Posts Tagged ‘Clark County’

Democrats Continue To Outpace Republicans In Voter Registration, Gain 100,000 Edge In Clark County

By Sean Whaley | 12:38 pm September 18th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Democrats continue to out-register their Republican counterparts, with the latest data from Clark County now showing a more than 100,000 voter advantage as the deadline to participate in the Nov. 6 general election draws ever closer.

Today just before noon the Clark County website, which updates registration totals regularly, showed 346,703 Democrats registered to vote compared to 246,479 for Republicans, a 100,224 advantage.

Nonpartisans totaled 132,529 and other minor parties totaled 41,910 for a total registered population of 767,621 in Clark County.

Early voting will begin in just a little more than a month.

The consistent outpacing of Democrats over Republicans in the voter registration race could spell trouble for the GOP from the presidential race on down to state legislative races.

In addition to the presidential contest between President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney, an important Senate race pitting U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., against Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., is at stake.

And Republicans in the state Senate are engaged in a concerted effort to win control of the 21-member house in November. Democrats now hold an 11-10 edge.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said Democrats are doing well in the registration race because the message of the party on improving education and creating jobs is resonating with voters.

“We thought the economy was going to be the No. 1 thing, but education is and so, I think the message – better educating our children, trying to diversify our economy in different sectors, trying to do things that bring job here – I think those are all messages that are resounding with folks and they’re choosing to register Democrat,” he said.

Denis said Democrats in Nevada have a history of strong turnout for elections, which will also aid the party and its candidates. While nonpartisans will be a big factor in the races, many of those voters are expected to vote Democratic as well, he said.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said Republicans have the edge despite the registration difference.

“Well look, obviously we don’t want to see the numbers getting more divergent than they are in some of these races, and it’s unfortunate, but the reality remains that these are very winnable races for us,” he said. “We have a superior candidate, we have a superior organization, we have superior funding. So in that way, we still feel confident in each and every one of these districts that we’re fielding the better future state senator. So in that way I believe that we’re going to win every one of them.”

Contrary to Denis’ view, Kieckhefer said he believes nonpartisan voters are going to break Republican in the election.

Republican Senate candidates “are right on the messages, they are right on the issues,” he said.

“They have the position that is more in line with the majority of voters in their district,” Kieckhefer said.

The deadline to register to vote in the election is Oct. 16. The last day to register without appearing in person at an Election Department office is Oct. 6.

“I encourage everyone to visit our website to make sure they are registered to vote or to ensure their registration information is current,” Clark County Registrar of Voters Harvard Lomax said in a recent news release. “Individuals with a Nevada driver’s license will be able to take advantage of our online registration services and there is still time to register through the mail.”

Early voting for the election begins on Saturday, Oct. 20 and extends through Friday, Nov. 2.

A check of the Clark County website at noon each day for the past few days shows Democrats continue to consistently out-register Republicans.

On Thursday, the site showed 342,293 registered Democrats, 244,963 registered Republicans and 130,789 nonpartisans.

On Friday, Democrats had added 1,196 registered voters in Clark County from Thursday, Republicans added 322 voters, and nonpartisans increased by 478.

On Saturday, Democrats had added 287 voters from Friday, Republicans added 104 voters and nonpartisans rose by 98. The numbers were not updated on Sunday.

On Monday at noon, the Clark County site showed Democrats had added 1,970 voters from the weekend report, Republicans had added 610 voters, and nonpartisans increased by 674 voters.

On Tuesday at noon, the site showed Democrats had added 1,024 voters, Republicans had added 509 voters and nonpartisans increased by 520 voters.

In 2010, at the close of registration, Democrats only held a 91,633 advantage in Clark County. In 2008, at the close of registration, Democrats held a 125,218 advantage in Clark County.

Democrats have been outpacing Republicans in the statewide numbers reported monthly by the Secretary of State’s Office as well. Even nonpartisan registrations have exceeded Republican registrations in recent months.

As of the end of August, there were 463,229 Democrats registered statewide, 407,513 Republicans and 186,941 nonpartisans. The Democratic advantage stood at 55,716.

As of Saturday, Democrats had 471,585 registered voters statewide and Republicans had 411,525, giving Democrats a 60,060 edge, up by 4,344 voters since the end of August.

The push to control the state Senate is one of the bigger Nevada election stories this year. There are five seats considered competitive, and Republicans need to win four of them to take an 11-10 edge.

But Democrats keep making headway in the four Southern Nevada districts. As of last week, Democrats had a 4 percent edge over Republicans in Senate seat 5, 5.1 percent in seat 6, 6.1 percent in seat 9, and trailed Republicans by 2 percent in seat 18.

Seats 5, 6 and 9 now have larger Democratic edges than even in 2008.

In another closely watched contest, the race for the 4th Congressional District seat between state Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, and Republican Danny Tarkanian, Democrats now have an 11 percent edge, or 30,000 more voters, than Republicans.

“This is only the latest sign that Nevadans are rejecting Mitt Romney and Dean Heller’s plan to outsource jobs and end Medicare by turning it over to private insurance companies,” said Zach Hudson, spokesman for the Nevada State Democratic Party. “Nevadans across the state are excited about re-electing President Obama and sending Shelley Berkley to the Senate to create jobs, protect Medicare, and strengthen the middle class.”


