During his final State of the State Address, Governor Brian Sandoval (R) announced his proposed $8.1 billion budget for the next biennium (or two years). That’s $200 million more than the last Economic Forum forecast, but that’s also $400 million below the original $8.5 billion requested by state agencies. Sandoval called for increased investment throughout the public sector, but how will he make it work?
Below the fold, we’ll explore how he might get all his numbers to add up… And which numbers the new leaders of the Nevada Legislature might prefer to work with.
Governor Sandoval proposed all sorts of new investments in his official budget proposal. He proposed $115 million in new investment in higher education. Additionally, he proposed $20 million in general fund revenue for Millennium Scholarships. He proposed $15 million for state parks, including opening the first new state parks in decades. And he proposed a long awaited raise for the state’s public servants.
So how does Sandoval plan to pay for all of this? Apparently, he wants a 10% excise tax on recreational marijuana. And he’s counting on Tesla to deliver on its latest promise to expand its gigafactory to produce gearboxes and electric motors. Oh, and he seems dangerously open to the federal government opening more public lands for lithium mining. Otherwise, I’m still scratching my head to figure out how the numbers add up.
No really, think about it. In order to stay on track with his fiscal goals Sandoval needs for Tesla to stay on track with its gigafactory’s progress, for companies to continue rushing to Nevada to mine more lithium, and for the federal government to refrain from pursuing the very war on marijuana legalization that US Attorney General Nominee Jeff Sessions has often threatened. Can Sandoval be this lucky? Perhaps. But in these uncertain times, one must wonder how the Governor can be so confident.
Maybe Governor Sandoval’s confidence is at least partially due to how much he seems to agree with #NVLeg Democrats this year? In the official Democratic Response, incoming State Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford (D-Spring Valley) struck a conciliatory tone in pledging to work with Sandoval on public K-12 education funding. He also seemed to agree with Sandoval in improving access to higher education, and went further in adding specifics on proposals for workforce training programs and student debt relief.
However, Ford didn’t agree with Sandoval on everything. After all, he delivered the Democratic Response. He poked a bit at Sandoval’s fellow Republicans in Carson City when he noted Democrats unanimously voted to pass 2015’s historic revenue-raising tax reform package. He also had a pointed message for Sandoval in stating his opposition to the Governor’s proposed $60 million for private school vouchers.
Interestingly enough, both Sandoval and Ford drew lines in the sand when it came to the new President. Even as Donald Trump begins to pursue his policy goals at the federal level, Nevada’s leaders signaled a determination to take a different path. Both Sandoval and Ford spoke of the record amount of Nevadans with health insurance thanks to Nevada’s participation in the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Sandoval didn’t even mention fellow Republican Trump’s threats against immigrant communities, while Ford vowed to do all he can to protect aspiring Americans from the wrath of the incoming administration. Sandoval revealed his plan to balance the state budget with marijuana (see above), while Ford unequivocally promised to look out for Nevadans’ civil liberties. “When the federal government takes an action that we believe will hurt you or your family, we will speak up.”
As I wrote earlier, the 79th Session of the Nevada Legislature may prove to be quite pivotal. How will Sandoval and #NVLeg leaders decide to approach the Trump-Pence Administration? Where will they go next in building “The New Nevada Economy”? Can they reach an agreement on school funding? Oh, and how will they ultimately balance the budget?
Fasten your seat belts, Nevada. We may be in for a wild ride.