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Is Government Sabotaging
Nevada's Economic Future?

by Ralph Heller

n article earlier this year in the Las Vegas Business Press by staff writer Sherri Cruz was more than a little alarming:

Marketing and advertising to promote economic diversification is all well and good but according to Mike Clarke, economist for the state’s Office of Employment, Training and Development, economic diversification without changing the tax structure isn’t going to work. Since Nevada depends on the almighty tourist for most of its revenue, it has to keep doing what it does best — tourism — and continue its gaming expansion.

The paper bills itself as "Southern Nevada’s Journal of Commerce," and to be sure that its readers were appropriately alarmed, Ms. Cruz solemnly reported that "since 76 percent of Nevada’s revenues come from gaming and retail," it would be counter-productive to increase the state’s rate of economic diversification.

This is nonsense, of course. That 76 percent Ms. Cruz reported represents a percentage of the state’s General Fund covered by gaming and sales taxes. Conveniently omitted was the fact that the General Fund does not include all tax and fee revenue, much of which is "dedicated" for specific purposes and therefore cannot be included in the Genera1 Fund.

When all state tax and fee revenue is taken into account, "dedicated" as well as "undedicated," gaming and sales tax revenues account for no more than 34 percent of all money collected. But what was the motivation behind the misleading commentary?

What has long been a quiet and subtle campaign against economic diversification encouraged by the gaming industry and its servants in government is becoming less quiet and subtle and increasingly obvious to rank-and-file Nevadans. There are easily identifiable reasons for gaming’s lack of enthusiasm for diversification ranging from reduced revenue available to promote tourism to maintaining a financially affordable work force.

This month’s eye-opening cover story by Steven Miller takes the wraps off this ongoing effort to discourage diversification. Miller has done a first rate job of researching his article which he calls "Gambling on Gambling," but he might have entitled it, "The One Story Nevada’s Press is Afraid to Report."

Elsewhere in this issue readers will find new information on Clark County’s unreliable voting machines by Lois Gross, D. Dowd Muska’s revelations about the animal rights movement, Pat Hickey’s lament about the state of public education and a candid look at today’s so-called "managed care" by Diane Alden.

The nation’s growing health care crisis isn’t being reported in the daily press any more meaningfully than Nevada’s newspapers are reporting the undermining of economic diversification. Meanwhile, U.S. men now rank 22nd in the world for life expectancy and U.S. women rank 17th—not much to be proud of in a nation that has the highest per capita health care costs on earth.

Also this month Diane Alden provides a review of the currently popular Steven Spielberg movie, Saving Private Ryan, a film that unintentionally serves to remind us of how much less gracious and literate Americans are today by virtue of a presidential letter cited at the beginning and again at the end of the story. Private Ryan turns out to be his mother’s sole surviving son, and to set the stage for the monumental effort to save him the movie begins with Abraham Lincoln’s famous letter to Mrs. Bixby.

As attentive readers of Nevada Journal will recall, we republished that exceptionally gracious and literate message in an education article in January of this year, so we will not reprise it here. Yet as you peruse Pat Hickey’s article on the fallen state of public education—and my own brief article elsewhere in this issue on teacher salaries—you might reflect on the fact that the magnificent, literate letter to Mrs. Bixby was written by a presidential alumnus of a one-room schoolhouse.

With this issue we bid farewell to talented young college intern Molly Conklin who wrote one last article for us before returning to Syracuse University. And we welcome to the NPRI office Veronika Leal who came to this country a year and a half ago from a country in Central Asia that used to be part of the now defunct Soviet Union—Kyrgyzstan. She has solemnly promised that she’ll teach us all how to pronounce "Kyrgyzstan."u

Ralph Heller is senior consulting editor of Nevada Journal.


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