By Assemblyman Ed Goedhart
The “Nevada Jobs First” bill (AB 144) is feel-good legislation fraught with problems and potential harmful unintended consequences that will not help Nevada’s economy and job growth prospects. But it sure sounds good, doesn’t it?
Our great country was founded on the ideals and principles of a limited constitutional government and free markets. The provisions of AB 144 violate these principles, and that’s why I was the lone vote against it in the state Assembly.
This “jobs bill” will give an in-state bidding preference to Nevada contractors of 5 percent if they meet certain criteria concerning the percentage of workers with Nevada licenses hired, location of a company office address and percentage of Nevada materials purchased.
Which, by the way, raises an interesting question: What exactly constitutes a “Nevada material”? The bill doesn’t specify. But not to worry; I’m sure some unelected government bureaucrat will make that determination for us, right?
In any event, the 5 percent bidding preference actually means the cost of many public works projects will increase for Nevada taxpayers. Is that really the best way to stimulate economic growth and pull our economy out of the recession? I don’t think so.
What this bill doesn’t do is maximize the efficacy of taxpayer dollars by embracing the free market principles of open competition and the elimination of government red tape.
What this “jobs” bill does is benefit a narrow sector of Nevada’s workers–the highly paid union trade employees, many of whom make $100,000-plus at hourly rates of $40-70 per hour, plus generous benefits. Due to the prevailing wage requirement of public works jobs, we will have one worker still stuck on unemployment while another one is making $100K a year instead of both working for $50,000 a year.
Making the bill even worse, an amendment to require that these jobs go to workers whose citizenship was confirmed via the federal e-Verify system was DENIED. So while the bill extends preference to Nevada contractors, it doesn’t extend preference to workers who are American citizens.
Shouldn’t Nevada jobs go to those who are legally in the United States?
This type of government interference which pits Nevada versus other states is called “protectionism,” which raises constitutional issues by violating the Interstate Commerce Clause.
In addition, what’s good for the goose will be good for the gander. If this bill, as written, passes, odds are other states will do to Nevada what Nevada is trying to do to them. As a small state, that’s very dangerous.
California’s economy is approximately 18 times the size of Nevada’s economy. What type of punitive legislation can we expect from the California Legislature in retaliation? Whatever it is, it won’t be pretty. Those folks are already pretty ticked at us for “stealing” their jobs.
And given that one of Nevada’s strategies for economic growth and diversification is the development of renewable “green” energy jobs, and the production and transmission of this energy into California, wouldn’t it be smarter to develop an economic partnership based on mutual cooperation and respect rather than an attitude of “It’s all about me”?
The answer to our economic recovery isn’t to insert more government into the private sector, but to get government out of its hair. Until Nevada legislators realize and accept the truth that government cannot mandate, regulate and manipulate the private sector back to economic health and prosperity, the light at the end of the tunnel will not be daylight.
Giving a sick child a lollipop makes him feel better, but it doesn’t make him healthy. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to slow down, take a more in-depth look at this bill and its potential dangers, fix it…or kill it.
Assemblyman Goedhart is a Republican representing Nevada’s 36th Assembly District.