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August 1, 2014

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Soft words during State of the State hide Nevada in pain

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AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Gov. Brian Sandoval acknowledges the applause of lawmakers and guests after entering the Nevada Assembly chambers to deliver his first State of the State speech before a joint session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City on Monday, Jan. 24, 2011.

Sandoval's State of the State

Gov. Brian Sandoval, center, leads a standing ovation for a pair of Nevada servicemen who were decorated for their actions in Afghanistan, while making his first State of the State address before a joint session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City on Monday, Jan. 24, 2011. Lt. Col Tony Millican, who is stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, received the Bronze Star and the Air Force's Lance P. Sijan Award for heroism. Spl. Ernesto Padilla, of the Nevada National Guard received the Purple Heart for wounds he suffered from a road side blast that tore his vehicle in half. Launch slideshow »

Grade Sandoval's State of the State address

What grade would you assign to Gov. Brian Sandoval's State of the State address?
F — 37.2%
D — 20.2%
A — 16.6%
C — 15.5%
B — 10.5%
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Democrat — 45.4%
Independent — 24.3%
Republican — 22.4%
Other — 3.6%
Libertarian — 2.4%
Green — 1.1%
Tea Party of Nevada — 0.7%
Independent American Party — 0.1%

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Sun Coverage

In his first State of the State address, Gov. Brian Sandoval promised short-term fixes to Nevada’s budget crisis and long-term reforms to help the state navigate the economic terrain forever changed by the Great Recession.

With the tone of a father protecting his children from the harshest realities, Sandoval couched the fact that budget cuts will wreak havoc on state services more in euphemisms than stark details. He relied on broad percentages and dollar figures to describe his spending plan.

Rather than detail the services that Nevadans could no longer rely on, he explained his efforts to save the state from the toughest cuts under consideration — suggesting a budget half full, not half empty.

“It’s as if the collective Nevada family has gathered around the table — each member leaning forward in his or her chair, eager to hear the news,” he said during Monday’s hourlong speech.

In it, he worked to build on his image as a thoughtful leader who will take care of the state.

Yet while he asked Nevadans to trust his lead, he also asked them not to look to government, particularly the state budget, to see them through the recession.

“Some believe government is the only solution to our current plight,” he said. “I disagree. Unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcy — the cure is not more government spending, but helping businesses create jobs.”

In his inaugural address this month, Sandoval promised to fix state government, reform a failing education system and reverse the economic decline within three years.

His road map to get there was unveiled Monday. It includes directing some government spending toward economic development, partnering with the private sector to help provide incentives to lure new industry, working to keep gaming on the cutting edge of innovation and giving local school officials more autonomy.

He also proposed incentives for businesses to hire the unemployed, hoping to chip away at Nevada’s 14.5 percent unemployment rate and reduce the burden on the state’s health and human services.

But some worried Sandoval’s budget will erode an already weak safety net and faltering education system. The speech glossed over the difficulty the cuts would create.

“The State of the State doesn’t tell the whole story,” said Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks and chairwoman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. “The cuts are much greater, the magnitude is much greater.”

Sandoval continued his “shared sacrifice” theme with terms like “county participation” to describe funding cuts and service mandates he proposed to put in the laps of local governments, and “revenue reallocation” to describe a money grab from school districts and future tax revenue streams.

He referred to giving the university system more authority to increase tuition to offset cuts as “bringing tuition in line with other Western states.” He acknowledged “layoffs will occur” but didn’t detail who may lose their jobs. (In a media briefing, his budget director said corrections, health and human services and public safety will lose the most employees.)

During a budget briefing before the speech, Sandoval’s top administrators also kept it positive.

“This isn’t just all about cutting,” Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden said repeatedly, pointing to several areas that will see increases in funding and cuts that have been avoided.

Indeed, Sandoval gave Willden positive news to report: By borrowing from future tax revenue tied to the state’s insurance premium tax, he was able to avoid some of the more severe cuts to the department tasked with aiding the poor and those with disabilities.

Early word of possible cuts — the budget office had released a 10 percent across-the-board cut — had constituencies talking to the media over the past month detailing in heart-wrenching stories how program eliminations would affect them. Parents of autistic children, for example, talked of the steps backward their children would take if treatment were eliminated. Nevadans caring for elderly or disabled parents told how their loved ones would be forced into nursing homes if adult day-care funds or personal care services were to be eliminated.

Sandoval opted to preserve those programs.