Audio clips:

Sen. Mo Denis says the Democratic Party message is resonating with potential voters:

091812Denis1 :24 to register Democrat.”

Denis says Republicans have disenfranchised voters, which is why many are registering as nonpartisan:

091812Denis2 :16 as a Republican.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer says he believes Senate Republicans are still favored to win because they are the better candidates and are better funded:

091812Kieckhefer :23 one of them.”



State Board Settles Tax Dispute With Washoe County For $7.25 Million

By Sean Whaley | 5:16 pm September 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The state Board of Examiners today voted to settle a legal dispute with Washoe County over local tax revenue taken by the 2009 Legislature to balance the state budget.

The settlement provides an immediate payment of $1.25 million to the county, with another $6 million being allocated later for major road maintenance projects. As part of the agreement, the road projects will be moved up in the state’s funding priorities.

The original legal claim submitted in 2011 was for $21.4 million, but the county later revised its demand downward to about $17.9 million.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a member of the board, called it a good deal for the state since the projects to be paid for with state highway funds have already been approved for funding by the state Transportation Department. The agreement also makes it clear there is no admission by either side that there is fault or a legal liability for the settlement, he said.

The cash portion of the settlement equates to about seven cents on the dollar, Sandoval noted.

If the highway piece of the settlement is included, the deal provides about 40 percent of what the county had sought in its revised request, said state Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp.

“It’s a good settlement and I think it’s important to recognize, as I said, that there was no admission of liability by either party,” Sandoval said after the meeting. “I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to be having litigation or disputes between governmental entities.”

Washoe County submitted the claim last year, citing a Nevada Supreme Court ruling in May 2011 that said the Nevada Legislature improperly took $62 million in 2010 from the Clark County Clean Water Coalition fund to balance the state budget. The county said the ruling applied to actions taken by lawmakers in 2009 as well.

Clark County has also submitted a claim based on the same legal decision, and is seeking $102.5 million in local taxes also taken by the 2009 Legislature. But the county in June opted to sue rather than continue with negotiations.

Even so, Sandoval said today that negotiations continue with the county to resolve the dispute, which occurred prior to his term as governor.

But the state has just recently received a new claim, from the city of Reno, based on the same Supreme Court ruling.

Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger appeared before the board to briefly discuss the claim filed for $2 million. The settlement with Washoe County approved today did not provide any direct benefit to the city, he said.

Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger.

Sandoval said the claim will be reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office as has been done with the other requests.


Audio clips:

Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger says the city has also submitted a claim:

091112Clinger :24 aware of that.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval says the settlement is a good deal for the state:

091112Sandoval :28 between governmental entities.”

State Board To Consider Settling Tax Dispute With Washoe County For $7.25 Million

By Sean Whaley | 12:08 pm September 6th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The state Board of Examiners on Tuesday will consider settling a dispute with Washoe County over $21.5 million in local property tax revenue taken by the 2009 Legislature to balance the state budget.

The proposed settlement would provide an immediate payment of $1.25 million to the county, with another $6 million being allocated later for major road maintenance projects.

Gov. Brian Sandoval. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

Washoe County submitted the claim to the Board of Examiners in September 2011, citing a Nevada Supreme Court ruling in May 2011 that said the Nevada Legislature improperly took $62 million in 2010 from the Clark County Clean Water Coalition fund to balance the state budget. That ruling forced Gov. Brian Sandoval to reconfigure his proposed 2001-13 state budget by extending a set of taxes that had been scheduled to expire on June 30, 2011.

The county argued the court ruling applied to the funds taken by lawmakers in 2009 as well.

Clark County also submitted a claim, seeking $102.5 million in property taxes also taken by the 2009 Legislature. But the county in June opted to sue rather than continue settlement negotiations with state officials.

Sandoval said in June he was disappointed at the decision of the Clark County Commission to take the matter to court and he questioned whether the amount of the claim was accurate.

“We’ve been trying to work with Clark County, again, for months,” he said in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program. “And I was extremely disappointed that they weren’t willing to come to the table to try and resolve this. And those chose to litigate rather than try to work it out.”

The Legislature in 2009 required the state’s two largest counties, Clark and Washoe, to give up 9 cents per $100 in assessed valuation collected in property taxes to the state. The actions by lawmakers in 2009 occurred before Sandoval became governor.

The Board of Examiners is composed of Sandoval, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller. The agenda for the meeting indicates that both the state and Washoe County want to settle the matter.

Nevada Taxable Sales Sees Modest But Solid Gain In April

By Sean Whaley | 2:31 pm June 29th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s taxable sales climbed by 5.1 percent in April over April 2011, continuing a 22 consecutive month trend of positive numbers for the important economic indicator, the state Department of Taxation reported this week.

The $3.5 billion in taxable purchases in April were buoyed by double-digit gains in several major categories, including construction; up 16.1 percent, merchant wholesalers-durable goods, up 10.2 percent; and motor vehicle and parts dealers, up 10.5 percent.

