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.


Nevada taxpayers will pick up the tab for Barry and Harry’s amnesty

Obama at Del Sol High School in 2008 (R-J photo)

Obama tonight will address the nation and explain how he is going to unilaterally rewrite legislation to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants and then come to Las Vegas’ Del Sol High School with his pen in hand to sign the deal with Harry Reid at his side.

“This is personal to me,” Reid said in a statement. “There is no issue I have worked on more in my time as Democratic leader than immigration reform.”

What Barry and Harry fail to say is just who is going to pick up the tab for this magnanimity. Hint: The states, because it is the states that pay for education and most medical care and welfare benefits.

And Nevada will be among the hardest hit, because Nevada has by far the highest percentage of illegal immigrants of any state and the level has gone up in recent years.

According to a Pew Research report this week, in 2012 Nevada’s population included 7.6 percent illegals, its workforce was 10.2 percent illegals and its school enrollment included 17.7 percent whose parents are not in the country legally, all the highest levels in the nation, and those figures are up from two years prior.

And those figures could go up with amnesty since more illegals would be expected to try to join family members already here, expecting little chance of detection or deportation.

Just a few years ago the Las Vegas newspaper documented a small portion of the burden on the medical system of illegals by noting the cost of providing dialysis to illegals was costing UMC $24 million a year. Gov. Brian Sandoval has expanded Medicaid, which could make newly “legal” immigrants eligible for that and other benefits.

A Heritage Foundation report has estimated the lifetime fiscal cost of amnesty could reach $6.3 trillion, depending on how many are covered by the action.

Heritage chart

A report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform spells out some of the benefits for which newly legalized immigrants will be eligible, many state funded. Aliens with so-called deferred action are eligible for ObamaCare (which is disputed by some news reports), Social Security, Earned Income Tax Credit, Unemployment, Medicare. If they are children and pregnant women, they are also eligible for health care benefits through Medicaid and SCHIP in states that have opted to cover them, the report says.

Here’s the bill.




Emperor Obama coming to Vegas to grant a boon to his subjects

Obama — bringing his pen and his phone — is coming to Las Vegas Friday reportedly to tout his executive fiat by which he is granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, paying no heed to the fact that the Constitution gives the power to legislate to Congress and not the president. The announcement of his plan is expected Thursday evening.

When Obama last spoke at Del Sol High School in January 2013 about immigration, Harry Reid said:

“President Obama offered a clear vision of the steps we need to take to fix our broken immigration system, and made clear that he stands ready to work with the members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who are currently drafting a common-sense, bipartisan solution to this issue.”

But now Reid says, “I think when the president decides to do his executive order, he should go big. As big as he can.”

But this is nothing new for Obama.

His administration has unilaterally rewritten the ObamaCare law at least 42 times, pushing back deadlines and giving tax abatements to those in the federal exchange though the law says they are only for those in state exchanges — the latter coming to a Supreme Court near you soon.

His IRS investigated conservative groups that tried to get tax-exempt status.

His EPA wrote rules that made coal power virtually illegal, exceeding the law, as it did with clean water rules.

His federal land agencies have overstepped on enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, punished oil companies that kill birds but giving free rein to windmills and solar power plants.

His Education Department waived requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act and told college campuses how to restrict “free speech.”

Obama ordered American citizens to be killed with drones but without due process.

His agencies illegally obtained the phone records of reporters.

The Department of Justice illegally sold guns for export to Mexico as part of Fast and Furious.

He failed to notify Congress as the law requires before releasing Gitmo terrorists in exchange for release of an AWOL American.

Sen. Ted Cruz added the list of Obama’s abuses of power:

• Disregarded 1996 welfare reform law in granting broad work waivers for work requirements of welfare.

• Refused to prosecute violation of drug laws with certain mandatory minimums.

• Illegally refused to act on Yucca Mountain’s application to become a nuclear waste repository.

• Illegally revealed the existence of sealed indictments in the Benghazi investigation.

• Though probably not unconstitutional, lied about Benghazi.

• Continued to give Egypt aid after the military took over its government, even though federal law prohibits aid to Egypt in the event of a coup.

• Had SWAT teams raid a Gibson guitar factory and seize property, on the purported basis that Gibson had broken India’s environmental laws — but no charges were filed.

• Government agencies are engaging in “Operation Choke Point,” where the government asks banks to “choke off” access to financial services for customers engaging in conduct the Administration does not like — such as “ammunition sales.

• Aided drug cartels instead of enforcing immigration laws — as found by a federal judge. Border Patrol agents, multiple times, knowingly helped smuggle illegal immigrant children into the U.S.; “the DHS is encouraging parents to seriously jeopardize the safety of their children.”

• Dismissed charges filed by Bush Administration against New Black Panther Party members who were videotaped intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling station during the 2008 election.

Investor’s Business Daily today had a partial list of Obama misdeeds:

• Abrogate well-established bankruptcy law to turn over control of General Motors to its unions who helped elect him.

• Issue unlawful recess-appointments at influential regulators — the National Labor Relations Board and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — while the Senate remained in session.

• Sue states for enforcing their own voter ID laws.

• Claim executive privilege to shield an attorney general held in contempt of Congress for not responding to subpoenas to turn over records pertaining to a reckless and unprecedented program known as Fast and Furious that resulted in a border patrol agent’s murder.

