweeping educational choice program, economic development, the Commerce Tax and countless other priorities will all be on their agenda.
Arming these legislators with the information they need to make well-informed decisions about the direction of the state is critical. And just as important is letting them know that voters, taxpayers and citizens will remain engaged long after November.
There’s a reason that activists always encourage voters to call their lawmakers when a particular issue is being discussed: It works.
In the Assembly and Senate, lawmakers are insulated from the rest of the state. They are surrounded by apologists for the status quo, who insist there are no alternatives to another tax increase, another regulatory overhaul or another expansion of government.
The voice of average Nevadans must be a part of the session. Together, we are far more powerful than any lobbying group, special interest or union offering political cover — but only if we remain engaged.
So, will Nevadans tolerate more of the same going forward?
It’s a question that won’t be answered until February 2017.
Michael Schaus is communications director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.