Posts Tagged ‘Geoffrey Lawrence’

Medical Association Applauds Sandoval Medicaid Decision

By Sean Whaley | 11:11 am December 13th, 2012

CARSON CITYNevada State Medical Association President Florence Jameson said today that Gov. Brian Sandoval made a “politically courageous and correct” policy decision to expand the Nevada Medicaid program.

The decision will ensure that there will not be a new class of uninsured Nevadans when the federal health coverage changes are implemented in January 2014, said Jameson, a physician.

This decision assures coverage for low income uninsured Nevadans who would not be eligible for the new health insurance products provided through the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange. While controversial, the principal achievement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is the development of a complex scheme for providing health care coverage for most Americans, the announcement said.

The association recommended in September that Sandoval opt for the expansion, but Nevada physicians remain concerned that it does not improve the current Medicaid program, which is significantly underfunded, Jameson said.

The association “urges Governor Sandoval and the state Legislature to address the access to care needs of the patients who are, and will continue to be, covered by the current Medicaid program,” she said.

This medical care access issue is one reason the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a libertarian think tank, has criticized the decision.

NPRI Deputy Policy Director Geoffrey Lawrence said that because the Medicaid program systematically under-reimburses health-care providers, many are not taking new patients. This means current Medicaid enrollees – by definition the most vulnerable populations – will now be competing with healthy adults for fewer and fewer doctors. Sandoval’s decision will exacerbate the doctor shortages already faced by the children and the disabled who use Medicaid, he said.

“All this said, one must applaud the governor’s decision to finally institute consumer co-pays and thus introduce some real-world price sensitivity into the calculations of Medicaid consumers,” Lawrence said. “The primary reason for the health-care system’s high costs is the government-induced breakdown of the price system.”

Imposing co-pays is a proven way of encouraging individuals to seek only the care they really need, helping to control cost growth, he said.

Another concern cited by NPRI with the expansion is the increasing cost of the Medicaid program to taxpayers.

State Medicaid spending is already growing at an unsustainable pace and will soon displace K-12 education as the state’s largest budget item, Lawrence said. While Congress has pledged that federal taxpayers will cover a majority of costs for the newly eligible population through 2020, that will likely shift more to state taxpayers in later years, he said.

Nevada Think Tank Publishes “Piglet Book” Citing Government Waste

By Sean Whaley | 2:01 am October 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – From double-dipping employees to the questionable use of credit cards, the newest edition of the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s “piglet book” released today offers highlights of recent questionable government agency actions.

The Nevada Piglet Book 2012” is authored by Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director for NPRI, a libertarian think tank based in Las Vegas. The third edition comes out as lawmakers prepare to return to the capital for the 2013 legislative session.

In the 40-page report, Lawrence also reviews and raises questions about recent political and policy developments in Nevada, including the successful effort by Gov. Brian Sandoval and others to lure Apple to Reno, and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s efforts to promote green energy projects in the state using taxpayer subsidies.

“While Reid regularly trumpets these deals as ways to ‘create jobs’ in the state, these deals – it’s clear upon review – are really about transferring wealth from taxpayers and electric ratepayers to campaign donors and allied politicians,” Lawrence writes in the report.

He cites the work of fellow NPRI staff in criticizing the effort: “Since 2009, with Reid’s backing, over $1.3 billion in federal taxpayer subsidies has gone into renewable-energy contracts in Nevada. Yet the projects those subsidies fund are projected to create only 288 permanent jobs in the state – a cost to taxpayers of $4.6 million per job.”

Reid has strongly supported green energy development in his Senate career. His website says: “Our country is too dependent on oil and fossil fuels, which pollute our air, place our economy and national security at risk, and contribute to climate change. As the Senate Majority Leader, I am working on building a clean energy future that will help provide Americans safe, reliable, and affordable supplies of clean energy.”

As to the decision by Apple to build a data center in the Reno area after receiving large tax breaks, Lawrence said in the report: “To help it win the tax breaks it sought, Apple hired lobbyist and Sandoval adviser Greg Ferraro to represent the company before the Governor’s Office of Economic Development – where insider Ferraro was already under contract to perform public relations work for $200 per hour.”

This relationship was reported by the Las Vegas Sun in August. Ferraro told the Sun he personally represented only Apple in the dealings that netted the company $89 million in tax breaks, not the state as well.