In place of those cuts, advocates for the needy argued, are more amorphous reductions, some of which don’t target an identifiable constituency.

That makes it more difficult to describe how they will play out.

“Our fear is still there,” said Jon Sasser of Washoe Legal Services. “The cuts are a little harder to get our arms around. We can’t say specifically ‘Ms. Jones will lose her services.’ ”

Sandoval’s budget director, Andrew Clinger, attempted to prove that Sandoval has remained true to his word to dial back spending to pre-boom levels, comparing 2012 spending under his budget with 2007.

Clinger, however, glossed over comparisons in spending cuts with the current two-year budget — the most telling comparison.

But the pain from some of the proposed budget cuts will be hard for the governor to gloss over in coming months.

As many as 364 state workers could lose their jobs. Clark County, already struggling to provide medical care for those with nowhere else to turn, will be asked to shoulder more of the state’s burden. Those with mental illness will have fewer places to turn for help.

Still, Sandoval refused to rely on cuts alone to solve the budget crisis, finding more than a billion dollars in new revenue from local governments, borrowing against future tax streams and taking one-shot money from school districts to support additional spending.

Click to enlarge photo

Nevada Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, left, discuses his opposition to Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed state budget cuts during a news conference after Sandoval's State of the State address before a joint session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City on Monday Jan. 24, 2011. At right is Assembly Speaker-elect John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas.

He insisted that he took a careful approach.

“We were confronted with the difference between immediate priorities and long-term investment,” he said. “That required us to reform our overall spending plan. And I can tell you the process was as painful as it was necessary.”

For their part, Democrats have vowed not to let the cuts move forward.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, said Sandoval’s budget would force Nevada children into “devastated schools” and saddle parents with “skyrocketing tuition and fees” at colleges and universities.

“I will not process a budget that cuts education in this manner,” Horsford said.

So while Sandoval works to cultivate his image as a thoughtful leader, he’s raised the hackles of Democrats in almost the same way former Gov. Jim Gibbons did.

Veteran lobbyist Jim Wadhams summarized it this way: “This will be the most contentious, most difficult session we’ve ever had.”

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  1. In play Henry IV, Shakespeare puts forth an equally enterprising solution by saying: " First thing we do, is kill all the lawyers. "

    The problem isn't Government, it's the legal industry that brings all progress to a halt and drains the public treasury into the pockets of special interests.

  2. Actually, it was Henry VI.

  3. For the good folks of Clark County that helped elect this guy, I bet you didn't think it would cost you more in the long run did you?

    Let us keep it simple for the "no new taxes crowd"....take money from CCSD and Clark County, use it for the good folks in Mineral and Lander counties, and allow Clark County to raise taxes (from YOU) to replace the money.

    You did good folks.

  4. Gov BS is the second coming of Gibbons. He's here to finish off what his predecessor started.

    The goal of all right-wing politicians is to do what anti-tax zombie Grover Norquist called shrinking government until it's small enough to be drowned in a bath tub.

    It's every man and woman for themselves now. Only the rich and well-connected will come out of the Bush Depression in one piece.

  5. Mr. Sandoval and the power brokers of this state have completely turned their backs on the middle class. The tax system in this state, which is regressive beyond belief, benefits only the wealthy and business owners.

    The sales tax disproportionately burdens the middle class, who spend a much higher percentage of their income on goods. The car registration tax, and every other fee of its ilk, disproportionately burden the middle class, who spend a higher percentage of their income on automobiles. The property tax disproportionately burdens the middles class, who do not rent, but spend a much larger percentage of their income on their mortgage than the rich.

    As a result, because members of the middle class use nearly all of their income to pay for their housing, transportation, and day to day needs (all of which is taxed under the Nevada tax structure), nearly all middle class income is taxed in Nevada.

    In the meantime, the wealthy do not get taxed one penny for the income they generate that is not needed for day to day needs, housing, or transportation. As a result, a guy making $1,000,000 per year, can pay the exact same state taxes as a guy making $75,000 per year.

    Thus, the effective tax rate for a guy making $75,000 is probably about 6-7 percent of his income. Meanwhile, a millionaire's effective tax rate is probably about 1-2 percent. The Nevada middle class is basically paying up the wazzoo so the uber rich can get a free pass.

    So now services that benefit the middle and lower classes the most (such as public education and affordable higher education) are being stripped away so the rich can continue to have a tax holiday in perpetuity. Sandoval and his rich friends could care less if we cut money from public schools, their kids go to private schools. They could care less if higher education is affordable, they send their kids out of state for college.

