All the news that’s fit to … not print?

On Friday afternoon the Review-Journal published online an article about a massive wind farm proposed for the Nevada-California border being rejected by the BLM.

The article has yet to appear in print. Not Saturday. Not Sunday.

Isn’t that something the Sun does all the time? Is the R-J becoming more like the Sun? Heaven forbid!

A sign marks the state border near where 220 wind turbines were proposed for construction. (R-J pix)



Editorial: Repeal of IRS deductions for state and local taxes unfair to Nevada

Now that Democrats — who have made a career out of demanding soak-the-rich taxes in order to redistribute it to the poor — are in control of the U.S. House of Representatives, one of their first priorities will be to provide a tax break for the rich — in certain Democrat-controlled states.

According to Forbes magazine and others, a top priority will be a repeal of the $10,000 cap on IRS deductions for state and local taxes (SALT) that was part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December 2017.

According to the Tax Policy Center, three-quarters of any benefit from repealing the SALT deduction cap would go to households making $153,000 or more. The top 1 percent of households, those making $755,000 or more, would receive more than 56 percent of the benefit. The Center calculated repeal would cut federal tax revenues by $620 billion over the coming decade.

The Tax Foundation says 88 percent of the benefits of a repeal would flow to those making more than $100,000 a year.

So a repeal benefits the rich, but just the rich in certain states.

Nevadans — along with residents of New Hampshire, Florida, Wyoming, Texas, South Dakota and Alaska — used to be able to deduct about 1 percent or less of their adjusted gross income, while those who live in New York, Maryland, D.C. and California could deduct more than 5 percent.

Nearly one-third of the additional tax dollars generated by the SALT cap comes from Californians and New Yorkers, both heavily Democratic states.

Using 2010 statistical data from the IRS, the latest available, you find Californians who filed for state and local income tax deductions claimed deductions of $10,700 per return.

Nevadans who filed for the state and local sales tax deduction claimed only $1,430 per return.

Calculated on a per capita basis, Californians claimed $2,116 in federal income tax deductions, while Nevadans claimed only $166 per person for sales tax deductions.

Tax fairness? Not hardly.

Sounds like Nevadans would again be paying a disproportionately higher proportion of federal taxes if the SALT cap is repealed.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: Coming legislative session could resurrect some awful bills

With the election of Democratic majorities in both the state Assembly and Senate, many fear that, as Yogi Berra once said, it’s going to be deja vu all over again.

The 2019 session of the Legislature could resurrect many of the bills that Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed in 2017 — 41 in all, and he is considered a moderate Republican — because this time around the governor wielding the veto pen, or not, will be Democrat Steve Sisolak.

Take 2017’s Assembly Bill 154, which was sponsored by a raft of Democrats. But for Sandoval’s veto, the bill would have rolled back the minor headway made just two years earlier to cut the cost of public works. It would raise the cost of construction of university and public school buildings by reimposing the so-called prevailing wage on more projects.

Prevailing wage laws require that workers on public construction jobs to be paid no less than the “prevailing” wage in the area where the work is being done. The wage rate is set by the state Labor Commissioner based on a survey of contractors. The survey is so time consuming that in reality only union shops bother to comply, meaning the prevailing wage is the highest union wage.

In 2000, a study by the Las Vegas newspaper found the prevailing wage law cost taxpayers about $2.3 million extra on every new public high school being built in Clark County.

Then there is Senate Bill 106, which would have raised the minimum wage employers must pay workers. Currently the minimum is $7.25 and hour for workers whose benefits include health insurance and $8.25 for those who do not.

SB106 would have raised that by 75 cents a year until it reached $11 an hour for the insured and $12 for the uninsured. Sisolak has supported incremental increases in the minimum wage, though study after study has shown such requirements eliminate jobs and cause reduced hours for the remaining workers.

A 2017 University of Washington study of Seattle’s minimum wage, which was raised to $13 an hour, found the increase boosted hourly earnings in the jobs affected by a paltry 3 percent, and reduced hours worked by 9 percent. They also found the city would have had 5,000 more jobs if the minimum wages had not been increased.

Assembly Bill 374 from 2017 would have allowed any Nevadan to purchase Medicaid-like health insurance through the state exchange even if they are not eligible for Medicaid. In his veto message Sandoval said the measure would have created uncertainty in an already fragile health care market. He said the bill could have caused longer waits for care and fewer available doctors.

