I normally only scan the Op-Ed page of the Lincoln County Record to be amused by the ignorance shown by Thomas Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell is to the extreme right wing what Chris Matthews is to the progressive liberal wing of politics. Mr. Mitchell’s latest foray into attempted journalism on the Nevada Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) is so full of misinformation, half-truths and outright lies that it demands a response to present the actual facts.
Mr. Mitchell would have everyone believe that Nevada PERS is a flawed system that allows public servants to retire long before they are entitled, living high on the hog by “easily drawing more taxpayer money in retirement than on the job.” The truth is that in 2012 a total of 59,565 residents of Nevada received a total of $1.8 billion in pension benefits from state and local governments. While Mitchell quotes a statistic of pensioners drawing greater than 114% of their final base pay, the truth is that the average pension benefit received was $2,568 per month or $30,821 per year. Mr. Mitchell is concerned with the burden to the taxpayer but fails to mention that 50.33% of those funds come from employer contributions, 5.09 percent from employee contributions, and 44.58 percent from returns on investments. Returns on investments and employee/employer contributions, not taxpayer monies, make up the pension fund receipts. Additionally the $1.8 billion in pension benefits actually represents over $3 billion in economic impact for the State with a direct impact of $1.6 billion, an indirect impact of $809.7 million and an induced impact of an additional $615 million dollars.
Mr. Mitchell goes on to discuss the “$40 billion dollar unfunded liability” and the need for the Legislature to “finally rein in this burgeoning unfunded liability by ending this defined benefit program”. The truth is that the system has a funded ratio of 71 percent. The American Academy of Actuaries states that “no single funded ratio should be used to determine a plans financial health.” An unfunded liability does not have to be paid off immediately or all at once. It is similar to a home mortgage that is financed over a period of years. Nevada PERS is scheduled to retire the unfunded liability in 23 years. This is a reduction of nearly half from the original amortization of 40 years because the employers and members have consistently made annual payments to retire the liability.
So how could an alleged long time newspaper columnist get his information so wrong? Well, Mr. Mitchell is relying on a “study” by the right wing conservative lobbying group Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI). NPRI claims to champion limited government and fiscal responsibility in the name of fiscal conservatism. They were the loudest of the detractors of the Tesla agreement in which the State would grant $1.3 billion dollars in tax breaks and incentives for Tesla to build its $5 billion dollar facility in Northern Nevada. The plant and its 6,500 workers who would be paid a minimum of $25 per hour, would generate more than 20,000 construction and other related jobs and up to $100 billion for Nevada’s economy over the next 20 years — a return on investment estimated to be $80 for every $1 the state spends.
So why would a group claiming to be concerned about Nevada and Nevadans champion privatization of schools, fight against collective bargaining and unions, and finally fight against a project to build a facility to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles when it clearly has the potential to have a major positive economic impact on the State? The answer lies in the fact that NPRI is affiliated with the State Policy Network and American Legislative Exchange Council. All of whom receive major funding from Koch Industries, The Koch Family Trust and the Koch-managed Claude R. Lambe Foundation. It’s natural that a lobbying group funded by some of the richest men in the US if not the world, who gained their wealth in the oil and chemical industries, would oppose a factory that helps to build electric cars, as well as trying to minimize the impacts of unions and collective bargaining.
Mr. Mitchell is entitled to his opinion but to consider himself a legitimate newspaper columnist while printing lies and half truths designed to further his extreme right wing political beliefs is absurd. He discredits not only his reputation and the Lincoln County Record, but the profession itself.
Charles Reifsnyder, Pioche
For those of you who don’t know, the District Attorney, Daniel Hooge, will be in Carson City on Feb. 6 to meet with the Attorney General to “resolve the Area 51 matter.” With prompting from Shawn Frehner, Mr. Hooge agreed the Treasurer and the Assessor “could” attend this meeting if they wanted. Seems as though Mr. Hooge would have liked to exclude them from this meeting as well; no doubt, there will be more “secret” negotiations. It is anticipated the whole matter will be swept under the rug by the AG’s office with no consequences to the Board of Commissioners with regard to their negligence and violations of the laws of the State.
It is my understanding the State is only concerned that the $1.87 million we got from the Air Force as possessory use taxes is apportioned in accordance with state laws. This will, no doubt, make the Secret Alliance and Ashley Hall happy as he will be able to collect his ill-gotten gains amounting to over $400,000, his gift from his co-conspirators. The failure of the AG’s office to address the violations of State laws will result in his complicity in this matter. It seems to me that if the Tax Department’s investigation of the matter uncovers evidence of political corruption, a criminal investigation would result, but that (apparently) is not the case.
In speaking with the US Attorney’s office, I was advised the whole matter does point to political corruption, but as they don’t “investigate” corruption, I was referred to the FBI (they do all the investigating). The FBI referred me to the State’s Attorney General and their investigator advised me to file a complaint regarding the “integrity” of the Board. Ultimately, criminal conduct of the Secret Alliance will be resolved by other agencies of the Federal Government – so be it.
In another matter, the County employees will be getting long overdue raises, no thanks to Chairman Kevin Phillips who was way too vocal in “hiding” money from the Teamsters. Evidently, this has been a long-standing practice of the Board, telling the Teamsters the County is broke and funneling all PILT and PUT monies (by resolution) out of the General Fund and into other funds to be used at the Board’s discretion. A 2003 “resolution” calls for all PILT monies to be moved from the General Fund to the “other” fund; this year that was over $800,000. Perhaps the District Attorney needs to counsel some of the Board Members that “hiding” money from the Teamsters is not only unethical, it is illegal. Once the Teamsters received information and audio recordings relating to these shenanigans and financial records, the coast was clear to resolve contract matters that have been stagnating since 2012.
Please know that I do not hold all members of the Board in total disregard, I have the utmost respect for the dedication and sacrifice these men make in order to fulfill their oaths to “conduct the business of the County” in an honorable and legal manner. Those of the Board members who conduct the people’s business with hidden agendas and outside the law are not deserving of my respect – and they know who they are.
Carol White, Pioche
My name is Don Radzak. In 1943, I was released from the U.S. Army to work in mines because of the shortage of lead and zinc. I worked for one year for the Pioche Reduction Mining Co.
I had an unusual experience during my stay in Pioche.
During that winter, one night my friend and I, with two lady friends, were driving from Caliente to Pioche. About half way, I tapped my driver on the shoulder to stop the car and back up. Backing up about 200 feet, we heard somebody calling for help. He was about ten feet down the bank, not able to get back up. He was there for quite some time and very exhausted; the snow was pretty deep and temperature was near 0 degrees. It took us some doing to get him back on the road. We drove him (about 19 years old) to his home in Pioche. He was pretty much “out of it,” talking to his folk.
Call it a Divine Intervention or whatever, but I did not hear a call for help or anything as we passed, due to the radio and talking in the car. In his weakened condition, I’m sure he wasn’t able to get up by himself.
This is a once in a lifetime experience and I thought about what could have been for him if we hadn’t stopped. I don’t know his name but he lived on the lower side of town. We figured we put him in good hands and left him to his parents.
I hope you will put this in your paper as a “human interest” article for the people of Pioche to realize that good things do happen there.
Don Radzak, Minnesota