Nevada taxpayers had a good 54-year run, but this month their luck ran out. The state Legislature recently overrode a 1965 ban on collectively bargaining for state employees. Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed the bill, and watch now for a tax-and-spend ratchet to accelerate in one of the nine states without a tax on wage and salary income.
The legislation means the state’s 20,000 or so public employees can be represented by a union to negotiate wages, pensions and work rules. The law is a huge payoff for the unions that supported Mr. Sisolak and the Democratic legislative majorities that swept to power in November.
In effect the unions will now be on both sides of the negotiating table as they demand more money from the Governor they helped elect. Taxpayers won’t be represented because Mr. Sisolak will want to reward his union benefactors. This is why public unions differ from industrial unions that negotiate with a single private employer, and why Franklin Roosevelt opposed unions for public workers.
Nevada Democrats claim the law includes checks on wage and benefit increases. If Mr. Sisolak doesn’t like the result of negotiations, he can include “any amount of money that the Governor deems appropriate” in his proposed budget. A collective-bargaining agreement must also include a clause stipulating that “any provision” that “requires the Legislature to appropriate money is effective only to the extent of the legislative appropriation.”
But in practice this merely means that Democrats in the Legislature will have to be involved in the bargaining. And their incentive is to reward the unions too. Labor negotiations are exempt from the state’s open-meeting requirements, so the deal will emerge from the backrooms as a fait accompli.
This is the way it always works. Illinois and Connecticut are classic examples as public unions effectively run the state governments. In both states unfunded pension liabilities are more than 45% of the gross state product, according to the American Legislative Exchange Council. Illinois Democrats are now trying to kill the state’s constitutional flat income-tax rate, and Connecticut is raising taxes again, as taxpayers flee to lower-tax climes.
The Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce estimates that Nevada can expect to spend an additional $1.7 billion to $1.75 billion annually by 2036. That comes to $579 to $596 per resident a year. Mr. Sisolak won’t admit it, but in signing this bill he has started the clock ticking on the date that unions and Democrats lobby to impose a state income tax.