While some of the information in the Piglet Report comes from reporters and others looking into questions at all levels of government, many issues cited are uncovered by government agencies themselves through audits.

“Most people don’t follow audits, they don’t read them, so they don’t know what they say, and the problems that some of the cities and counties and state have had,” Lawrence said in a telephone interview in advance of the release of the report. “So this is kind of a nice way to make that information more easily accessible to the public.”

The audits are an important source of information on the activities of government agencies, but not all entities, including most counties and many cities, do not have an internal audit function, he said. Getting local governments to invest in such reviews would be a benefit to the taxpayers, Lawrence said.

Lawrence also cites a Nevada News Bureau story in the report regarding some questionable use of welfare cash grants, called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), by recipients.

“Over a seven-month period in 2011, Nevada TANF funds were withdrawn in 35 different states, Guam and the District of Columbia,” he said. “About a hundred withdrawals took place in liquor stores. Others took place in casinos and slot parlors. Some occurred in tourist destinations like New Orleans, Hawaii, Angel Stadium, Magic Mountain, SeaWorld San Diego, Knott’s Berry Farm and Pier 39 in San Francisco. While withdrawals of this nature were a minority, they indicate that at least some welfare payments went to fund indulgences – not necessities.”

The book, and other transparency efforts by NPRI, does have an effect on policy makers, Lawrence said. One example was the successful push for electronic reporting of campaign contribution and expense reports by candidates and elected officials, which was sought by others as well in the 2011 session including Secretary of State Ross Miller.

“These transparency issues especially are things that resonate with people on every end of the political spectrum,” Lawrence said. “So it’s easy for the public to get behind each of these measures. It’s perhaps a little more difficult for lawmakers who may not want to make things quite as transparent.”

But for everyone else the changes are clearly a benefit, he said.


Audio clips:

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director for NPRI, says the report presents an easy-to-read review of questionable government activity:

102412Lawrence1 :24 to the public.”

Lawrence says people of all political persuasions support transparency efforts:

102412Lawrence3 :27 to our benefit.”



Survey Of State Lawmakers, Candidates Shows Support For Continued Government Transparency Efforts

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am May 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Sixty state lawmakers and legislative candidates who responded to a survey on government transparency largely favor new laws requiring the Legislature to follow the Open Meeting Law and mandating expanded reporting of spending on legislators by lobbyists.

The survey, sponsored by the Nevada Policy Research Institute and the Nevada Press Association, also saw broad support for imposing a 72-hour time frame so the public can read bills before they go to a floor vote, subjecting local government negotiations with public employee unions to the state Open Meeting Law and assessing penalties for government officials who violate Nevada’s public records laws.

Illustration by David Vignoni, Ysangkok via Wikimedia Commons.

The survey was sent to 153 candidates and eight state Senators who are not up for re-election this year. Forty-one Republicans, 14 Democrats and five minor party candidates responded.

This survey is intended to give the voters a chance to find out where candidates stand on transparency issues including public records, open meetings and campaign finance reforms.

“I think it ought to be a very important issue for voters,” said Barry Smith, executive director of the press association. “That’s why we do this; so that they know who has it on their priority list.”

Advocates of increased transparency in government say the responses suggest that further progress can be made on the issues in the 2013 session of the Nevada Legislature.

“We’ve been able to move forward with Open Meeting Law, Open Records Law; the campaign finance does show some improvement,” Smith said. “That’s another thing these surveys showed – there is quite a bit of work to do and there is quite a bit of work the Legislature can do.”

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at NPRI, said at least 50 of the 60 responses were either in favor of or leaning in favor of the proposals, suggesting there is a good chance for further progress for increased government transparency in the upcoming session.

The new requirements for campaign contribution and expense reports adopted in the 2011 session were part of the 2010 survey, suggesting the effort is having some influence, he said.

“A lot of these other ideas were embodied into bills; they just never passed the Legislature,” Lawrence said. “So hopefully that will happen this time.”

The survey comes just as Republican Assembly caucus leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, announced several transparency reforms he will seek in the 2013 session. Hickey responded to the survey, indicating support for the various proposals with a “lean yes” on applying the Open Meeting Law to the Legislature. He indicated some flexibility may be required for the proposal, given the 120-day time limit the Legislature has to finish its business.

