Nevada’s state and local governments have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars over the past two years through lavish and wasteful spending – in some cases by outright theft – according to a new study from the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) and Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).
The report, titled “The Nevada Piglet Book 2010” and authored by NPRI fiscal policy analyst Geoffrey Lawrence, details what he calls numerous examples of government waste over the past two years, including credit-card abuse, a sweetheart land deal for a former Las Vegas city councilman and local governments spending millions of dollars to lobby the state legislature.
“Contrary to the cries over the past two years that all levels of Nevada government have been ‘cut to the bone,’ this report reveals that government waste and inefficiencies are widespread,” Lawrence said. “What’s worse is that the millions of dollars in waste revealed in this report are likely just the tip of the iceberg.”
The study’s findings resulted from hundreds of public records requests to state and local governments and a review of dozens of city, county and state audits. The study reveals that many wasteful practices that NPRI documented previously in “The Nevada Piglet Book 2008” continue even today – despite politicians’ pledges to be more responsible with public money.
Among the questionable spending identified in the report are high public employee salaries and benefits, particularly for many firefighters who work in Southern Nevada, the failure of several agencies to perform their assigned tasks and inappropriate purchases by individual public employees.
The report also highlights the costs incurred by local governments to lobby the Legislature. During the 2009 session, Nevada local governments spent $3.2 million to lobby lawmakers in Carson City over a four-month period, including $951,324 spent by county governments, $1,061,473 spent by cities, and $509,337 spent by school districts. Special districts, such as the Southern Nevada Water Authority, also spent $618,191 on lobbying.
Erik Pappa, director of public communications for Clark County, said in response that county has changed its practices regarding lobbying the Legislature.
“We are no longer using paid lobbyists,” he said. “We rely upon county staff to provide information to state legislators.”
Lawrence said government agencies need to be more transparent.
“Until all levels of government become more transparent and put their spending checkbooks online for citizens to examine, as other states already have done, this type of waste will continue,” he said.
Lawrence noted that since the Texas Comptroller’s Office began putting itemized expenditure data online in 2007, Texas taxpayers have realized $51 million in cost savings simply by identifying areas of wasteful or inefficient spending.
The state of Nevada has posted much of its spending information for public review.
“The Nevada Piglet Book 2010 barely scratches the surface of the mountain of taxpayer dollars wasted by Nevada’s state and local government bureaucracies,” said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. “Nevadans deserve a more fiscally responsible and transparent state government. From sweetheart deals for local politicians to exorbitant salaries for government employees, there is plenty of fat that can be trimmed.”
The Nevada Policy Research Institute is a free-market think tank that seeks private solutions to public challenges facing Nevada, the West and the nation. Citizens Against Government Waste is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, mismanagement and inefficiency in government.