For the fiscal year through April taxable sales are up 7.2 percent over the same period in the 2011 fiscal year.

Clark County was up 4.9 percent in April, while Washoe County eked out a small 0.2 percent gain. Thirteen of 17 Nevada counties reported gains in taxable sales in April.

Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada, said the solid gains in April came even without a lot of shopping ahead of Easter, which fell on April 8 this year. Much of the Easter shopping came in March, he said.

“It did get a little bit warmer starting in March, so we saw a lot of purchases that people traditionally make when it starts getting warmer made a little bit earlier in the season than maybe last year,” he said. “All things considered April was a very good month.”

General merchandise stores were up 2.4 percent in April, clothing and accessories stores were up 1.8 percent, furniture and home furnishings were up 5 percent, and accommodations were up 13.4 percent.

The home furnishings increase, “is a great number, especially given our housing situation,” Wachter said. “The fact that that number has consistently remained up we view as positive.”

The accommodations number is good news, since Nevada needs its gaming and tourism industries to come back as well, he said.

Sales and use taxes collected from purchases are 4.2 percent ahead of projections for the state general fund for the fiscal year through April, meaning there is nearly $28 million more than was forecasted for the period.

Wachter said this will mean additional money for education and health and human services in the next budget cycle.


Audio clips:

Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada, said April was a good month for taxable sales:

062912Wachter1 :25 very good month.”

Wachter says the home furnishings increase is particularly good given the state of Nevada’s housing market:

062912Wachter2 :27 in that category.”

Legislative Panel Votes To Seek Bill To Mandate Veterans’ Court In Clark County

By Sean Whaley | 5:29 pm June 20th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A legislative panel today voted to request that a bill be drafted and introduced in the 2013 session requiring the Clark County District Court to create a Veterans’ specialty court.

The Legislative Committee on Senior Citizens, Veterans and Adults with Special Needs voted unanimously in a work session to seek the legislation. But the interim committee also voted to write a letter to the Clark County District Court asking it to establish a Veterans’ Court on its own so legislative action would not be necessary.

The Legislature authorized the creation of Veterans’ Courts through a bill sponsored by former Speaker Barbara Buckley in 2009. But the measure authorized rather than mandated courts to establish such specialty courts program for veterans and members of the military.

Currently, the Washoe County District Court has established a Veterans’ Court, but it is the only district court that has established such a program.

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The purpose of such courts is to handle the special cases of veterans struggling to adjust to civilian life after ending their military service.

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, a veteran and member of the committee, said testimony indicated the Washoe Veterans’ Court has been successful in reducing recidivism among veterans, ultimately reducing money spent on incarceration. The testimony also indicated the court has assisted veterans in obtaining a variety of services and benefits, he said.

The 2009 legislation was enabling only because of budget concerns at the time and the potential fiscal impacts to the court system. But the Washoe program has showed substantial savings because of fewer jail and prison inmates and a reduced need for prosecution staff time and resources, Anderson said.

A court spokeswoman said today: “The (Clark County) District Court supports a Veterans’ Court model. Within our adult drug court, district court currently has a weekly veterans’ calendar that is attended by a Criminal Justice Liaison from the Veterans Administration (VA). Veterans in the program are linked to services for which they qualify. If veterans are identified in other specialty courts they are put in contact with the Criminal Justice Liaison and provided an opportunity to access services through the VA. The (Clark County) District Court is open to expanding this program as funding allows.”

Anderson said lawmakers would prefer the court to move forward on its own.

“And I did promise the committee, and I will follow through, that I will be reaching out to the court throughout the months leading up to the session to try to make this happen without legislative intervention,” he said. “We don’t like to mandate anything without reason.

“It is time for Clark County District Court to get a Veterans’ Court up and running,” Anderson said. “During testimony we did not hear of any extra costs associated with the court, nor did we hear any good reason for the Veterans’ Court to not be established at the Clark County District Court level.”


Audio clips:

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson says the committee would rather see the Clark County court system create the specialty court on its own:

062012Anderson1 :24 get it done.”

Anderson says testimony indicated that the Veterans’ Court in Washoe County has saved money:

062012Anderson2 :33 is already overwhelmed.”



State GOP Cites Voter Gains In Four Key Senate Districts, Democrats Question Relevancy Of Analysis

By Sean Whaley | 3:33 pm April 6th, 2012

CARSON CITY – While Democrats registered more voters in March than Republicans, a GOP official noted this week that the party has made gains in four state Senate districts that are key to who will control the house in the 2013 legislative session.

A spokesman for Senate Democrats questioned the importance of the GOP analysis, however, noting that Democrats registered more voters than Republicans in two of the seats from February to March.

Democrats now hold an 11-10 edge in the 21 member Senate, and both parties agree that the five races that are in play among the 12 Senate seats on the November general election ballot are crucial to which party will hold the majority.

Secretary of State Ross Miller reported on Tuesday that Democrats registered 1,590 more voters statewide than Republicans in March.

Through March, Democrats have 452,219 active registered voters, while Republicans have 403,565 and nonpartisans total 175,992. The remainder of the 1,095,017 active voters belong to minor parties.