Senate Bill 196 would have required employers with at least 25 employees to provide workers with paid sick leave. Sandoval expressed concerns about the impact on small businesses.

Senate Bill 384 would have done legislatively what the Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System has been trying unsuccessfully to get the courts to do for years. It would have declared all information about state and local government retirees confidential under the law.

Just this past month the Nevada Supreme Court, in a case brought by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, declared the names and pension amounts of retired public employees are indeed public records under the current law.

Nevada’s public employee pensions are the richest in the nation — $64,000 a year or more than $1.3 million in lifetime benefits, and that doesn’t include public-safety workers, such as firefighters and police, who can retire earlier and generally have higher salaries, especially in Nevada. Compare this to the average annual Social Security benefit of $16,000.

According to NPRI’s, in 2015 there were more than 1,500 Nevada state and local retirees receiving annual pensions in excess of $100,000. A revival of SB384 would keep that a secret from those whose taxes cover the expense.

Keep your eyes on this upcoming session in Carson City. It could bode very poorly for employers, workers and taxpayers.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Nevada Legislature building (R-J pix)

Groups complain that immigration law is being enforced

Enforcing the law? What a concept.

The AP is reporting that a bunch of scofflaw organizations are protesting the fact that federal agencies are actually, you know, enforcing the law — immigration law to be precise.

A letter was sent this week to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by more than 100 self-styled immigrant-rights and child-welfare groups complaining about the agencies using information gleaned from unaccompanied illegal immigration minors to locate and deport relatives already in the country illegally.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, a part of HHS tries to unite unaccompanied migrant children with relatives until their legal status can be resolved, but it has begun sharing information about those relatives with DHS, which reportedly has used the information to identify illegal immigrants and deport them.

“Children are being turned into bait to gather unprecedented amounts of information from immigrant communities,” Becky Wolozin, an attorney with the Legal Aid Justice Center, was quoted as saying by the AP.

So far only 41 relatives in the country illegally have been arrested for deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation that would prohibit DHS from using information obtained in processing migrant minors. The American Civil Liberties Union sued over the practice. The feds say the information sharing protects the children from potential harm.

There now are reportedly 14,000 such minors in custody, the largest number in U.S. history, the AP reports.

Unaccompanied immigrant minors in custody in Virginia.


Whistling in the wind, er, atmosphere

The Fourth National Climate Assessment warns that if greenhouse gas emissions are not slashed there will be several degrees of global warming and major damage to the U.S. gross domestic product.

The report warns:

In the absence of significant global mitigation action and regional adaptation efforts, rising temperatures, sea level rise, and changes in extreme events are expected to increasingly disrupt and damage critical infrastructure and property, labor productivity, and the vitality of our communities. Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries, are vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs. … With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.

Meanwhile back in reality, The Wall Street Journal reports that global emissions continue to rise, though North America’s share of global carbon emissions have dropped from 24 percent in 2004 to about 17 percent in 2013.

Instead of killing our current economy and our GDP now with emissions taxes and other futile attempts at eliminating fossil fuel emissions in the U.S., while the rest of the world carries on cavalierly, perhaps the U.S. should invest in research on adaptive strategies.

The report comes while the East Coast is experiencing record low temperatures. High temps are a sign of global warming, while low temps are just weather.

President Trump, a noted skeptic of global warming alarmism, tweeted on Wednesday, “Whatever happened to Global Warming?”

The report says that without mitigation temperatures will rise 9 degrees F by the end of the century.

It says Midwest crop yields will decline, but what about crop yields farther north?






Editorial: PERS reform needed to curb ever higher costs

The PERS cost creep continues.

Earlier this month the board of directors of the Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System authorized an increase in the amount state and local public employees and their employers — read: taxpayers — must contribute to cover pension costs.

That means, starting next July 1, for regular PERS members — teachers and other government workers — the amount of each paycheck that must be paid into the pension account will increase from 28 percent to 29.25 percent. Half of that amount comes from the worker and half from the taxpayers. Since the average public employee salary should be almost $53,000 a year by then, each worker would need to kick in on average another $330 or so a year to be matched from tax funds. (November 2018-Board Book)

Police and firefighters, who tend to have shorter careers, are assessed a higher amount. Their contributions will increase from 40.5 percent to 42.5 percent. Since the average pay should be more than $79,000 that means an almost $800 increase to be chipped in by each cop and firefighter, also matched with tax money. 

