Spain on the brink of civil war

200 years ago today (1817), Spain was on top of the world. A major rival, England, had just suffered the embarrassing expulsion from its American colonies, whereas Spain was milking its American colonies quite profitably. In fact, at that time Las Vegas, Nevada was part of the Spanish territory of New Spain, although we did not contribute much to the economy.

Within five years, the locals drove the Spaniards back home, and created Mexico. The new government encouraged trade between the northernmost of the old Spanish colonies – Sante Fe, NM and Los Angeles, CA. Las Vegas was an important water stop on what we call today the Old Spanish Trail. Eventually, Washington won Las Vegas in the Mexican-American War in 1848.

It seems like Spaniards have been killing each other over the government ever since. It goes through periods of peace, but those are between some pretty nasty stuff.  This morning’s Review Journal  says they may be about to go at it again.

Here’s Wikipedia’s entry on the History of Spain.

Chapter 529

Apparently buried under 528 chapters before it, chapter 529 of the tax code sets up a variety of potential ways people can start to save toward their childrens’ college, if their states get off the dime. Thanks to the diligence and foresight of Treasurers going back to Bob Seale (Seale, Brian Krolicki, Kate Marshall and Dan Schwartz) and two decades of Legislative proaction, few states have implemented more of those options than Nevada.

This has become a matter of public policy based on research findings that children who know someone is saving money for them to go to college are many times more likely to actually go.

This appears to be based on social science research from the Washington University in St. Louis, described here.

If you’ve got young’uns in your life, check out all the state programs at

My Hail Mary

The Legislature has been called to the strangest special legislative session ever. With early voting now just two weeks away, with no agreement from the League, and with the risk squarely on the collective backs of all current and future workers and residents in Clark County, the special session starts today.

money-toilet1Very little has been revealed. But even if you’re comfortable diving blind, the fraction of detail that has been revealed already offers plenty of reasons to not accept this deal.

  • Some oppose corporate welfare for billionaires on principal. Others don’t. If you don’t, please keep reading.
  • “It’s $750-million in new room tax, no big deal.” It’s much closer to $2-billion than $750-million. Here’s the deal: Clark County is going to borrow $750-million around Thanksgiving, and give it to the developer. There’s a 33-year mortgage schedule, with monthly payments somewhere around $3.5-million per month. Over the 33 years, it will take about $750-million required to pay it back, plus another billion in interest. So the amount of new room tax needed is much closer to $2-billion, not $750-million.
  • Payments will be made from the County General Fund, the same Fund that pays for police, fire, parks, street lights and street maintenance. It’s mostly property tax and sales tax. Proceeds from a room tax will get deposited into the General Fund. Promoters say they hope it will be enough, and shortfalls will result in cuts to police, fire, parks, street lights and street maintenance. These are “General Obligation” borrowings.
  • “The public will own it, or at least part of it.” No it won’t. The governing body of the corporation will not be elected. And although the public will not share in any profits generated, the public will cover all operating losses, as the debt won’t be serviced until all operating losses are covered.
  • “But it’s tourist taxes. We won’t have to pay anything!” This is false, see 2B above. The sensible alternative to “General Obligation” bonds are “Revenue Bonds.” The collateral is a specific tax source (the room tax hike, in this case), and if it falls short, the lender might not get paid back as fast. But local taxpayers are relieved of the risk.
  • “But the developer will cover any cost overruns, not the public.” This is true, but with a significantly larger project budget than any other NFL stadium ever built, the chance of overruns is much smaller than the chance of not spending that much. And any construction savings reduces the developer’s cash contribution, not the taxpayer. The largest NFL stadium is in New York, but as it was 100% privately funded, there is no way to verify its claimed $1.6-billion cost, and it services two NFL teams, not just one. Scratch that one from the list, and the average of the 2 stadiums built since the recession is $1.1-billion. There’s a lot of room for coming in under budget.
  • “But Tourists will make special trips, which will build our local economy.” Think about this: we built this city offering Americans what they can’t get at home – from zip-lines down Fremont Street to the thriving music scene downtown east of Las Vegas Boulevard, to trysts, to the Grand Canyon, to the most excellent business and hobby conventions on earth, to gambling, to restaurants operated by TV chefs, to February sunburns. While NFL seems extraordinary to Nevadans, it’s actually quite ordinary to our customers. Most of our customers can see a concert in a 60-thousand seat venue any night of the week at home. They have to come here to see Elton John so close you could still hear him if the power went out.
  • “But the project could create 14,000 jobs and generate $32 million for education.” Arena construction is a specialty. Many, perhaps most of the workers will come from out of town and leave when they’re done. And you want to spend $1.75-billion to generate $32 million for education?
  • “But the NFL will love us!” The NFL is a captive of TV audiences, and Las Vegas will rank at the bottom of the list of NFL markets ranked by television audience and nearby population. A handful – Charlotte, Jacksonville – will rank smaller but that’s because they are small satellites of giant markets, closer than Barstow is to us.

Will  there be repercussions at the ballot box? None of today’s legislators served during the 1989 session, where almost half the body took an action that ended their elected service. Mike O’Callaghan’s old “Where I Stand” article – here – illustrates.

The Long Colorado

Las Vegans woke up this morning to this scary headline in the Sun:

In last year, Lake Mead dropped below 10 million acre feet for first time

PowerllOutflowMeanwhile, over at the Lake Powell water level database, the reservoir upstream from us is only half empty, has been delivering roughly the same amount of water per year since the dam was built a half century ago (with the exception of a couple of flood events, and today holds more than Lake Mead does. The 27 reservoirs above it are more than 80% full.