But Republicans made gains in four of five state Senate races considered competitive between the two major parties based on the number of active voters as tallied by the Clark County Election Department. All are in Clark County and all are open races with no incumbents.

The numbers of active voters as reported by Clark County are through April 5, and are different than those reported by the Secretary of State’s office through March 31.

The GOP improvement is based on Clark County voter registration numbers earlier this month, prior to an update that moved some voters to inactive status.

Inactive voter status includes voters who have moved. Inactive voters are eligible to vote so long as they have met all other legal requirements to vote.

The GOP analysis shows:

- In Senate District 5, where former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk and Annette Teijeiro, both Republicans, face Democrat and former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, Democrats now lead 40.5 percent to 37.4 percent, with the GOP closing the gap by 0.9 percent. Democrats now have a 1,677 vote lead.

Author: David Ball, via Wikimedia Commons.

- In Senate District 6, where GOP attorney Mark Hutchison is facing Benny Yerushalmi and Thomas Welsh, both Democrats, Democrats now lead 41.4 percent to 38.2 percent, with the GOP closing the gap by 1.2 percent. Democrats now have a 1,785 vote lead.

- In Senate District 9, where Republicans Mari Nakashima St. Martin and Brent Jones face Democrats Justin Jones and Frederick Conquest, Democrats now lead 39.6 percent to 35.3 percent, with Republicans closing the gap by 0.5 percent. Democrats have an 1,831 vote lead.

- In Senate District 18, where Republicans Scott Hammond, Richard McArthur and Conrad Vergara face Democrats Kelli Ross and Donna Schlemmer, Republicans now lead 40.7 percent to 37.7 percent, with Republicans adding to their advantage by 0.6 percent. Republicans now have a lead of 1,619 voters.

- In the Reno race in Senate District 15 between Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, Democrats added slightly more voters in March, 93, than Republicans, 32. Republicans have a voter lead of 1,430 votes, or 40.1 percent to 38 percent. These are based on the Secretary of State’s numbers through March 31.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, campaign chairman for the Senate Republican Caucus said: “Our primary advantage is the excellent candidates that will represent the GOP in every crucial state Senate race this election cycle – candidates that are 100 percent dedicated to improving Nevada’s education system and economy.

“Our candidates will work harder, have better campaign organizations, and will have all the resources they need to win in November,” he said. “Our confidence level is higher than ever that Senate Republicans will go into the next legislative session with a 12-9 majority.”

Michael Luce, executive director for the Nevada Senate Democrats, said the updated active voter rolls in Clark County leave Senate Democrats, “with a sizable advantage that will grow larger as we move closer to the election.”

“The numbers of inactive voters in these districts makes this issue irrelevant, as they were all less than 1 percent,” he said. “While Republicans appear to be celebrating what is essentially a routine recoding of some voters who did not update their addresses, our strategy is to continue ramping up our voter registration efforts as evidenced by Democrats outpacing Republicans last month in new registered voters.”

Luce also noted that over 30,000 voters classified as inactive voted in the 2010 election, according to the Secretary of State’s office.


Statewide Taxable Sales Up Modest 3.8% In December But Near Double-Digits In Las Vegas

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 6:46 pm February 27th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s taxable sales rose 3.8 percent in December 2011 over December 2010, a modest rise that was outpaced in Clark County which saw a 9.5 percent gain in the important indicator of consumer health.

A major decline in taxable sales in Elko County in December was largely responsible for the overall smaller statewide increase.

Statewide taxable sales totaled $4.2 billion in December, with the biggest increases coming in bars and restaurants, up 8.8 percent; clothing and accessory stores, up 12.9 percent; motor vehicle dealers, up 15.3 percent; and merchant wholesalers-durable goods, up 14.2 percent.

Bar and restaurant sales were up 8.8% in December, 2011. / Photo: Anna Frodesiak courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The December numbers, released by the Nevada Department of Taxation, follow a November taxable sales report that showed a 9.6 percent gain.

Clark County reported taxable sales of just under $3 billion, up from $2.7 billion in December, 2010. Washoe County also had strong results, up 6.1 percent in December 2011 over December 2010.

The overall taxable sales numbers would have been higher except for a big decline in taxable sales in Elko County. Elko taxable sales were down by more than 50 percent in December to $142.5 million compared to $295.6 million in December 2010.

If Elko County taxable sales had remained flat in December 2011 over December 2010, statewide taxable sales would have been up over 7 percent.

Brody Leiser, spokesman for the Department of Taxation, said today that a major pipeline project being built across northern Nevada was the main factor in the Elko drop off in December of 2011. The project had seen major purchases in December 2010 that were not duplicated this past December, he said.

Nevada Think Tank Investigation Shows Clark County Residents Pay Millions To Fund Union Activities

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am February 9th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A Nevada think tank investigation shows that Clark County taxpayers are contributing $4.6 million a year to fund union activities by local government workers.

The results of the investigation by Steven Miller and Kyle Gillis of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, published today in the Nevada Journal, identifies almost 70,000 hours of paid leave time made available each year by local governments to public employees to conduct union business.

