blank.gif (51 bytes) Rural Wrap
Raffling Off the Law Might Pull Us Through Hard Times
by Dan Steninger

lko County Commissioners have been taking steps over the past years to deal with declining revenues, and Elko City Councilmen now are seeing their revenue figures head south. Gold prices aren’t what they used to be. Nevada legislators, scheduled to begin the next legislative session February 1, are talking about an easy session—with both sales and gambling tax revenues below expectations, all they can say is "no."

Amid this downturn in the local and state economy, economic diversification is the hot topic of discussion in these parts. And diversification may well be coming, assuming enough of the people being laid off in the mining industry stick around and are noticed by businesses looking for a place with employees ready to offer their services.

While we await that natural cycle to play out, though, local officials might want to take a cue from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which last month unveiled a novel approach to revenue enhancement that could tide us over to better times.

USFWS agents at the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge worked to drum up interest in National Wildlife Refuge Week by raffling off tickets for rides in the refuge’s airboat. What makes this a novel idea is that it is illegal for a citizen, under normal circumstances, to launch an airboat onto the marsh and entertain himself chasing coots through the tules. Fun? Sure. Legal? Definitely not.

So, Elko County needs more money for roads? Well, commissioners don’t need to raise the gas tax; let them sell raffle tickets, with the first prize being a free pass on any county road. The winner would receive a bumper sticker notifying traffic cops that the normal rules of the road do not apply to this particular driver.

The county is looking to hire extra help to crack down on zoning violators. But that’s going to cost money. Why not take a cue from the feds and turn this to our advantage by selling the violators the right to ignore the law?

The fire department is going to want more money. Raise taxes? Heck, no. Let it sell raffle tickets. There must be a lot of people out there itching to burn something down.

The police department could do its part to boost the city coffers, too. Anybody want to knock over a bank? Get your raffle tickets at the police station.

Let’s not forget the highway patrolmen—the state needs cash, too. I think $20 for five chances at the prizes of going around one of their roadblocks—random searches, "hazardous" spills, whatever—would be a reasonable price; the tickets should sell pretty fast.

There’s big revenue potential in the court system. Why not cut out the middleman and have defendants just pay their lawyer fees into the treasury in exchange for acquittals? Sure, we’d lose some fine money, but think of the savings in prosecutors and public defenders.

We know we’ve been tough on federal agents in the past, and most of their ideas are pretty dumb, but this one of letting people pay to get around the law might have some real promise.  NJ

Dan Steninger is the editorial page editor of the Elko Daily Free Press.


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