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Not enough money to go around
by Jessica Carner
Jan 18, 2011 | 783 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As the 2011 Nevada legislative session approaches, all I hear is griping about funding cuts for government-subsidized programs.

The schools need more money to provide quality public education. The libraries need more money to keep the doors open, providing computers and books to the community. The police department needs money for officers and equipment. The street and road departments need money. The cities of Reno and Sparks need money. Washoe County needs money. Everyone needs money.

Oh, and every entity needs the money the most.

“The state can’t cut our funding.”

 “We can’t stand any more budget cuts.”

“We’ve cut back on spending and we can’t cut back any more.”

“We need to take this message to our legislators.”

Truly, I sympathize. Cutting back is never a fun time, but guess what?

Money from the state and federal government doesn’t fall from the sky. It isn’t free money. It has to come from somewhere.

In my travels I’ve noticed a detachment, a frequent lack of understanding, about where state and federal funds come from. People tend to forget, or sometimes don’t know, that programs the state and feds pay for are funded with money out of the taxpayer’s wallet.

“But why can’t the government just print more money?” (I actually had an employee ask me this once. Bravo, public education system, you gave this girl a high school diploma and set her free to vote and operate a vehicle. Scary.)

My response to the aforementioned colleague was: “Well, the government could do that, but then we might as well pile it up in the street and burn it to keep ourselves warm.”

Her response: Blank stare.

I calmly explained to her that if you create more currency without anything to back it, the value of the currency will drop, resulting in inflation. If you printed enough extra money, the dollar would be worthless, except as a fire starter.

When the economy falls apart, like it has in northern Nevada, it is no picnic for anyone. I don’t like that we don’t have enough money to improve the school system or libraries or city streets, but I also understand that when the taxpayers — the source of government funds — are broke, we can’t magically make money appear.

Most Nevadans are struggling right now to make ends meet. Some are working three or four part-time jobs just to scrape by.

Assemblyman Ira Hansen said it best last week during a meeting at Hall Elementary School. He said something to the effect of “Who do you tax? We can’t raise property taxes when people are struggling to make their mortgage payments.”

Hansen seems to understand that even though it is tough to cut funding for government programs or cut the programs altogether, there isn’t much choice. When the taxpayers barely have enough money to survive, you can’t very well ask them to pay for a new road or a new police car or books for a library.

The fact is this: We are all caught in this vicious economic cycle. Most of us are being forced to make tough decisions.

I personally have had to reevaluate my entire spending regimen. I’ve cut out just about everything I was spending extra money on, except for my overly expensive pickup truck, but that is the next thing to go.

The only way anything is going to get better is for everyone to suck it up and sacrifice a little. Stop pointing the finger of blame or feeling entitled to something for nothing.

So you might have to settle for a job that isn’t your first choice or work harder for less pay. You might have to move into a less expensive home or drive a cheaper car. You might have to trim your budget. You might have to find creative new ways to generate an income.

As we head into the upcoming legislative session, I hope everyone can keep in mind that cuts are going to have to be made. Nobody likes it, but until more Nevadans get back to work and start paying taxes, our state doesn’t have huge amounts of money to pass out to everyone who wants it.

I also hope our legislators will keep in mind that Nevadans need jobs. I don’t expect the government to provide those jobs, but perhaps doing things such as making it easier to start a business or giving incentives for new companies to move into Nevada would be a start.

Jessica Carner is a reporter with the Sparks Tribune. You can reach her by e-mail at jcarner@dailysparkstribune.com.
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