While most survey responses were supportive without qualification, there were also a few “maybes” and some opposition to the proposals.

Former state Senator Sheila Leslie, a Democrat who resigned her seat in mid-term to run for the Senate 15 seat now held by Republican Greg Brower, did not favor subjecting collective bargaining negotiations to public scrutiny.

“I don’t think inviting TV cameras into negotiations with public employee unions is in the best interest of government,” she said. “There needs to be more transparency and communication but making everything subject to the Open Meeting Law is not necessarily good government. This is one of those instances.”

Leslie was not alone in expressing concerns about the proposal.

Reno Republican Assembly 31 candidate David Espinosa said: “Negotiations, by their nature, are sensitive matters that an open meeting inclusion would transform into an entrenchment of sides, and an opportunity for grandstanding and demagoguery. I would instead support all efforts to openly disclose the starting positions of both sides of the negotiation, and the final position of each of the representatives of the local government.”

Lawrence said the issue is more problematic for some candidates and elected officials because of the support they get from public sector labor unions, which generally oppose such proposals.

Others are more bipartisan in nature, such as the proposal to require reporting of spending by lobbyists on lawmakers all year round and not just during each legislative session.

Leslie sponsored the bill in 2011 that would have required lobbyists to report all spending on lawmakers, not just spending during a legislative session. Senate Bill 206 passed the Senate unanimously but died in an Assembly committee without a vote.

Smith said the goal is to keep moving forward with incremental successes.

“To me it should be obvious that open government is a bipartisan kind of thing that people can agree on that that’s what we want,” he said. “There’s not always agreement on exactly how you get there. But as long as people think it’s important and are willing to work on it, then we will move forward with some of these things.”


Audio clips:

Barry Smith of the Nevada Press Association says the survey results should be very important to voters:

052312Smith1 :12 their priority list.”

Smith says the surveys show a lot more work needs to be done in the areas of government transparency:

052312Smith2 :26 Legislature can do.”

Smith says open government is a bipartisan issue:

052312Smith3 :21 of these things.”

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at the NPRI, says the survey has some influence with lawmakers:

052312Lawrence1 :24 happen this time.”

Lawrence says opening public employee labor negotiations to public scrutiny is one of the more problematic transparency issues:

052312Lawrence2 :29 that position, probably.”



Gov. Sandoval Will Extend Sunsetting Taxes Into Next Two-Year Budget To Avoid Education Cuts

By Sean Whaley | 2:17 pm March 13th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he will propose to extend a package of taxes now set to expire in June 2013 into the next budget to avoid further cuts to education, which he said cannot withstand further reductions.

To maintain a basically flat spending plan for the two-year budget that will begin on July 1, 2013, Sandoval said the modified business tax that was maintained at a higher rate for large businesses in the 2011 legislative session, along with a small increase in the sales tax, must be continued.

Gov. Brian Sandoval. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The 2011 tax package also eliminated the business tax for 115,000 small Nevada businesses which would continue into the next budget as well.

“We’re going to keep them,” Sandoval said of the sunsetting taxes. “Again, my baseline is this: I’m not going to cut education, and that includes K-12 and higher ed. I am not going to reduce services for the most vulnerable people in our society.

“I’m not going to pit kindergartners against senior citizens,” he said. “I’m not going to pit higher ed students against people that need essential services.”

This preliminary recommendation for beginning the budget process for the 2013 legislative session could be modified as the state’s fiscal picture becomes clearer in the coming months, Sandoval said.

“We’re going to be having many conversations between now and when the final budget is presented to the Legislature,” he said. “I believe at this point in time, which is very early, it is the responsible thing to do for the future of the state of Nevada.”

Sandoval said an expanding Medicaid caseload, along with costs associated with the expansion of the program under the federal health care law, will consume any revenue increases. Because of this, failing to include the sunsetting taxes for budget planning purposes would mean cuts to education.

“In addition to avoiding further cuts to education, this decision means there will be no need for tax increases in the next session,” Sandoval said. “Nevadans will pay no more than they are in the current biennium. The budget building process remains ongoing, but we must begin today.”

Efforts are under way to circulate petitions to put possible tax increases before the voters, including measures that could lead to hikes in both mining and gaming taxes. A gross margin tax on business is also being considered by labor groups and teachers but no ballot measure has been filed yet.

