Ozone regs: EPA tells Nevada to suck it up

The EPA today issued regulations that slash the levels of ozone allowed in the air.

“Bringing ozone pollution standards in line with the latest science will clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information, and protect those most at-risk,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, according to The Hill.

The order cuts allowable ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion to between 65 and 70 ppb with plans to further lower that to 60 ppb.

Air from the ozone-rich stratosphere sometimes “intrudes” down to the surface in the springtime in the Intermountain West, making it harder for some regions to meet health-based standards for ozone pollution. (Credit: Meiyun Lin, Princeton University and NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory)

While ozone is generally a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, it is also naturally occurring.

In fact, according to a recent study, a lot of the ground-level ozone in the Great Basin area comes from something called stratospheric intrusions that bring air from the stratosphere down to the surface.

Researchers took readings from a mountain top 30 miles northwest to Las Vegas and found that stratospheric intrusions added at least 30 ppb to the natural ozone level, which is usually 50 to 60 ppb. That pushes level to 80 ppb and violates EPA’s new standards, as well as the current standard.

The study also noted the region gets a lot of ozone from California and Asia, as well as wildfires.

National Association of Manufacturers estimates that the ozone rule could cost $270 billion a year —the most expensive regulation in history.

To which McCarthy replies, “Special-interest critics will try to convince you that pollution standards chase away local jobs and businesses, but, in fact, healthy communities attract new businesses, new investment, and new jobs.”

Compliance will mean shutting down or modifying power plants, factories, heavy-duty vehicles, farm equipment, off-road vehicles and passenger cars. For Nevadans it will cost $23 million more to own and operate vehicles.

Maybe the EPA will next ban people from living in Nevada. That might be the only way to comply with the new rule.

Or maybe the EPA will relent. Don’t hold your breath.

Senate needs to take action on Nevada lands bill

As the days of Nevada Sen. Harry Reid’s power to set the agenda of the U.S. Senate wind down in this lame duck session of Congress, there is one bill the Democratic majority leader must bring to a vote and win passage.

That is a package of seven bills — collectively known as H.R. 5205 — which passed the House on a voice vote on Sept. 15. Passage of this package of bills would have a huge impact on jobs and economic development in rural Nevada.

Head frame at Pumpkin Hollow copper mine

If it fails to pass in the next month, the legislative package will have to start all over again in 2015 in the 114th Congress and could take another two years to complete — though some aspects of the bill have been pending since 1991.

Sponsored by Republican Rep. Mark Amodei in the north and Democrat Rep. Steven Horsford in the south, Amodei said of the bill as it was clearing the House, “These are community-driven lands measures that will create jobs without cost to the federal taxpayer. For the second time in two years, the eyes of Northern Nevada turn to the Senate.”

One part of the bill — the Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act — would allow the town of Yerington to buy, at market value, 12,500 acres of federal land adjacent to the Pumpkin Hollow copper mine for an industrial park. It is estimated the project could create 800 to 1,000 permanent jobs and about 500 jobs during the construction phase.

It has languished in Congress for six years now.

Other parts of the bill would create a wilderness area in Humboldt County, clear up ownership of land in Virginia City, allow Carlin to buy federal land for economic development, transfer land in Fallon for Navy housing, allow Fernley to buy federal land for economic development and set aside land in Elko for a motocross track and for an Indian tribe.

If Reid dithers, Sen. Dean Heller should push this bill for Nevadans who need jobs.

Why Obama’s executive fiat on immigration might not really help Reid

Reid arrives in Las Vegas on Air Force One (R-J photo)

The hed on the online version of the Sunday follow-up story in the Las Vegas newspaper about Obama’s visit to Las Vegas to tout his executive order waiving the threat of deportation for millions in the country illegally read: “Obama’s Las Vegas trip helps Reid, too.” The hed and subhed in print read: “Obama’s visit start of 2016 campaign: Del Sol speech seen as boost to Reid’s hopes.”

I’m not sure the story itself ever really reaches that conclusion.

Harry Reid himself, when asked whether the announcement might aid his re-election effort, simply said, “We’ll see.”

The story says Reid won 90 percent of the minority Hispanic vote in 2010. How many more votes than that could he possibly get?

The better question may be: How many votes might the immigration ploy cost Reid?

There are no hard numbers I could find on how many black votes Reid got in 2010, but Democratic candidates often get close to 90 percent.

Illegal immigrants, mostly Hispanic, already make up 10 percent of Nevada’s workforce. What might that number climb to as millions as added to the workforce?

According the Economic Policy Institute, in the third quarter of 2014 the unemployment rate for Hispanics in Nevada was 6.8 percent. For blacks it was 16.8 percent and 7.2 percent for whites. Both of those were the highest in the nation, EPI said.

