Did you know that Nevada has the smallest state government per capita in the whole United States of America? It's true!
It's still too darned big, of course (it was on the news), so Nevada legislators and a new governor will soon be cutting public employee salaries and benefits, curtailing services for the mentally ill, slashing education funding and taking other steps to make state government even smaller. But can it ever be small enough to satisfy the loudest voices shouting down everyone else in what passes for today's public dialogue? Clearly, the answer is no.
So perhaps the time has come to dispense with half-measures and deal a conclusive, unrecoverable blow to the botched experiment that is the state of Nevada.
Albeit unwittingly, Brian Sandoval suggested as much while on the campaign trail last fall. Acknowledging that Nevada has pretty much failed at the whole governance thing and can't function like, you know, an actual state, Sandoval suggested that if people want something from government - something that costs money and might need new taxes - they'll just have to get local government to do it.
The Las Vegas metropolitan area should take Sandoval's policy prescription to its logical conclusion and do something it probably should have done long ago: secede.
All the gambling, sales and room tax revenues generated in the newly created Republic of Southern Nevada will stay in the Republic of Southern Nevada. The rest of Nevada can keep the name "Nevada."
But don't worry. "Nevada" will still have all the tax revenue paid by the mining industry. Thanks to record gold prices, mining taxes for most of the last decade have roughly equaled the amount earned from the car rental tax in Las Vegas (another revenue stream which the Republic of Southern Nevada will keep, by the way). That should be more than enough money to operate an adult education outreach program in mine equipment maintenance at the University of Nevada Reno. Sadly, faculty in other disciplines at UNR will likely be cast out to face a tough job market. On the bright side, maybe UNLV will be hiring.
Community colleges and K-12 education, a safety net, roads and other costly services that modern states typically tax their businesses and residents to provide shouldn't be a problem for "Nevada," anyway. With the exception of some precincts in the Reno area, inhabitants north of The Republic of Southern Nevada have made it abundantly clear at the ballot box time and again that the last thing they want is a nanny state doing a bunch of stuff that isn't in the Constitution. Instead of reducing the size of already inadequate programs, institutions and services as part of the relentless march into debilitating backwardness and irremediable decay, i.e., current state policy, Las Vegasless, Nevada can just cut to the chase and axe all that Big Government once and for all.
For instance, officials in Texas have considered getting rid of Medicaid, always one of the most expensive programs in any state. That sounds like exactly the sort of thing "real" Nevada will want to do. Of course, old timey Nevada must be careful not to go too far in emulating Texas. That state imposed a gross receipts tax on business a few years ago. Dang socialists.
But what the rump state does is its own affair. In the Republic of Southern Nevada, meantime, we'll be free to write a new state constitution, preferably one that will allow a tax on the personal income of the likes of Steve Wynn, that Wal-Mart heiress who lives in Henderson and John Ensign's parents.
As for Ensign himself, "Nevada" is welcome to him. Let it never be said that the Republic of Southern Nevada isn't generous.
Hugh Jackson blogs on politics at www.lasvegasgleaner.com and writes a column for Las Vegas CityLife.