Andy Peterson: Bonus Money

Margaret Thatcher once quipped, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money”. This is an easy ditty to use against those, mainly democrats, who believe government has a role in relieving the suffering of citizens in time of crisis. The reality is both parties, on a national level, have freely spent other people’s money. One may have a hard time saying the republicans are socialists, but they are equally guilty. For example, republicans cut taxes by two trillion dollars without any corresponding spending cuts. As a result, the U.S. borrowed money to fill the gap. They spent other people’s money. Democrats, on the other hand, have a long history spending money to help people, while at the same time, lacking the fiscal discipline to pay for the programs they have enacted. They, too, have spent other people’s money. Circumstances and political philosophies are at the heart of the issue, but, both parties, to be sure, have demonstrated a lack of fiscal discipline. We would all be wise to not throw rocks while we live in glass houses.

Recently, Nevada has been fortunate to be the beneficiary of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion dollar stimulus plan. In the short term the plan is good for Nevada. However, in the long term we would be wise to remember it is borrowed money which adds to the humungous debt our county has amassed. Eventually, the accumulated debt will have to be removed from our country’s balance sheet – this may happen in an orderly or disruptive manner. At the present moment though, Nevada will receive approximately $4.3 billion dollars to help us get over the fiscal ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis. Of this the state will receive $2.9 billion with the remainder generally going to counties, cities, and schools.

This stimulus money will now turn a half billion-dollar state budget deficit into a $2.5 billion-dollar surplus. Counties, cities, and schools will be made whole. Life will go on, and, given increased vaccinations, we will soon look at the pandemic in the rear-view mirror. However, legislators will soon have choices to make as to how they spend the extra money. They have a self-imposed budget deadline of May 15th. Supposedly, all will be resolved by that time. Yet, there will differences on how to spend the $2.5 billion dollar surplus. Some will want to spend the money on one-time purchases while others will want to create new programs. Certainly, reasonable cases will be made for either type of expenditure.

You can be sure RAN will be watching and offering input into how the money might eventually be spent. Bryan Wachter, our Sr. V.P. for government affairs, affirms RAN’s commitment is to use the money as one time spending verses creating new programs which will need additional funding in future years. It makes sense, our state constitution demands we balance our budget rather than borrow to finance day to day state operations.

Nevada is fortunate to have received a rescue from the federal government. Without it we would certainly experience more pain and suffering. However, we all ought to keep in mind that nothing is ever free, eventually we will have to pay back the national debt, and that will certainly be painful for everybody.