Sandoval made the announcement to the capitol press corps after a meeting of the Board of Examiners. He said his intention with the announcement is to be transparent.

Sandoval strongly opposed continuing the tax increases approved by the 2009 legislature in the 2011 session, but ultimately agreed to do so after a Nevada Supreme Court ruling threw his proposed budget into financial disarray.

The 2013-15 budget planning process begins Thursday with a briefing by state Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp to state agencies and representatives of public and higher education.

Today’s announcement was immediately welcomed by some Republican lawmakers.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, who is expected to lead the Republican Senate caucus in the 2013 legislative session, said he supports Sandoval’s preliminary budget instructions.

“I support Gov. Sandoval and his budget instructions that will not impose new taxes on the people of Nevada,” Roberson said. “I will continue to lead the fight against new tax increases while working with Gov. Sandoval to improve public education. I will not support additional cuts to public education.”

Roberson opposed extending the sunsetting taxes in the 2011 session, arguing that the Nevada Supreme Court ruling did not create the huge financial hole in the budget that others had suggested.

“Gov. Sandoval has outlined a prudent and fiscally responsible preliminary budget framework,” Roberson said.  “I am grateful for his tremendous leadership. I will stand with him and support him.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, announced his support for Sandoval’s proposal via Twitter.

“I applaud the decision by Gov. Sandoval to do what is necessary to protect education from cuts,” he said, adding that what that means in the 2013 session is yet to be determined.

Nevada Senate Democrats issued a statement saying they “applaud” the change of position by Sandoval and Republican lawmakers but that the proposal is an insufficient short-term fix.

“What we need are long-term solutions to resolving our budget problems, not postponing them for another 2 years,” said Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas. “We must address tax fairness for middle class families, cut wasteful spending in our government, and provide Nevada business with an educated workforce that can help compete in the national and global marketplace.

“In order to diversify our economy and attract new businesses and industry to Nevada, we must show them we are serious about investing in a well educated workforce,” he said. “We can’t do that if education funding remains stagnant.”

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, criticized Sandoval’s announcement in a statement:

“Taxpayers lose again with Gov. Brian Sandoval’s decision to propose extending the so-called ‘sunset’ taxes,” he said. “This demonstrates, once again, the danger behind the concept of a ‘temporary’ tax increase. Once bureaucracy becomes dependent on that additional revenue to sustain itself, the tax increase rarely goes away.

“In 2010, Gov. Sandoval stated that raising taxes is ‘the worst possible thing you can do’ after a recession,” Lawrence said. “His statement is as correct today as it was then – raising taxes on job creators is exactly the wrong thing to do in the aftermath of a recession.”

Sandoval said the spending will also be prepared using the new approach of performance-based budgeting.


Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he will keep the sunsetting taxes in his budget to avoid cuts to education:

031312Sandoval1 :14 in our society.”

Sandoval says he won’t pit kindergarteners against senior citizens:

031312Sandoval2 :12 need essential services.”

Sandoval says at this point in time it is the responsible thing to do:

031312Sandoval3 :12 state of Nevada.”


Conservative Nevada Think Tank Publishes Sourcebook For Policymakers And Public

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am March 1st, 2012

CARSON CITY – A conservative Nevada think tank today published a guide for policymakers and the public on issues ranging from the state spending to public education to tax policy.

The 88-page sourcebook, called “Solutions 2013” is a compilation of research and policy recommendations from the Nevada Policy Research Institute addressing 39 different subject areas.

The publication comes 11 months before the Nevada Legislature will convene in 2013 to consider a host of critical issues, and just as the 2012 election season gets officially under way with candidate filing set to begin Monday.

“This collection dispels many popular misconceptions about Nevada, while highlighting new approaches to policy making,” said NPRI President Andy Matthews in an introduction to the guide. “My hope is that, regardless of where your political sympathies may lie, you will consider these ideas on their merits.”

Geoffrey Lawrence, NPRI’s deputy policy director, said even those who disagree with the recommendations can use the data cited in the guide.

“I think this is valuable for everyone who is interested in public policy regardless of their particular political persuasions because there is a lot of objective data in there that you can draw your own conclusions from if you like,” he said. “I think one of the other values of it is that you can see that our conclusions are drawn straight from these objective data sources so they are not just things that we’re coming up with out of thin air.”