    This insanity has to stop. When will Nevadans wake up and realize that Sandoval and his cronies are nothing but shills for the rich. They only care about preserving a tax system that benefits the rich on the backs of the middle class. I'm all for not raising taxes, but at least create a tax system that taxes my income at the same rate as the rich. And for once, don't cut services that will affect no one but the poor and the middle class. Throw the middle class a bone--just once.

  6. smoke and mirrors, lies and deception - they are all alike - need more active third parties that can turn the rascals out! Rory would have been far better!

  7. oh yes, another pair - Sandoval and Gibbons the twins!

  8. What the heck? No mention about illegal aliens (mostly from Mexico and Central America) now in Nevada draining our economy? Wonder why?

  9. Why not just get rid of all taxes and all regulations and all laws? It works for Somalia, right?

  10. A monkey could have taken a red pen as Sandoval did and slice up services to children and the elderly. Those idiots that voted for this guy just got a prettier version of their last failed governor, Gibbons. Let's just sink Nevada and move on.

  11. And enough of the patronizing tone Mr. Sandoval. While you may like metaphors that paint you as the father at the head of the table of all things Nevada, you are really just another civil servant. Start acting like one for all Nevadans--not just the tiny segment of the population from whom you get your crumbs.

  12. @TonyV...

    "I've never seen anyone in politics so blatently cater to the wishes of the rich at the expense of everyone else. What scares me the most is the zeal with which he goes about it - it's almost like he takes pleasure in it."

    Ain't that the truth? The Gov is GIDDY!
    Near unmitigated GLEE!

    I wonder, after "the speech", if his posse was waiting in the wings to slap him on the back & give him his props...
    "You done real good! Just like we told ya. See?
    Knuckles, din't I tell em... stick to the script, smile big, look properly concerned at the appropriate moments, and VOILA! You have real cred!"
    Time to pillage & plunder.

    The Wizard of Nevada, Governor Sandoval.

  13. LV Law Dog, you have decribed exactly what is going on in Nevada, a regressive tax structure that does not generate enough revenue to meet legitimate public needs. Any attempt (which will not be made in the current environment) to put in a more progressive system will be met with, "well we can't increase taxes on the wealthy, they are the job creators." Where are all those jobs they have been creating?

  14. Here is a suggestion: RECALL.

  15. GOV 0.2 (I'm going to copyright that, and get some weirdo company to sue anyone that uses it...JUST JOKING! BESIDES IT STOLE IT FROM RALSTON anyway.)

    Landry list drone on monotone, no details. Another phony politician in a Silk Suit, without a silk suit.

    Also, performance what? Budget? So what do you want? What are the objectives and what are the methods? Sounds like you need data and a study to decide. Of course NPR "LIE" doesn't like government spending money on studies.

    The study on the drinking habits of Chinese prostitutes had a good objective. Problem drinking, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases...cost government and organizations lots of money. Studying what they do in other countries can help us here. For example, a study of the Finish School System? Might help the USA, etc.

    It is like the "MacDonald's hot coffee spill" lawsuit crap. The cup was flimsy, the women was severely burned on her genital area, and it happened before to other people and McDonald's didn't correct the problem, In other words: "Good lawsuit." But the talk radio bigots, Fox News fixers and the nutty policy think tanks take the situation out of context and build a house of lies on the "urban myth."

    Same with public employees, government spending, etc. It takes money to make money and Nevada was built on Government tax and spend.

    Sandoval should give up his taxpayer paid for medical insurance the way others have. "Shared sacrifice" walk the walk, don't just talk the talk. If Government health care is BAD, give up yours.

  16. LVLawDog,

    Very interesting post. Never thought of our tax system, the way you laid it out. Makes sense.

  17. A $200 per pupil cut to K-12 education state funding for CCSD would amount to a mere 3 percent of their operating budget (which itself is just over half their budget).

    So Senator Horsford, with all due respect, that isn't a devastating budget cut.

  18. "Oh, it's just a little cut... It doesn't really hurt, does it? There there, you'll be fine in no time!!!
    Oh, that's just another little cut. Be brave, it's small. Well, another cut, ha? Well, they're all so SMALL!
    You're FINE! Now quit whining! We'll put some band aids on you, you'll be good as NEW!
    Why can't you just be thankful you don't have a big, gaping, open, festering wound like some people! Your actually VERY LUCKY! Now, get back to work; DOUBLE TIME, MISTER!"

    Thanks, Pat.