Under the Silver Dome

Nevada's Legislators Show Us They Can Do What Politicians
Do Best

by Ralph Heller
NPRI Senior Research Fellow

n a way, I suppose the recently retired general counsel for Nevada's university and community college system is a role model for today's public employees. I speak of Don Klasic, who retired earlier this year from his $98,463 post at age 52, and who will now have to scrape along on three-quarters of that salary, or $73,847 a year, for the rest of his life. There is nothing personal in this, I assure you; probably he is a splendid chap.

But what percentage of jobs in the private sector would enable a man to retire at age 52 on $73,847 a year after only 16 years on the job? Assuming he reaches normal life expectancy for an American male, he will be receiving $73,847 while doing nothing for more years than he worked to establish the pension in the first place.

Nor is there anything remotely unusual about this circumstance. At both ends of the state we have had police officers and other public employees calling it quits when they're scarcely 50 years old, while Congress contemplates raising eligibility requirements for Social Security and other programs from age 65 to age 67 for future American citizens who aren't lucky enough to end up on one public payroll or another.

Meanwhile, state legislators, city councils and Congress have made a mockery of the very concept of "public service," and nowhere this year were additional dollars handed out more readily to public employees than in Carson City.

To keep track of what was happening citizens needed something more reliable and alert than the newspapers in Reno and Las Vegas. The raises were tucked in a variety of bills—AB566, SB 493, SB 496—and much of the action was held off until the hurried last week or two of the legislative session and the press had little time to examine the measures.

Especially revealing was AB 493—actually 15 pages constituting 15 lists of salary increases at 25 salary increases per page. It was introduced on July 2, several days after the hoped for date of adjournment at the end of June. It passed the Senate and was on the way to the Assembly by July 3, and after a few of the usual procedural monkeyshines was on its way to Governor Miller for signature in less than a week.

Most (but not all) of the new salaries on the opposite page came from AB 493, and NPRI has listed for you all the state government salaries over $75,000 that could be quickly pinned down. Originally the plan was to list all state salaries over $60,000, but by the time NPRI staff had unearthed nearly 200 of them it was decided to provide you with the shorter list of salaries over $75,000—the truly "big winners."

The salaries are mere indicators, of course, since most of these "public servants" also enjoy retirement, vacation and other benefits 95 percent of taxpayers can only dream of enjoying, to say nothing of the overtime pay shelled out to lower-ranking employees by the bucket. After all, Governor Miller's chauffeur—a state cop—pulled down $90,000 last year.

As the legislative session was finally coming to an end, what little the daily press told Nevadans about salary increases tended to focus on the 150 percent increase for the lieutenant governor and the 28 percent raises for members of the Parole Board. But those increases simply brought the lieutenant governor up to a salary of $50,000 and Parole Board members up to salaries of $60,000—strictly chicken feed by Nevada's "public service" standards these days, as the list of salaries on the opposite page makes clear.

A responsible democracy, of course, would provide the public with a complete list —no matter how bulky—of salaries, cost of benefits and total payroll costs for all unclassified state employees to be distributed to every newspaper in the state .

Although rank-and-file state employees were awarded raises of three percent, roughly the increase represented by the latest Consumer Price Index projections, salary increases on the opposite page represent raises ranging form eight to 30 percent. And, mindful of several huge salary increases for deputy directors of the mismanaged and distrusted DMV, can anyone find in this list of new salaries some correlation between salaries and job performance? It just goes to show you how wonderfully generous our Nevada legislators really are. u

Ralph Heller is Senior Consulting Editor of Nevada Journal.


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