The organization weighs in on the potential of a Texas-style margin tax being imposed on Nevada businesses, which it says should be rejected. A coalition of education and labor groups is contemplating putting such a revenue generator on the state ballot, but no such proposal has been filed yet with the Secretary of State’s office.

“The business margin tax is a hybrid, combining negative features of both corporate‐income and gross‐receipts taxes,” the policy guide says. It quotes the Tax Foundation as saying, “the Texas ‘margin’ tax is really a badly designed corporate income tax.”

The NPRI guide says a margin tax would create a tax liability even for businesses that operate at a financial loss, meaning the tax also possesses the negative attributes of gross receipts taxation.

The organization also takes up the issue of a state-run lottery, an idea that gets attention from lawmakers virtually every legislative session. NPRI notes that such lotteries do not generate a lot of revenue and are not stable sources of income.

California lottery ticket. / Photo: Bdviets via Wikimedia Commons.

“As Price Waterhouse – the Nevada Legislature’s own tax consultant – has concluded, ‘A state‐run lottery fails every test of a “good” tax policy. In Nevada, gaming should be left to the private sector,’ ” the guide says.

NPRI weighs in on the issue of what, if anything, should be done about the current public employee retirement system. Gov. Brian Sandoval and some lawmakers have called for a change to the plan to make it a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan instead of the current “defined benefit” plan so that concerns of the potential long-term liabilities of the retirement plan can be addressed.

NPRI argues for a hybrid plan as adopted by the Utah Legislature to avoid the high upfront costs associated with a wholesale change to a defined contribution plan.

“Utah’s system was put in place with the enactment of Senate Bill 63 from Utah’s 2010 General Legislative Session, which should serve as a model to guide Nevadans,” the policy guide says.


Audio clips:

Geoffrey Lawrence of NPRI says the Texas-style margin tax is a bad idea:

030112Lawrence1 :26 disadvantages to it.”

Lawrence says the NPRI policy guide has useful data regardless of a person’s political views:

030112Lawrence2 :29 of thin air.”


Nevada Public Pension Liabilities Vastly Understated, New Report Says

By Sean Whaley | 1:01 am November 3rd, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s public employee pension system is one of the better funded plans around the country, but its financial health is far poorer than taxpayers may realize because of the way the long-term liabilities are calculated, a new analysis released today says.

The report by Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, was prepared for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank.

Titled “Reforming Nevada’s Public Employees Pension Plan” the analysis says that when the long-term unfunded liabilities of the plan are calculated using a “market-based” valuation, a measure endorsed my most professional economists, the shortfall is actually closer to $41 billion than the $10 billion cited by Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) and its actuary.

The funding ratio of the plan falls from 70.5 percent to about 34 percent, Biggs said in his analysis.

“Nevada PERS is far from the worst-funded or worst-managed public-sector pension system in the country,” Biggs concludes in his report. “However, this merely highlights the worrying state of public-pension financing around the nation. Using market-valuation methods — which are consistent with economic theory, the practice of financial markets and the rules under which private-sector pensions must operate and which have recently been endorsed by the Congressional Budget Office — PERS is very poorly funded.”

In a telephone interview, Biggs said: “Whether you agree or disagree with the angle I took on it, I think it is helpful for people to know how the financial health of their pensions is being calculated. What they don’t know is how much of their plan’s funding rides on market risk.

Illustrating the Market Valuation of Liabilities.

“So there is a lot being staked on winning in the market here,” he said. “And whether you think the government can do that or you think the government can’t do it, it’s good to know exactly what’s at stake.”

Report Could Drive Issue For Policy Makers

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director for NPRI, said the report should encourage Nevada policy makers to take a serious look at making major reforms to the state public pension plan.

“We really felt that his expertise could lend a lot to the debate here in Nevada, where, as in most states, we have kind of a major pension liability,” he said.

The huge differences in the unfunded liability are due to the method used to make the calculation.

Nevada PERS, which covers nearly all state and local government public employees in the state, uses an accepted accounting method based on the actuarial value of its assets, valued at $24.7 billion as of June, 2010, according to Biggs’ analysis. With liabilities of $35.1 billion, the retirement system reports its unfunded liability at about $10 billion. This figure will be updated later this month through June 30, 2011.

