The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) has responded to a report from the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) that touted the benefits of a proposed Nevada Margin Tax on the November ballot. Three other separate economic analyses previously released outlined the financial harm the state would experience if the tax were implemented.
"The CBER report does not represent the position or views of the university," said President Donald D. Snyder. "UNLV did not commission the study," he added. "While CBER is a center within UNLV, it does not form part of the university's day-to-day operations nor is it functionally aligned with our broader initiatives. It is an independent center."
About two thirds of the funding for CBER comes from contract research and data analysis work that CBER performs for clients, as well as gifts, sponsorships and subscriptions to CBER services.
Executive Vice President and Provost John Valery White, who serves as the university's Chief Academic Officer, noted that other economic experts have expressed skepticism about the methods and conclusion of the research.
"We encourage our faculty members to offer analysis of significant policy issues; however, it should be noted that other UNLV faculty have expressed different opinions on the margin tax," said White. "The purpose of academic research is to begin or continue a conversation on important topics and to allow others to critique methodology or findings in order to move knowledge forward," he added.
White said that Mary Riddel, professor and chair of the Economics Department at UNLV and former interim Director for CBER, immediately raised concerns about the report and the modeling strategy used. UNLV economics professor Alan M. Schlottmann also questioned aspects of the study.
Based on the feedback from Provost White and the two UNLV economic professors, President Snyder has requested The Brookings Institution, based in Washington, D.C., review the report and provide an analysis on its merit and quality.
As with any university, UNLV faculty may enter into independent contracts with clients and provide their services for a fee. In fact, some UNLV faculty and alumni have authored or co-authored reports that demonstrate a negative impact from the margin tax. The university itself does not take positions on public-policy issues.
"The university is a community of more than 30,000 students, faculty and staff," said Snyder. "I have always said that to be a great community, you need a great university connected to that community. That connection requires that we have all reasonable assurance that research findings are strongly supported by methodology and that's why I've asked for feedback from Brookings."