Although top union officials are employees of the county or city governments, paragraphs in the bargaining agreements specify that those employees are to be released from their duties on behalf of taxpayers to instead work – while continuing to be paid by taxpayers – for private organizations, their labor unions.

The costs to taxpayers was calculated by reviewing 37 municipal labor contracts, contracts that are not easily accessible by the public.

“People are really going to be stunned when they realize that governments in Clark County, I mean the same governments that are facing fiscal challenges, are giving millions upon millions of dollars every year to union employees to work for the union,” said Victor Joecks, NPRI communications director. “I mean government certainly has a role in providing schools and public safety and roads, but it doesn’t have a role in subsidizing a private organization; doesn’t have a role in subsidizing these labor unions.

“Not only that, I think that it’s a perfect example of how kind of the union contracts with collective bargaining get out of control,” he said. “Year after year of collective bargaining, when you are only ratcheting up, I mean leads to this kind of excess and this kind of waste.”

The investigation found that the most lucrative contract is between the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, which receives over $1 million in tax dollars and 15,500 hours a year for union members to perform union work. Las Vegas also pays its Metro Supervisors Association and its Police Protective Association, Civilian Employees, Inc., more than $430,000 a year and $300,000 a year, respectively, for union employees to do union work.

Las Vegas Police Protective Association.

The investigation also found that the Clark County firefighters union received well over $400,000 in taxpayer funds for union business, and North Las Vegas provided over $600,000 for union firefighters to carry out union work. The Service Employees International Union Supervisors and SEIU Non-Supervised Employees took over $195,000 a year and over $300,000 a year, respectively, from Clark County taxpayers, for union activities.

The Nevada Journal article notes that in March, Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak called for the county firefighters union, rather than taxpayers, to pay for union leave.
“The taxpayer is paying for the county to represent the county and is also paying for the union to represent the union,” he told the Las Vegas Sun.

Recently, when asked by NPRI about the new contract continuing its open-ended language, Sisolak said he would have “preferred a cap” on the hours, indicating that lack of a fixed number of hours has been a factor in the over-use of leave time.

“I do support collective bargaining,” Sisolak told the Nevada Journal, “but you do have to find ways to save money and find what’s essential for taxpayers.”

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani disagreed with Sisolak on the paid-leave issue. She said paid union leave is used to offset other concessions, such as freezes on pay.

“Collective bargaining allows both sides to sit down and decide what’s best for the county,” said Giunchigliani. “Union leave has always been included in contracts in both public and private sector unions.”

Union officials did not respond to requests for comment by NPRI.

Joecks said one simple answer to the issue is getting legislation passed banning the practice. But it is just one more example of why collective bargaining should be banned entirely for local government employees, he said.

The practice is also unconstitutional, Joecks said. Article 8, Section 9 of the state constitution says the state shall not donate or loan money to corporations except those created for educational charitable purposes. Since cities and counties are creations of the state, it applies to them as well, he said.


Audio clips:

Victor Joecks, NPRI communications director, says taxpayers will be stunned when they see how much is spent on union activities:

020912Joecks1 :32 these labor unions.”

Joecks says it is an example of how collective bargaining is getting out of control:

020812Joecks2 :27 kind of waste.”



In Case You Missed It: The Week in Nevada Politics

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:24 pm September 9th, 2011

These “ICYMI” posts are getting quite a few hits so I guess you like them, Dear Readers. Here’s this week’s round-up (plus a few from before the holiday weekend):

Presidential Race

My three cents on the President’s speech Thursday night.

Magellan’s 9/2 survey had Gov. Rick Perry up over Gov. Mitt Romney by 5 points (29-24 percent) in Nevada. Herman Cain, Rep. Bachman and Rep. Paul all came in at 6 or 7 percent.

Romney rolled out his economic and jobs plans in North Las Vegas this week. Can a visit from Perry be far behind?

Special Election in CD-2 (September 13)

State Senator Mark Amodei’s says he’d be “honored” to have your vote in his final television ad of the campaign.

State Treasurer Kate Marshall has been walking a tightrope as she runs as a Democrat in a conservative district, but Steny Hoyer’s visit cleared things up a bit.

The two underdog candidates fight on.

Reuters reports.

U.S. Senate Race

Rep. Berkley did not heart this story in the New York Times. The Las Vegas Sun sees nothing wrong. Steve Sebelius says she should have abstained. Jon Ralston says either way, it spells trouble for her campaign.

Dean Heller AGAIN demanded transparency from the so-called debt-cutting SuperCommittee via his fourth press release on the issue.

Congressional Delegation (and Hopefuls) in the News

Rep. Joe Heck gets heckled at a panel on job creation.

Does Sen. Harry Reid always get what he wants? Maybe not, but he can still do stuff like this.

The Washington Post fact checks a Reid job claim related to the FAA bill.

Dina Titus is not letting the lack of district lines stop her from putting together a great money team for her congressional run…somewhere.

Cities and Counties

A Clark County union negotiating expert says the SEUI is bargaining in bad faith. The county wants the Local Government Employee Management Relations Board to compel the union to meet more often and bargain in good faith. The SIEU responded calling the claim “disingenuous” and the complaint “frivolous.”

