Specious session

If you ever wanted to see the very worst of legislative sausage-making, last week’s special session of the Nevada Legislature had it all. An “emergency” session that was hardly an emergency, called less than a month before a general election will usher in a new group of legislators who might not be so eager to toe the governor’s line. A billionaire who owns the state’s largest newspaper refusing to negotiate his requirements for a taxpayer-funded football stadium, all the while dropping millions of dollars into Republican races while contributing serious money to Democrats hungry for campaign cash. An embarrassing legislative process designed to stifle debate and minimize opposition. A suppressed infrastructure report surfacing at the last minute detailing $899 million more in accelerated improvements. Unwarranted threats against legislators by lobbyists who know better. Betrayals by legislators elected with the elbow grease and shoe leather of progressives. And, in the end, the worst stadium deal ever negotiated, giving away $750 million in tax revenue with the knowledge the state budget will be at least $400 million short in the next biennium.

For decades Republicans have relentlessly taunted Democrats as “tax and spenders,” claiming progressives throw money away on government programs like all-day kindergarten or public health concerns. Republicans delight in portraying Democrats who want more spending on education, mental health care and infrastructure as classic bleeding heart liberals who are “takers” rather than “job creators.”

These Republicans can no longer claim the mantle of responsible stewards of the taxpayers’ hard-earned cash. Frankly, they’ve been spending our money like drunken sailors, giving away billions to corporate entities that hardly need the help such as Apple, Faraday, Switch and the boondoggle of all time, Tesla.

Economic development officials insist these gifts to the private sector benefit the average taxpayer and viciously attack anyone who opines differently.

Each project leads to the next bigger, better deal Nevada can’t live without and our politicians shake the piggy bank again, extracting millions more to invest in private enterprise while our public schools and services suffer.

The decision to award $750 million in taxpayer funds to a billionaire to build a new NFL stadium is historic in its breathtaking greed. Proponents claim only tourists will pay the room tax, neglecting to mention that struggling Nevadans living in weekly motels will pay it too. They certainly don’t want Washoe County residents to understand this same room tax could be raised in a true emergency session to address the $238 million needed to repair our crumbling schools instead of building a shiny stadium more appropriately financed by the private sector. Our elected officials have the wrong spending priorities.

Scores of lobbyists convinced the Legislature that a billionaire’s wallet matters more than fixing our schools. They cleverly tied a convention center expansion to the mix, harnessing the lobbying power of the gambling industry. The insulting deal leaves taxpayers with the bill should rosy projections falter—and without a share of the profits if the stadium succeeds.

In a disgraceful breach of decorum, legislators applauded proponents’ testimony as if they were at a pep rally. No experts on stadium financing appeared despite credible published accounts calling the proposal the worst deal a city has ever made for a stadium. The Senate even passed a resolution declaring that senators couldn’t disclose their conflicts of interest nor abstain for any reason, a brazen mechanism to command votes while hiding conflicts from the public’s view.

In his statement praising the vote, Gov. Sandoval concluded by saying “This is what the new Nevada is all about.”

It is indeed a sad and pathetic state that taxes poor people to build a billionaire’s whim while children suffer in overcrowded classrooms. If this is the new Nevada, shame on us all.