This long-term unfunded liability relies on an estimated rate of return on its assets, which are invested mainly in stocks and bonds.

Biggs acknowledges that the valuation under this approach is consistent with rules set out by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which sets nonbinding disclosure rules for public pensions.

Andrew Biggs, author of a Nevada public pension study for NPRI.

But Biggs argues the actuarial valuation masks the true liabilities that taxpayers could ultimately end up having to cover because it does not factor in the risk of achieving an 8 percent return, a rate PERS officials note has been exceeded over the past 28 years.

Using a market-based valuation, which assesses the liabilities based on the much lower interest rate paid on government bonds, provides a more accurate assessment of the long-term unfunded liability, he said.

Lawrence said the report by Biggs shows what is at stake for public pension plans and taxpayers.

“Because under the actuarial approach you are allowed to understate your liabilities, it allows politicians to make bigger promises than they can afford, and then to underfund the pension account at the same time,” he said. “So in the long run they accrue this unfunded liability, which officially here in Nevada is reported at $10 billion, but of course Andrew is showing that it is really closer to $40 billion. So that is a huge gap.”

Nevada PERS officials say the plan is actuarially sound, and that the unfunded liability will be covered over time. They also note that the contribution rates required to keep the plan healthy are set by an independent actuary and are fully funded by the Legislature.

Biggs said the current housing crisis was a decade in the making and was the result of taking on too much risk. Public pension plans, with trillions of dollars at stake, are also taking on a lot of risk to deliver on their promises, he said.

Biggs published a similar analysis for public pension plans nationwide in 2010, concluding that the shortfalls facing the plans are much larger than most people realize.

In commenting on that report last year, Dana Bilyeu, executive officer of PERS, did not dispute Biggs’ method of calculating the shortfall, but said the actuarial method now being used is the accepted practice for public pension plans.

National Board Considering Changes To Public Pension Reporting

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board has been evaluating some changes to the way public pension liabilities are calculated, but Biggs said he does not expect to see it embrace the market-based approach he and other economists advocate.

“To be honest I think they just don’t get it,” he said. “I don’t think they’re willing to make the kinds of changes that would be needed to bring pension valuation in line with what economists think makes sense and in line with what financial markets think makes sense. It would be such a drastic change I just don’t think they’re capable institutionally of doing it.”

GASB said in July it had approved the proposed standards, dubbed exposure drafts, which would lead to “significant improvements” in the usefulness of pension information. The latest guidance would require governments to report the unfunded portion of their retirement plans as a liability on their balance sheets, among other changes.

There has been a growing call nationally to move public pension plans to a state to a defined contribution plan, similar to a 401(k)-type plan, from the current defined benefit plan, where retirees are paid a set amount per month based on salary and years of service.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has advocated such a position, although the concept did not see any serious discussion in the 2011 legislative session.

Lawrence said an issue with making such a change is the big upfront cost of fully funding the current defined benefit pension plan in an accelerated fashion. But Utah got around that challenge last year by crafting a modified plan that allows employees to choose whether to participate in a defined benefit or defined contribution plan. It could be a good model for Nevada, he said.

Lawrence said one often overlooked benefit of such a plan is that it is portable, allowing public sector workers to move into the private sector if they wish and not remain trapped in jobs they no longer want.

The PERS board has not endorsed any such major change to the state public pension plan.


Audio clips:

Andrew Biggs, author of a new study of Nevada’s public pension system, says it is important to know how the financial health of the plan is calculated:

110311Biggs1 :23 on market risk.”

Biggs says there is a lot being staked on the market:

110311Biggs2 :10 what’s at stake.”

Biggs says GASB is unlikely to make major changes:

110311Biggs3 :21 of doing it.”

Geoffrey Lawrence of NPRI says the study by Biggs should fuel the policy debate in Nevada:

110311Lawrence1 :14 major pension liability.”

Lawrence says the study shows a much bigger problem than what is being reported by PERS:

110311Lawrence2 :35 a huge gap.”



Policy Group Warns Of Ballooning Medicaid Budget

By Andrew Doughman | 2:00 am May 11th, 2011

Nevada’s budget woes could grow worse as Medicaid costs continue to rise during the next decade.

