Last year the Clark County School District said there’s no money to fix the leaky roofs and broken air conditioners. In Washoe County, the Superintendent estimates an additional $40-50 million shortfall in the coming year, on top of the $123 million in cuts our students and teachers have endured over the last five years.
If Nevada taxed mining, corporations, and wealthy interests as much as we do the poor, we could build the best schools, community colleges and universities in the country.
Instead of policies that promote the greater good and shared prosperity, our tax system has created a Donner Party mentality of primitive survival, even if it means sacrificing our children. Our kids are on to us. At the Sun Youth Forum last year, 82 percent of Las Vegas’s brightest youth said they have no intention of living here as an adult.
Nevada is among the top three states where the childhood poverty rate has worsened over the last year; 25 percent of our children under the age of 5 live in poverty. If Nevada were to fix its regressive tax system, we could provide pathways out of poverty, including child care, heath care, nutrition and education, to break the cycle forever.
Nevada has fewer public workers per capita than any other state. Demand on services is growing, but the number of public workers is shrinking. Those who remain in public service are working harder in increasingly tense workplaces as they become targets for anti-worker rhetoric.
The two states that tax minerals the most, Wyoming and Alaska, also spend the most on their people, nearly $14,000 annually. Nevada, at $3,000 per capita, is the lowest out of all the states, with staggering consequences for our people.
I’ve been involved in human services globally and in Nevada for 40 years. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I watched babies die of malnutrition on an island two hours from Miami. As a Legislator, I watched Governor Sandoval veto a bill requiring Nevada schools to offer the federally funded national school breakfast program in qualifying schools for vague reasons of implementation.
As a Nevada citizen, I watched in horror when the state mental health budget was decimated during the budget crisis of the early 90s. I worked as a community activist and later as a legislator to restore those cuts, only to see more than $80 million cut from those same budgets once again over the last few years, again due to our tax system that favors rich corporations over the needs of our people.
In Nevada, our jails and prisons continue to provide more mental health treatment than our state programs. We know what to do about this critical issue, and yet a basic item such as a 24-hour urgent care center, is left to languish on a list of “Items of Special Consideration,” which really should be subtitled “Items Nevada Really Needs but Can’t Afford” because we’d rather subscribe to the myth that zero corporate taxes will bring us prosperity.