The Clean Water Coalition is shutting down but at least someone in the state has some money.

As first reported by me on Twitter, some folks in North Las Vegas are going to try to recall Mayor Shari Buck. But only 50 signatures were collected Tuesday at their kick-off rally.


Is the Nevada GOP finally getting its organizational act together such that it can inflict pain on the Democrats in 2012? The dean of Nevada politics says maybe.

The Nevada Supreme Court opened its fall term with a hearing on a freedom of speech argument by a political advocacy group.

A complaint against Bank of America was filed recently by Attorney General Catherine  Cortez Masto. She and many state AGs also signed a strongly worded letter of concern/complaint (and asks questions “in lieu of a subpoena”) against an alleged sex trafficking website.

Ralston blasts the state teachers’ union for its “report card” on lawmakers.

DOT is contemplating an Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Act (RRIF) loan of $6 billion to the DesertXpress project.


Hundreds Of Trees Planted But Few Jobs Created In Clark County Federal Stimulus Project

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am August 8th, 2011

CARSON CITY – If a $490,000 grant to plant trees in Clark County public places as part of a federal job-creating stimulus project should be measured by the “greening” of Southern Nevada, then the effort might be considered a modest success.

Thirteen different government and nonprofit entities applied for 1,814 trees for planting at 35 different public areas in Southern Nevada through the grant. A total of 1,541 trees have been provided to the agencies and groups for planting, mostly at schools and parks around the Vegas valley.

Photo by Nevit Dilmen (2006)

But if job creation to help the country out of the “great recession” is the measure of success, then the funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the Clark County “Nursery Greening Project” is not likely to win high marks.

According to the Nevada state Division of Forestry, which administered the grant, few jobs were created. Two positions, equivalent to less than 1.5 full-time jobs, were preserved at the Las Vegas State Tree Nursery. A third position through Manpower Inc. of Southern Nevada was created. In addition, 11 individuals were hired for various aspects for projects to include planters, program development, trainers and drivers. The jobs were short term.

Seven temporary jobs were also created for workers at First Choice Tree Service to plant the trees in 15 gallon containers. A total of 480 hours were worked.

The federal website that monitors American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects, reports the tree planting grant has created 1.72 jobs.

Pete Sepp, vice president for communications and policy at the Washington, DC-based National Taxpayers Union, said the project appears to have generated little benefit in the way of job retention or creation.

Pete Sepp, vice president for communications and policy at the Washington, DC-based National Taxpayers Union.

“At first blush this does seem to have amounted to an awfully high expenditure for a rather low level of results,” he said. “Planting trees is a wonderful thing but if the goal was to preserve or create jobs, a near half million dollar expenditure for a few retained and a few created would strike most taxpayers, especially unemployed ones, as a poor value.”

The project, and many others, raises the question of whether the estimates of job creation through ARRA were ever credible to begin with, Sepp said.

The Nevada News Bureau first reported on the grant in July last year. A public records request to the state Forestry Division provided the results of the grant and its success at job preservation and creation.

Bob Conrad, public information officer for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said of the program: “ARRA projects were solicited to state agencies, and we were given 24 hours to put together very short project proposals. ARRA money had to go through state agencies, and the U.S. Forest Service selected the projects by county.”

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers defended the project in an emailed statement: “The recovery act has given hundreds of Nevadans access to green-collar job training in more than a dozen landscaping workshops, and hundreds of trees have been planted in urban settings, improving quality of life and improving energy efficiency. Trees are a long-term investment – the people of Nevada are reaping the benefits of the recovery act now, and will continue to do so for years to come.”

Nevada state Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, tongue firmly in cheek, said the benefit of the job-creation project has been misunderstood.

Nevada state Assemblyman John Hambrick. / Nevada News Bureau file photo

“Obviously when you look at it, what the public does not understand, and obviously you are missing the point – those trees are very special trees,” he said. “They are money trees. And as they plant them, obviously the county will harvest the bills that grow on the money trees. So in actuality it was an investment.”

After the Nevada News Bureau reported on the program, it along with tree planting efforts in several other states, made a list of 100 questionable ARRA projects assembled by two U.S. senators in 2010 in a report called “Summertime Blues.”

Even President Obama joked in June that the 2009 $787 billion stimulus bill, aimed at creating jobs with “shovel ready” projects, “was not as shovel ready as we expected.” The stimulus was intended to keep the national jobless rate from exceeding 8 percent, but that did not happen.

Even so, defenders of the stimulus said the jobless rate, which stood at 9.2 percent as of June, would have been worse without the grants, extended unemployment benefits and other elements of ARRA. Nevada’s June jobless rate was 12.4 percent, tops in the nation.

Sepp said such claims are questionable.

“It’s impossible to start disproving negative situations through government expenditure levels and employment levels,” he said. “In the end this package over-promised and under-delivered.”

Conrad said an original estimate of 2,500 trees to be planted through the grant was an error. The correct number was 2,000, with 801 purchased from the state’s Las Vegas nursery and 1,195 purchased from L.E. Cooke Co., a tree supplier to nurseries around the country. The trees cost $33.50 each for just under $70,000 total. Of the total, 220 died or were not sellable, and 235 remain to be awarded to the different entities for planting.