Expect those government workers to bemoan the pay check cut — even though their benefits contributions are being increased — and run crying to the Legislature to demand more money. 

The Nevada government worker retirement system, unlike anything found in the private sector, is based on a defined benefit plan, meaning pensions are calculated as a percentage of the highest pay the worker receives at the end of his or her career times the number of years worked. 

According to the American Enterprise Institute, the average Nevada public employee pension is $64,000 a year, while the average Social Security annual benefit is $16,000. Nevada Policy Research Institute has posted at its website a list of pensions paid in 2015. This includes more than 1,500 public employee pensioners drawing more than $100,000 a year.

The cost of these pensions have skyrocketed over the years.

Victor Joecks, a columnist for the Las Vegas newspaper, points out, “Nevada has been increasing contribution rates for decades to pay off unfunded pension liabilities. When PERS started in 1948, the contribution rate was 10 percent for all employees on their first $400 in earnings. In 2003, it was 18.75 percent for regular employees and 28.5 percent for police and fire. Next year’s rates are 56 percent higher for regular employees and a 49 percent increase for police and fire compared to 2003.”

Joecks calculates that if teachers contributed at the same rate they did in 2003 their take-home pay would be $2,800 more a year.

The system has an unfunded liability of more than $40 billion when one uses generally accepted accounting principles. That’s more than $53,000 per Nevada household.

It is long past time that the state change its ever more costly pension program from the defined-benefit plan to a defined-contribution plan, similar to the 401(k) plans used by corporations. The worker and the employer each contribute a set amount of the salary and the money is invested until the worker cashes out.

There actually was a bill introduced in the 2013 legislative session that would have done this. The bill garnered no discussion and no vote was ever taken. It died without a whimper in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

One day the PERS balloon will burst. We call on lawmakers to act now.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Newspaper column: We should be thankful for capitalism

Thanksgiving is rich in traditions. The turkey. The dressing. The pumpkin pie. The family assembled in prayerful reverence in remembrance of the plight of the early settlers of this country — much of which is complete fiction.

The Plymouth colonists set out to live in an idealistic communal fashion. Everyone would share equally in the products of the colony. But after nearly starving to death in 1621 and 1622, Gov. William Bradford abandoned the social experiment and gave each family its own plot of land, and whatever was produced on it was the rightful property of the owner to consume or trade.

The result was a prosperous harvest in 1623 followed by a feast of Thanksgiving.

Capitalism saved the colony. Now, there was a harvest celebration by the pilgrims and some Indian friends in 1621, but they never actually called it “Thanksgiving.”

The American Institute of Economic Research a decade ago posted online its own retelling of the Thanksgiving story, along with passages from Bradford’s recollections from “Of Plymouth Plantation,” translated into more modern spelling.

The AIER notes that the colony was attempting to live in the manner described in Plato’s Republic in which all would work and share goods in common, ridding themselves of selfishness and achieving higher social state. The problem was that hard work was not rewarded and laggardness and sloth went unpunished.

Bradford wrote: “For the young men that were able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children, without recompense. The strong, or men of parts, had no more division of food, clothes, etc. then he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labor, and food, clothes, etc. with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignant and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc. they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could man husbands brook it.”

Before the colony could die off from starvation, Bradford divvied up the land and introduced private property.

The governor wrote: “And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end. … This had a very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted then otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little-ones with them to set corn, which before would a ledge weakness, and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”

And the result was, again in Bradford’s words: “By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God. And the effect of their planting was well seen, for all had, one way or other, pretty well to bring the year about, and some of the abler sort and more industrious had to spare, and sell to others, so as any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.”

This is the real lesson of the first Thanksgiving: Capitalism always triumphs over communist utopian fantasies. Humans will work for their own self interest and, instead of it being greedy and rapacious, all benefit and prosper.

Yet in August, a Fox News poll asked whether the U.S. should move away from capitalism and toward socialism. Fully 36 percent of registered voters said it would be a good thing, double the 18 percent who thought this in 2010. Only 51 percent said it would be bad, down from 69 percent earlier. 

When will they ever learn? As someone once said, those who do not remember history are doomed …

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.