Monday, January 31, 2011

UNLV-NFAer John Farley shuts down legislative townhall

This weekend's townhall on the state budget generated a great deal of news coverage.

Little reported was that the culmination, which literally shut down the event, came from UNLV Faculty Alliance's own John Farley. Here are his remarks, which were the final ones delivered to the Nevada state legislature, in Las Vegas, on January 29, 2011:

I’m John Farley, I’m a professor at UNLV. And I’m a vice-president of the UNLV chapter of the Nevada Faculty Alliance. Many of you know our UNLV chapter president, Greg Brown. And all of you know our former chapter president, Paul Aizley.

I’ve been at UNLV for nearly a quarter of a century. My wife and I have raised two children, who went to Clark County schools, and went on successfully to college.

At UNLV, I teach physics to future nurses, future dentists, future doctors, and future engineers. We all recognize how important to society it is that we have people in those occupations. Many of our UNLV students are first generation college students. Many of them are self-supporting, working their way through school. So if you raise tuition too much, they’ll be priced out of the market, and will be unable to get a college education.

At UNLV we’ve been cut already. We recognize that the state is in a crisis, and here’s what the faculty have already done: We’ve had a furlough, we have had our benefits cut. The cut in the medical benefits amount to about $7000 per employee over a decade. And our workload has increased by 20%. So the faculty have taken a hit. And these are budget cuts that have already happened.

When this kind of thing happens, there’s a danger of a faculty exodus. The UNLV President, Neal Smatresk, says that for every three faculty who try to leave, he is able to dissuade one. The other two leave. So he doesn’t succeed in 2 times out of three. Our biology department had four faculty members leave at once. a while back.

Now there’s a lot of talk about “shared sacrifice”. But there are some people who haven’t sacrificed at all.

The mines pay almost nothing.

Non-casino businesses pay almost nothing.

Casinos do pay something, but it’s much less than they pay in other jurisdictions. Joe Neal testified earlier today about this.

We need to raise taxes. But expect a lot of whining from business.

I recall when Bob Miller was governor in the 1990’s, he raised taxes on mining. There was lot of rhetoric that this would destroy mining, that it would damage the economy. And what was the result? Two decades later, the mines are paying the slightly higher taxes that Miller imposed on them, and making record profits.

My favorite story along these lines comes from Oregon. There they had a tax on corporations that was $10 a year. This is no a misprint. The number hadn’t changed since the 1930’s. $10/year, or 83 cents a month. The legislature put a measure on the ballot, saying do you want to raise this. And business say, oh this is anti-business, this will kill jobs, etc. For 83 cents a month!!!

I mentioned the worry about a faculty exodus from UNLV. What’s holding the exodus down now is that there’s a depression across the entire country. Think about what might happen if the rest of the country recovers before Nevada recovers? The trickle might become a flood.

We need to diversify the economy, from its single-minded concentration on gaming. Nevada no longer has a monopoly on legalized gambling.

I urge you to reject the governor’s budget. Tell him his budget is dead on arrival. His budget is a dagger in the heart of the economy and economic diversification, and a dagger in the heart of the future of Nevada.

Thank you very much.

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