That assertion comes from the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a free-market think tank that released a report today saying that rising Medicaid costs could eat into portions of the state’s budget currently apportioned for education.

“It’s almost like a national standard that we’re going to spend less on education and more on health care,” said Geoffrey Lawrence, NPRI’s deputy director of policy.

Lawrence, one of the authors of the report, said that President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, sometimes called “Obamacare,” will lead to greater costs for Nevada.

The bill requires all states to lower the threshold for Medicaid eligibility by Jan. 1, 2014. Although the federal government helps pay for Medicaid, Nevada’s state government may eventually find more of the budget consumed by Medicaid costs.

“The cost to the state will be in the hundreds of millions,” said Chuck Duarte, administrator for the Division of Health Care Financing and Policy, which oversees the state’s Medicaid program.

Lawrence argues that the figure is likely billions of dollars. He said further population growth, more people using Medicaid and the chance that federal government aid could decrease in the future lead to a $5.4 billion burden between 2014 and 2023.

Duarte said his office estimates a $574 million cost to the state between the beginning of 2014 and the end of 2019. He said the differences could stem from the variables his office and NPRI have used to make their projections.

The report outlines a scenario in which Medicaid costs outstrip economic growth and tax collections, thereby eating more and more of the state budget.

Obama’s legislation does not affect the current proposed $6.1 billion budget, which covers the next two fiscal years between July, 2011 and July, 2013.

The next Legislature may have to contend with higher health care costs as they plan for the next budget.

Meanwhile, Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services has established a health care reform task force to oversee implementation of the federal law.

The law also is winding through the court system, with several rulings expected next month. Nevada is a party to one lawsuit claiming the law is unconstitutional.

Assemblyman Asks Lawmakers To Put “Cards On The Table” In Forum Today

By Andrew Doughman | 12:47 pm April 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Sparks, is asking other legislators to “lay your cards on the table.”

As the budget debate in Carson City roils to no discernible conclusion, Hickey is bringing 21 lawmakers, business leadersa and academics to the Legislature to talk taxes and government reform.

“This forum will help get out into the open things that have only been talked about behind closed doors,” Hickey said. “As moderator, I plan to press participants to speak openly about the ‘end game’ here this session.”

That end game has traditionally involved closed door meetings between legislative leadership.

Hickey will moderate the “Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery” panel today between 3 – 5 p.m. at the Legislature. Viewers online can watch here.

Hickey said he would like to have a serious discussion in public that could evolve into legislative negotiations about the budget.

At the very least, the diversity of voices at the forum should provide an interesting sideshow to the day-in, day-out legislative hearings and committees.

Speaking at the forum span nearly every position on the tax debate. Politically, Hickey’s guests span the spectrum from left to right and include representatives from unions and contractors, free-market libertarians and progressive groups, chambers of commerce and school districts.

Hickey’s forum is not the only change in the legislative end game.

This year, Democratic leaders in the Assembly and Senate have said they will conduct budget hearings in the Assembly and Senate chambers. They say the move will lead to more transparency and include more legislators in budget discussions.

As first reported in the Las Vegas Sun, the change could prompt legislators toward a budget battle over education.

The Legislature has 49 days remaining to conclude its session, pass a budget and finish the drawing of political districts as required every 10 years by the U.S. Census.


Panelists for the “Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery” include:

Heidi Gansert, the governor’s chief of staff

Speaker Pro Tempore Debbie Smith, D-Sparks

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas

Tray Abney, Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce

Carole Vilardo – Nevada Taxpayers Association

Dr. Elliott Parker – UNR economist

Clara Andriola – Associated Builders and Contractors

Geoffrey Lawrence – Nevada Policy Research Institute economist

Dr. Heath Morrison – Washoe County School District superintendent

Mary Lau – Retail Association of Nevada

Dr. Tyrus Cobb – former assistant to President Ronald Reagan

Neil Medina – Northern Nevada Contractor

Jim Pfrommer – Education Alliance of Washoe County

Former Sen. Randolph Townsend

Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Mesquite

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks

Bob Fulkerson, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada

Chuck Muth – Citizen Outreach

Dave Humke – Washoe County Commissioner

Danny Thompson – AFL-CIO union representative

Norm Dianda – Q&D Construction