Tree types made available for planting included Arizona ash, black locust, desert willow, honey locust and sweet acacia, among others.

Some of the entities requesting and planting the trees includes the city of Mesquite, which received 150 trees, the city of Henderson Parks and Recreation Department which received 128 trees, and a nonprofit group See Spot Run, Inc., which created a dog park in Boulder City.

The Division of State Parks also planted 35 trees at the Mormon Fort State Park in downtown Las Vegas.

Other projects included in the nearly half million dollar stimulus funding grant were tree care classes for Spanish-speaking green-industry workers, a city/regional tree inventory, and urban canopy assessments. Funding for the tree-care classes totaled $30,000.

In a report on the project by the state Division of Forestry, two classes of five, three-hour sessions were held in November 2010 and March 2011 for the Spanish-speaking workforce. There were 510 attendees.

A request for proposals for the tree inventory was issued in July.

About 90 percent of the grant has been obligated to positions, salaries, sub-grants and projects, with about 60 percent spent so far.

According to the Nevada Division of Forestry, the recovery act provided the U.S. Department of Agriculture with $28 billion in stimulus funding, with $1.15 billion of the total allocated to the U.S. Forest Service for forest restoration, hazardous fuels reduction, construction and maintenance of facilities, trails and roads, green energy projects and grants to states, tribes and private landowners. The grant to the state Division of Forestry for the tree program came from this pot of funding.

The Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was awarded $46 million in ARRA funding, of which the tree-planting project was one project. Nevada state agencies were awarded $3.3 billion total.

Audio clips:

Pete Sepp, vice president for communications and policy at the Washington, DC-based National Taxpayers Union, says taxpayers do not appear to have received much value from the program in terms of job creation:

080411Sepp1 :15 level of results.”

Sepp says the tree-planting project appears to be a poor value for jobs created or retained:

080411Sepp2 :23 as poor value.”

Sepp says ARRA over-promised and under-delivered:

080411Sepp3 :21 and under-delivered.”

State Assemblyman John Hambrick says (in jest) the trees are an investment that will pay off:

080411Hambrick :22 was an investment.”

Higher Education Budget Could Be Cut Further Under Legislative Proposal

By Andrew Doughman | 3:40 pm May 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The budget situation for Nevada’s universities and colleges may have worsened today as legislators voted to both cut and restore funding for higher education.

Democratic legislators first voted to restore $100 million to the higher education budget, but Democrats also continued to oppose a shift of Washoe and Clark County property tax money from county governments to the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

That property tax shift represents $120 million that the universities were counting on in the governor’s recommended general fund budget.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said legislators fully intend to replace that money with general fund dollars.

But Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, was not so sure.

“That decision has not been finalized,” he said.

Horsford said backfilling that $120 million hole is “one of the options” the Legislature may consider.

If the Legislature does nothing, Nevada’s higher education world may be worse off than it was under Gov. Brian Sandoval’s recommended general fund budget.

“If they don’t replace the property tax money they took out, we’re in very bad shape,” said Jim Richardson, a lobbyist for the Nevada Faculty Alliance.

Richardson said he had thought the Legislature would either apply the property tax shift to all 17 counties or use general fund dollars instead.

Legislature Votes To Reduce Tuition Increase By 13 Percent

Students, however, might feel a little better after legislators on two money committees voted today to support a 13 percent tuition increase spread over the next two years rather than a 26 percent increase, as was proposed earlier.

That would mean the universities would have to find more money because many colleges and universities assumed a 26 percent increase.

“That money has to be cut from somewhere and it would appear that means program cuts and layoffs,” said professor Gregory Brown of the UNLV Faculty Alliance.

The 13 percent tuition increase would bring Nevada’s colleges and universities about $42.4 million during the next two years.

The problem is, higher education administrators were counting on the $120 million worth of property tax diversions in addition to revenues collected through tuition.

The votes, however, all hinge on the Legislature passing new taxes or extending current ones, which are scheduled to sunset June 30. If that does not happen, legislators would have to re-examine these actions.

“We closed the budget, but the funding has not been identified so you can’t get too excited yet,” Smith said. “All you can count on is what we did today, and that’s contingent on us finding the revenue …It’s a budget in motion.”

Sandoval has recommended a two-year, higher-education budget that was $254 million less than the amount of money the Legislature approved during the 2010 special session.

That would be reduced to a $112 million cut if the Board of Regents approves the tuition increases and the Legislature finds $100 million to give to colleges and universities. The Legislature would also have to find $120 million to replace the funding that would have gone to higher education through the local property tax diversion.

Before today, legislators had anticipated following Klaich’s four-point plan, which would have called for $80 million in new revenue and a 26 percent tuition increase.

Students had testified before a legislative committee about keeping tuition low before legislators voted to recommend a 13 percent increase to the Board of Regents, which makes the final call on student fees.

Republicans largely objected to the $100 million in new revenue.

