Red state bailout, unchartered charters, & the session’s best bill so far

sad!
Sad! (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
sad!
Sad! (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The following are excerpts from this week’s Daily Current newsletter, the editor’s opinionated morning news roundup, which you can subscribe to here.

Red State Bailout (March 2). Did you see this New York Times map of states with the biggest pandemic budget problems? The seven states with double-digit revenue drops were:

  • Alaska: 42.5 percent
  • Hawaii: 17 percent
  • North Dakota: 14.8 percent
  • Nevada: 11.8 percent
  • Florida: 11.3 percent
  • Oregon: 10.5 percent
  • Texas: 10.4 percent

The states are generally where economies are reliant on either tourism or energy, the Times notes in the story. (Oregon would be an exception). And as per the facile GOP “blue state bailout” nonsense, you’ll notice the majority of them are red states.

I also couldn’t help but notice that four of the seven — Texas, Florida, Alaska, and Nevada — don’t have a state income tax.

That matters because of the so-called K-shaped recovery, where people who have retained their employment, especially those with higher incomes, have mostly done okay or even prospered economically, while those with lower incomes have not. The more prosperous folks who have done okay paid income taxes. In states that have them.

In Nevada, by contrast, the biggest source of state government revenue is the sales tax, which puts a disproportionately large burden on low-income workers, while severely straining the funding for public services whenever those services are needed most. Like in the Great Recession, and now.

Nevada policymakers and elected officials have a plan for confronting this structural dysfunction, by the way: Wait for the next boom.

About those business tax breaks… (March 3). Companies get tax abatements as a sweetener to come here or expand here, although neither Nevada nor any state has any definitive proof that the abatements have any impact on company decisions or if all the states are just racing to the bottom, fueled by a pro-bizz ideological construct so ingrained as “common sense” that policymakers don’t even recognize they are making ideological decisions. But I digress.

Over the last ten years, those routine tax breaks (or so the state contends) have created more than 14,000 jobs. Again, over ten years. The pre-pandemic Nevada workforce was about 1.3 million, if memory serves. Every time I see the state crowing about all the jobs these tax breaks bring, I am struck by how paltry the numbers are.

Some of this was aired, if gingerly, during a legislative committee hearing Tuesday. “I think we’re seeing an emerging body of research from folks like Pew Charitable Trust and others that are questioning whether tax incentives or abating taxes is a successful economic development tool,” Sen. Julia Ratti said. Dana Gentry looked in on the hearing and filed this report: Gansert: Reno uplifted by economic diversification, LV not so much

Uncharted charters (March 4). State law says 70 percent of teachers in charter schools (which are publicly funded but privately managed) must be licensed. But it doesn’t say what kind of license. And since Nevada is typically poised at the forefront nationally of the “don’t ask don’t know” school of policy analysis, the state outfit ostensibly monitoring charter schools has no idea how many of the teachers have only a substitute license.

Now there is a bill to require publicly financed charters to follow the same teacher licensure requirements as regular school districts, April Corbin Girnus reports: Who’s teaching at Nevada charter schools?

As this bill moves forward, assuming it does, one of the things to watch will be the degree to which Democratic lawmakers persist in their long-standing turning of a blind eye to the charter industry, which over the years they’ve allowed to grow and grow and grow, unchecked and unmonitored. Nevada Democrats – the electeds and the party apparatchiks, anyway – fashion themselves as some fancy-pants cutting-edge model state party on the national scene. But when it comes to education they’re pretty much partying like it’s, oh, 1995. Same goes for economic policy, but I digress.

Best bill of the session? (March 5). Good things about the Nevada evictions bill sponsored by Assemblyman Howard Watts include but are not limited to:

  • It directly and meaningfully tackles a pressing pandemic-related hardship.
  • It proposes permanent reforms that are long overdue.
  • It tackles an unholy alliance between public policy and special interests that was making life harder than it needs to be for countless Nevadans long before anybody heard of the covid.

Very, very few bills introduced in this year’s legislative session can make a serious claim to one of those qualities, let alone all three.

The landlord industry of course is having a cow. And the default reaction to business from the governor and Democratic legislative leadership is to cave to it. So this one should be fun to watch. Michael Lyle (who I presume has written more about evictions and eviction policy than anybody in the state) has the details on the legislation, which was aired at a hearing Thursday. Legislation would automatically seal records for pandemic-related evictions

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.