blank.gif (51 bytes) Rural Wrap
Nevada Department
of Occupying Space

by Dan Steninger

thought it was a waste of our tax money when Congress decided to funnel millions of dollars to the State of Nevada ($73 million so far) so Nevada could oversee and find technical faults with the plan to sink waste from the nation’s nuclear power plants in the southern Nevada desert.

And the director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects came to the same conclusion, that spending those dollars overseeing the technical aspects of a political deal—Nevada’s congressional delegation is vastly outnumbered by delegates from states where this waste now sits, awaiting the opening of the Nevada dump—was the wrong approach. So the agency spent the money traveling around the country drumming up political opposition to the plan.

When Congress found out that Nevada wasn’t wasting this money as Congress had intended, but was instead spending it to the detriment of Congress’ goal of opening the dump, Congress cried foul and cut off the flow of money.

And up stepped the Nevada Legislature to fill in the funding gap. So instead of squandering federal dollars, now we’re squandering state dollars, which, we suppose, is a step in the right direction, considering the money’s all coming from the same pockets and a lot of those dollars get misplaced on the round trip to Washington.

Still, squandering is squandering, regardless of how efficiently it is done. To those who might be unconvinced that this money is indeed being wasted, I have a report on a meeting of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee from this past fall.

Wire stories concerning that meeting indicate Nevada taxpayers are paying the salaries and benefits for seven employees in the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, to the tune of $1 million a year.

The reports also indicate the agency wanted a whole bunch more money, but was turned down by legislators. In protest, the agency said it would be unable to do any work. Specifically, agency spokesmen declared they would be unable to review, due to a lack of funding, two upcoming studies planned by the U.S. Department of Energy. Apparently none of the seven people employed by the agency are qualified to review DOE reports and the extra money it sought would have paid for consultants to do the actual reading.

So what will those seven state employees be doing, now that they won’t have to go through the grueling task of finding a consultant to read a report?

Well, according to the director of the agency, Bob Loux, the million a year "isn’t going [to allow us] to do much more than occupy space."

Which brings up the question of why we’re spending $1 million a year for the service of having seven state employees occupying space. Is it some sort of economic development project to sustain Carson City restaurants? A welfare-to-work program, perhaps? For the answer, we turn to Sen. Bob Coffin, a member of Interim Finance.

"We have to do something or it shows we don’t care," Coffin, D-Las Vegas, said.

Considering that these seven employees have announced they won’t be doing anything constructive, or even obstructive, may I suggest we fire six of them and "show we care" for one seventh of the cost? And perhaps the state could have the seventh employee occupy space at his home, thus saving the taxpayers some rent money. An employee merely occupying space would seem an ideal candidate for tele-commuting. The taxpayers wouldn’t even have to buy him a phone. NJ

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


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