Could black and white employment levels be affected by competition from newly “legalized” workers?

2008 Commission on Civil Rights report found that young black workers are especially affected by legal and illegal immigration.

A summary of testimony by Dr. Gordon H. Hanson, professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego, concluded:

Dr. Hanson’s coauthored research suggested that a 10 percent immigrant-induced increase in the labor supply is associated with a 4 percent decrease in black wages, a 3.5 percent decrease in the black employment rate, and a 0.8 percent increase in the black incarceration rate. This correlation held true in both national and state-level data, according to Hanson. The same data source showed that the effect of immigration on white men also produced a 4.1 percent decrease in wages, but had much less effect on employment and incarceration rates. Thus, wages went down for the skill group generally, but black men lost proportionally more jobs and disproportionally increased in incarceration rates.

Dr. Hanson stated that the economic changes created by the large immigrant inflow from 1980 to 2000 (half of which he attributes to illegal immigration) resulted in a labor supply shock that increased the number of workers in the U.S. by 10 percent, with an increase in the number of high school dropouts in the population by over 20 percent. These adjustments account for about 40 percent of the overall 18 percent decline in black employment rates and 10 of the 20 percentage point increase in the incarceration rate of black high school dropouts over the same period. Dr. Hanson noted that this influx reduced the employment rate of low-skill black men by eight percentage points.

The commission report also noted in that same year the Coalition for the Future American Worker sponsored an ad campaign featuring Dr. Frank Morris, the former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which says:

So, the question should not be whether this immigration ploy will help or hurt Reid, but whether it will hurt American citizens, black and white? And how will they react at the polls?

Congress needs to allow Nevadans to deduct sales tax from income tax

If the lame duck session of Congress does nothing else, it must pass an extension of the federal income tax deduction for state and local sales taxes.

Currently state and local income taxes are deductible but the sales tax deduction has expired. Seven states have no state income taxes to deduct, leaving the sales tax as the main comparable deduction. And time is running out.

In 2012 the average Nevada tax filer was able to deduct $332 from federal income taxes, according a Pew Charitable Trusts analysis of Internal Revenue Service data.

Without an extension, many Nevadans are basically facing a tax hike come April 15.

We don’t call on Congress to make the sales tax deduction permanent, but merely to fix it now in the name of fairness one more time, then in the Republican-controlled Congress in 2015 there should be real tax reform.

The current hodge-podge of tax deductions and exemptions and breaks and dodges is entirely unfair and inequitable.

The residents of high tax states send less money to Washington per dollar earned than the residents of states with lower taxes. For example, Illinois recently raised its state income tax rate by 2 percentage-points, but since that was deductible from federal income tax, Illinois basically sent the bill to the other 49 states.

Instead of permanently keeping the sales tax deduction, our representatives would better serve their constituents by introducing a bill eliminating the deduction for all state and local taxes — yes, including property taxes — while lowering the federal income tax rate for everyone, including those who don’t qualify for itemized deductions.

Currently, tax filers can choose either the standard deduction or may itemize deductions for certain expenses, including some taxes. The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 allowed taxpayers who itemize to deduct state and local sales taxes or state and local income taxes. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 ended the sales tax deduction at the end of 2013.

The Congressional Budget Office has stated, “The deduction for state and local taxes is effectively a federal subsidy to state and local governments; that means the federal government essentially pays a share of people’s state and local taxes. Therefore, the deduction indirectly finances spending by those governments at the expense of other uses of federal revenues.”

In other words, the CBO says, state and local tax deductions largely benefit wealthier taxpayers who can itemize and live in states with high local tax rates.

A quick fix to make sales taxes deductible should be a priority for Nevada’s Washington delegation.

What the House Intelligence report on Benghazi says

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We used to say back in the day in Air Force intelligence that that there are three kinds of intelligence — human, animal and military — in that order.

When the House Intelligence panel report on what happened in and after the attack in Benghazi on the American consulate came out, there was a lot of spinning and interpretation.

Here are few excerpts:

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Newspaper column: Think tank provides road map for 2015 lawmakers

The state of Nevada — for the first time since before the Great Depression — has a Republican governor and Republican majorities in both the Assembly and state Senate, as well as all the statewide elective offices, providing an opportunity to finally attempt to curb the growth of state spending and address much-needed reforms in education, land management, commerce, health care, taxation, debt, labor and public employee pensions.

To achieve these objectives there ought to be a guidebook, something like Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” or Paul Ryan’s “A Road Map for America’s Future.”

