Budget deficits and other tall tales

Human beings are fantastic storytellers.

“I caught a fish as big as my leg, but it got away!”

“Man, you should see the body on the girl I picked up last night! Whoa! Too bad she had to catch the first flight out this morning.”

“With the shortfall at $2.7 billion, balancing the [state] budget is going to require a mixture of cuts and additional revenue.”

The third one? That’s a jewel from Assemblymember David Bobzien, D-Reno, who appeared recently on the Nevada Newsmakers program with guest host Ray Hagar. With darting glances and twitching fingers, Assemblyman Bobzien meekly tried to make the case that raising taxes is the only way to balance the state budget. He failed in this endeavor. When Hagar confronted him with the assertion from Gov. Sandoval’s office that the budget shortfall is actually $1.1 billion not $2.7 billion, Bobzien laughed nervously and quipped that he “hopes this conversation can be put to bed,” and he “doesn’t think it’s very helpful to continue to debate this number.” Just when I thought he was finished, Bobzien spouted off with another whopper: “Regardless of what the number is, this is a big, big number.”

I beg your pardon? “A big, big number?” Why yes, Mr. Bobzien, it is a big number. A big number that should be a little clearer to you and the rest of the Assembly Democrats. Let me check for understanding here. Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, we are arguably in a depression, you continually lust for more “revenue”—read: higher taxes—to cover our state’s budget deficit, and you can’t even tell us how much?

And yet you shake your heads arrogantly when Republicans question the need to raise taxes.

The true budget deficit is most likely somewhere between those two figures, but that is not the point. You are trying to make a credible case to your constituents that raising taxes is essential to keep our state afloat, yet you pull numbers out of thin air, stick to them rigidly, and refuse to acknowledge the other options on the table.

This is not your money, Democrats. It belongs to us, the citizens of Nevada. You are not entitled to spend our money willy-nilly. I don’t care about satiating your special interests and unions. I don’t care about your campaign war chests, or your love affair with being a public figure. You have a responsibility to work with the new Republican administration to make a reasoned, thoughtful and plausible case to Nevadans as to what you are doing with our money. That is a mammoth task, and let me be the first to tell you that no longer will we fall for your worn out excuse of “trust us, it’s for the children.”

Democrats statewide managed to bumble and fumble back into office on the coattails of a magnificently unpopular governor and Nevada’s ballot box version of the Hindenburg, Sharron Angle, but that doesn’t diminish the Republican tsunami that swept the country. It is wise counsel for you to take a lesson from the changes happening nationwide. People are upset and scared, and you must start paying attention to them. We want smaller deficits. We want drastic cuts in spending. We want you to hold yourselves accountable and stop pointing fingers at everyone else. I know you take some comfort in the fact your districts are so heavily gerrymandered that reelection is easy for you, but lest you forget—you don’t control that process completely this session.

It’s accountability time, Democrats. Do what’s right for Nevada, or the next time you are recounting the story of the “one that got away,” you will be talking about your failed bid for reelection.