Of all the prestigious speakers at the Lincoln Day brunch held at the Delta Saloon on Saturday, February 18, the one who garnered the greatest applause was State Controller Ron Knecht. The thunderous ovation occurred when Knecht announced he was leading the effort to get a repeal of the onerous Commerce Tax on the 2018 ballot.
A capacity crowd filled the first floor area of the Delta as they listened to talks from US Senator Dean Heller, US Congressman Mark Amodei, AG Adam Laxalt, State Treasurer Dan Schwartz, State Senator Settelmeyer and Assemblyman Wheeler.
Along with the speakers, MC Hindle introduced many prominent members of the VC Republican Party and each stood to a round of applause. Knecht distributed his annual financial report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. That report listed in pie chart form the sources of revenue for the state plus the functional expenses for the state. On the revenue side, grants and contributions equaled 43%, charges for services 14%, business taxes 14%, sales and use taxes 10%, gaming taxes 7%, other taxes 7%, motor and special fuel taxes 3% and miscellaneous 2%. On the functional expenses side, health and social services 47%, K-12 education 20%, higher education 16%, law, justice and public safety 6%, transportation 2%, unemployment insurance 3% and all other activities 6%.
Knecht’s 24-page report consisted of a front page highlight and commentary which included state spending, the salient point of which was that state spending has grown faster than Nevada’s economy, thus imposing an ever-larger real burden on Nevada’s families and businesses, whose incomes have fallen significantly over the last decade.
An interesting table of facts on the front page provides demographic information comparing fiscal year 2016 to 2006. Under population is a 16% increase, under per capita income is a 10% raise, under debt per capita is a 18% increase, under personal income is a 27% raise, under gross state product is a 17% increase, under the inflation index is a 21% increase, under K-12 public school enrollment is a 21% increase and under higher education enrollment (full-time equivalent) is a 15% increase.
Under education, Knecht noted, “State funding of K-12 has increased rapidly over the long term and last year, especially due to the unprecedented spending increases authorized by the 2015 state legislature. Research has continuously demonstrated little correlation between student achievement and spending: So, it is unsurprising that the quality of Nevada education has remained low despite these increases, and it is likely that the massive 2015 spending increases will also yield little improvement.”
And on the subject of economic outlook, “We identify four secular trends that have suppressed the US economic growth rate the last decade-thus explaining the ‘new normal’ of long-term slow economic growth.”
Since the Lincoln Day event is the only annual fund-raiser, there were many private donations announced, a silent auction was held, as well as a live auction with Sen. Settelmeyer acting as auctioneer. Omnipresent at the event was The Delta owner Dr. Vincent Malfitano, who had the winning bid on the highest-priced auction item.