• Be held in contempt of court for illegally obstructing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

• Attempt to block a major manufacturing company — Boeing — from its legal right to open a manufacturing line in a right-to-work state, South Carolina.

• Arbitrarily declare the existing law under the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and unenforceable.

• Sue states for enforcing immigration laws passed by Congress.

• Have his Environmental Protection Agency repudiated by a federal judge for illegally attempting to shut down coal operations in Appalachia.

• Bypass Congress and ram through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, aka Dream Act, by executive order.

• Authorize the release of 36,000 criminal aliens, including rapists, kidnappers, arsonists, burglars, sex offenders and 193 murderers.

Michael Ramirez cartoon


Reporting on solar power plants — a week late and few dollars short

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System just across the California border. (AP file photo by John Locher)

The Las Vegas newspaper finally got around to printing an AP story about the fact that huge solar thermal power plant just across the border in California is not performing as advertised.

In fact, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System  is producing half of its expected annual output, the story says, though others have put the output at 30 percent of rated capacity or even one quarter — and that was more than a week ago.

Though the story relates that the $2.2 billion project was built by BrightSource Energy with a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee, it doesn’t bother to mention that the billionaire owners are not paying loan payments and are seeking a $539 million cash grant from the Treasury Department, as reported by The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 23.

Though it has been reported that the plant has applied to use more natural gas to get its boilers operating when the sun fails to do the job, the story details that operators had thought they would need to use natural gas an hour a day, but instead are using gas an average of 4½ hours a day. So how much of the plant’s half-capacity production is from solar and how much from gas? Perhaps that’s were the one quarter figure comes from.

The story also makes no mention of the thousands of birds that have been killed in 800-degree heat of the sun’s rays focused by thousands of mirrors on the plant’s 450-foot tall towers.

Harry Reid was once quoted in a BrightSource press release about the Ivanpah project: “I am very happy to see utility-scale solar projects like this one moving forward with strong Administration support, and I am hopeful that this project will serve as a cornerstone of the clean energy economy in the Southwestern U.S. I look forward to BrightSource and other solar companies putting more Nevadans to work by building major projects like this in Nevada very soon.”

In 2010 Harry held a fundraiser at BrightSource’s headquarters in California, shortly after the firm got the $1.6 billion loan guarantee.

A website called The Party Blog reported on some other cozy relationships. Brightsource reportedly paid $40,000 to R&R Partners, supporters of Reid, to work on stimulus funding matters. BrightSource also had a deal with Harvey Whittemore’s moribund Coyote Springs Land Company — Whittemore was tight with Harry until he went to prison for illegal contributions to Reid — for the lease of some land for further solar projects.



Do the math and find out who benefits from proposed Moapa solar panel project

NV Energy’s Southern Nevada division, Nevada Power, is asking the Public Utilities Commission to reconsider its rejection of a proposed $438 million, 200-megawatt solar panel project on the Moapa River Paiute Indian Reservation.

Approving the Moapa project “reduces the impact of retiring and replacing coal-fired generation on customers, provides value to customers through incremental fuel diversity, generates construction jobs in 2015, and yields a net positive impact on Nevada’s economy,” the Review-Journal account quotes the utility as arguing.

NV Energy says it needs more generating capacity to replace that lost due to the legislatively mandated shut down of its Reid Gardner coal-fired plant. According to NV Energy, that plant has a 557 megawatt capacity.

Though the PUC nixed the Moapa solar project, it did approve the utility buying two existing gas-generated plants in North Las Vegas that can produce up to 496 megawatts of electricity and the purchase of a 15-megawatt solar project at Nellis Air Force Base. That covers most of the lost capacity right there, leaving the company only 46 megawatts short, not 200 megawatts.

PUC documents say the shortage is actually 54 megawatts. No need to quibble. Besides the PUC says that shortfall, when it is needed, can be provided by spending on $85 million, not $438 million.

The PUC determined approval of the Moapa solar plant would have cost ratepayers $50 million in 2017 alone, which “may have a significant effect on the creation of jobs in Nevada.” So much for creating jobs, as NV Energy and Harry Reid claim.

PUC Commissioner David Noble said, “Paying for generating capacity that is not needed places unnecessary costs on ratepayers.”

But monopoly NV Energy, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett, earns its profits by being allowed about a 10 percent return on equity. The more equity, the more profits. The ratepayers shoulder all the risk and cost.

Obama and Reid look at solar panels at Nellis AFB.

As for that Nellis solar power, Harry Reid once bragged about how the solar array was saving the Air Force $1 million in power bills. He neglected to note that the installation cost $100 million. The return on investment would take 100 years for solar panels that have a life expectancy of 20 to 30 years.

Falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater, am I?

Draft lottery (AP file photo via R-J)

Only 78 percent of young Nevadans are registering for the draft. That factoid was buried deep within a story in the Las Vegas newspaper under the hed: “Nevada draft registration lags.”

There was a draft during the Civil War or War Between the States, if you prefer, but in December of 1865 the 13th Amendment was ratified. It reads:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

When I was judging the “We the People” competition among high school students, I’d often drill them about the limits on free speech and someone would invariably say you can’t shout fire in a crowded theater. Only one had a clue as to what the origin of that analogy was.

I wager few people do. (scroll down)