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Unlike lawmakers, numbers don’t lie

Imagine your boss pulling you aside and sharing with you the good news that revenue is rolling into company coffers hand over fist. She tells you that you’re in line for a 17 percent raise at your next performance evaluation, about six months out.

With visions of dollar signs dancing in your head, you spend months coming up with ways to spend that cash. Upgrades. New stuff. And a bit more discretionary dough to toss at life’s frills.

The big review finally rolls around. The company is still doing great, but revenue projections ended up off a hair. The boss pushes paperwork before you that authorizes a 16 percent raise, not the 17 percent she intimated was possible six months back.

You’re crushed. You inform your boss that this shortfall in anticipated income will bring hardship on your family. You complain that you’ll have to cut your budget.

Think this is a joke? Welcome to the world of state lawmakers. These days, Carson City is a hub of ungratefulness, disingenuous exaggeration and self-pity.

The Economic Forum, the five-person panel that provides binding tax forecasts to the Legislature, has informed lawmakers that they’ll have $6.84 billion in general fund revenue to spend between 2007 and 2009. That’s up 16 percent from the current two-year budget cycle, which totals $5.9 billion. But it’s down 1 percent from the $6.92 billion estimate the Economic Forum provided late last year.

Nearly every component of state government is getting loads more money over the next two years. Spending on public schools and higher education will grow about 15 percent. Child welfare programs and prisons are in line for even bigger increases.

Yet legislators are fixated on the difference between last year’s revenue projection and the one issued Tuesday, which means they’ll have about $1 billion in new funding available, but around $80 million less than they’d hoped for.

“It’s very bleak out there,” said Assembly Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas. “How do you cut what has already been cut?”

“You have heard us say before that there was no money,” Assemblyman Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Now, it’s the No Way and No Means Committee.”

You’d think the Capitol was a butcher shop, the way lawmakers and their enablers in the media are throwing around the words “cut” and “slash.”

Let’s be clear. There is no revenue shortfall in Carson City. State agencies are not suffering budget cuts. Nevada is not broke.

The state treasury is overflowing with tax revenue, including a two-year general fund surplus of more than $300 million. Lawmakers from other states, including the high-tax, economic wastelands of New Jersey, California and Michigan would kill for that kind of spending money and revenue growth.

If Nevada were actually short of cash, lawmakers wouldn’t have $3 billion worth of pork bills in play. They might actually try to address the $10 billion in unfunded pension and health care benefits promised to retired public employees. They’d be talking about closing schools and laying off teachers, not building new campuses and providing healthy pay raises.

Will lawmakers parroting the woe-is-Nevada baloney ever have enough revenue? Is there any amount that Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, would acknowledge is enough for the state’s many “needs”? No.

Unlike our lawmakers, the numbers don’t lie: $1 billion in new spending. A government growth rate that far outstrips population change and inflation combined. A 16 percent increase in general fund spending over the next two years. Budget growth of more than 60 percent over six years.

If lawmakers continue to gripe about their riches, voters should do what any boss would do in the face of such thanklessness: throw them out on their backsides.

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