As luck would have it — actually as good planning would have it, because luck had nothing to do with it — the libertarian-leaning Nevada Policy Research Institute this week has published “Solutions 2015: A Sourcebook for Nevada Policymakers,” a 114-page compendium of facts, figures, charts, graphs and recommendations for putting the ship of state on a more even keel, as related in this week’s newspaper column available online at The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News and the Elko Daily Free Press. The book’s contents expand upon “Solutions 2013,” also penned by Geoffrey Lawrence, NPRI’s director of research.

Lawrence uses historical Nevada data, as well as hundreds of hours of research into the best practices in other states, to buoy his reasoning for recommendations on more than 50 issues our 2015 Legislature needs to address.

The first rattle out of the “Solutions 2015” box is a call for one of the most significant and fundamental initiatives to curb state spending growth — Tax and Spending Control. TASC would limit real, per capita spending growth to that warranted by population growth and inflation.

This is needed because since 2003 spending outpaced population and inflation by $5 billion more than spending in the previous decade.

TASC was first championed in Nevada a decade ago by then-state Sen. Bob Beers, currently the only announced candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Harry Reid.

As with its 2013 predecessor, “Solutions” is notable less for what it suggests lawmakers do as undo.

For example, the book notes that Nevada has the highest electric power bills in the Intermountain West and its per kilowatt-hour retail electricity cost is 37 percent higher than neighboring Utah’s.

The first recommendation is repeal of the so-called renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires 25 percent of all electricity sold in the state by 2025 to be generated by expensive solar, wind or geothermal facilities. According to “Solutions,” Nevada power bills are expected to rise 6 percent in the next decade due to RPS alone.

Next, repeal the 2013 law that requires the shutting down of all coal-fired power plants and deregulate the monopoly electricity market, which, by the way, the state was planning to do before the Enron market manipulation threw lawmakers into a panic.

Then there is the topic I have been fulminating about for decades, the 1937 prevailing wage law, which requires all public works projects in the state to pay wages based on a flawed survey of construction companies that always comes out to be union scale.

According to Lawrence’s research, this law requires the state, cities, counties, school districts and other government entities to pay 45 percent higher wages than necessary at a cost to taxpayers of $1 billion a year.

But probably the most important recommendations in “Solutions” are found in the section on public education, which recommends real reform and not just more funding. “Nevada has nearly tripled per-pupil funding, on an inflation-adjusted basis, while educational quality has deteriorated,” the book notes. “The U.S. Department of Education reports that, between FY1960 and FY2011, real, per-pupil funding for ‘current expenditures’ (not accounting for employee benefits, capital outlays and debt repayment) increased from $3,268 to $9,035. Over the same time period, test scores have remained flat while graduation rates have dramatically declined.”

The fundamental solution is competition through choice — private schools, charter schools, education savings accounts, education tax credits and scholarship programs.

In addition there needs to be competition in the classroom, where teachers would be paid based on merit — how much students progress during the school years — and not seniority alone, as is the case now.

Though Nevada has spent $2.5 billion on class-size reduction in kindergarten through third grade over the past 25 years, there has been no observable improvement in educational outcomes. In fact, according to reports Lawrence uncovered, Nevada students in classes of less than 15 on average did not score as well in reading and math as students in larger classes. End class-size reduction.

Also, all-day kindergarten and early childhood programs have shown no lasting benefit.

Perhaps this election will have consequences.

No sane country for old men

Obama reads his amnesty speech

First Obama waved his magic pen and granted those brought into the country illegally as children to stay without fear of deportation. Now he is unilaterally granting their parents green cards and Social Security cards. Perhaps second cousins will be given free airline tickets next.

An opponent of this kind of action once said:

“If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn’t enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant? No sane country would do that, right? Guess again. If you break our laws by entering this country without permission and give birth to a child, we reward that child with U.S. citizenship and guarantee access to all public and social services this country provides. Now that’s a lot of services. Is it any wonder that two-thirds of the babies born at taxpayer expense at county run hospitals in Los Angeles are born to illegal alien mothers?”

First, it was babies born here, then children brought here and then their parents.

The “opponent,” of course, was Nevada Sen. Harry Reid who spoke those words on the floor of the Senate in 1993.

These days Harry gets up in the morning and pledges allegiance to the Democratic Party — not his insane country — and the power for which it stands.

By the way, that Earned Income Tax Credit that can come with that Social Security card can be quite lucrative, as The Daily Caller points out.

Under the EITC, two parents earning less than $47,000 in 2014 could get a $6,000 tax credit. Those with incomes of around $20,000 could get nearly $15,000. Nearly half of all legal and illegal immigrants have income below the poverty level.

No sane country gives away money to people who violate their laws.