“I don’t know where we’re going to get the money to pay for this,” said Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno. “I just think we don’t have the money. At this point in the game, this is kind of where I have to stand.”

At this point in the legislative game, legislators are debating taxes.  Sandoval included spending $6.1 billion in his 2011-2013 general fund budget. Democrats want to spend about $7 billion, with $626 million coming from extending taxes set to expire June 30 and the rest from new taxes on business and services like haircuts, attorneys and brothels.

“Bottom line is: there are taxes being paid that if continued would cover this [$100 million],” said Horsford.

Legislative committees also earlier supported a 4.8 percent salary cut to university employees, adding between $7.5 and $10 million in extra spending because the governor recommended a 5 percent cut.

“The reality is, the work is not done because we still need to get folks to pay for it,” Horsford said.

Dual “Anomaly” Districts Likely To Disappear In Nevada’s Redistricting Process

By Andrew Doughman | 12:36 pm March 25th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Ask people living near the strip in Las Vegas who their state senator is and, if they know, they might say Sen. Mark Manendo or Sen. David Parks.

They would both be right on both counts. Parks and Manendo represent one of the state’s two dual districts, which each have two senators.

They are a relic from a past era, and Parks says there is a “strong likelihood” they will soon be a thing of the past.

Parks is the chairman of the Senate committee that publicly works on drawing the boundaries.

“From a personal perspective, I’d sooner have a single Senate district because I would have fewer constituents to campaign to,” he said.

The Nevada Legislature will redraw political boundaries this year using data from the 2010 U.S. Census.

“It makes sense that the double districts go away,” said Sen. Michael Roberson, a Republican who represents Clark County District Five with Sen. Shirley Breeden, a Democrat. “What’s the rationale? If double districts are great, why aren’t double districts everywhere? It’s an anomaly. … I haven’t heard a single person argue for the merits of a double district.”

Clark County Senate Districts 5 and 7 have two Senators each. Those districts could disappear in the 2011 redistricting process. Legislative Counsel Bureau

About 475,000 Nevadans currently live in the dual districts that elect two senators each. Each dual-district senator technically represents half the district. The districts are double the size of districts that elect a single senator.

In the rest of Nevada, one district elects one senator.

Double districts are double the size to keep in line with national laws. National court rulings have established a “one person, one vote” rule.

Senate districts that are double the size of other districts must then have two senators. Or, the other way around, if a district has two senators, it must be double the size of districts that have one senator.

Campaigning in a double district is more difficult than in single districts. Roberson said that candidates have to solicit votes from double the voters, pay double the mailing costs and spend double the money in order to reach double the number of people.

In this century, the districts seem odd.

“Within the context of Nevada, it may be an anomaly,” said Guy Rocha, Nevada’s former state historian. “We don’t need it today.”

But it has not always been so.

The double districts came about as the United States Supreme Court made a ruling in the 1960s that changed the old way Nevada elected its senators.

Before, each of Nevada’s 17 counties elected one senator.

But as Clark County’s population grew, legislators in the north seemed to wield disproportionate influence since they represented fewer people than the Clark County legislators.

Nevada overhauled the way it elected its Senators and Assembly members in 1965 to use population, not county, as the base.

In 1971, Nevada had many districts where one district elected one assembly member or senator based on population. But Nevada also had one seven-member and one two-member district in Clark County and one four-member Washoe County district.

After 1971, these abnormal districts began to disappear.

By 1991, Clark County had five double districts. That number shrank to the current two double-districts in 2001.

Now it seems that they will all go away.

“It would end what I call a latter-day tradition,” Rocha said. “Perhaps, it’s served its purpose and served its time.”

Responsible Growth Advocate Says Legislation Would Restrict Land Use Challenges

By Sean Whaley | 11:33 am March 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The city of Henderson is seeking legislation that one critic says would make it more difficult for Southern Nevada residents to challenge land use decisions by local governments.

Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, founder of Northwest Residents For Responsible Growth, has sent an email to members of the state Senate voicing her objections to Senate Bill 85, which passed out of the Senate Government Affairs Committee on March 2. It was amended and has not yet come to the full Senate for a vote. If approved by the Senate it would then be considered in the Assembly.

“As someone who is very involved in the community and focused on quality life issues – which always seem to center on land use and zoning – this bill places an unfair bias on the public,” Mayo-DeRiso said in an email to senators.

If a concerned citizen misses a public hearing due to other commitments, a failure to understand an agenda item or for some other reason, the person would have no legal rights to challenge the decision in court later on, she said in a phone interview.

“It is a full-time job to read every single agenda item and make sure that you are aware of what is going on,” Mayo-DeRiso said.

Renny Ashleman, lobbyist for the city of Henderson, said the legislation is necessary so officials can know what issues may be raised in court later on. Existing law already requires an individual to appear in some form to be considered aggrieved, he said. This can be in writing and does not require an appearance at a meeting.

“Our bill says you have to tell us what you are aggrieved about,” Ashleman said.

Ashleman said Henderson has had a problem with people who did not object to a project at a public meeting but later challenged the decision in court.

“They didn’t ask us for a solution; maybe we would have offered them one,” he said. “In any event we don’t make a record of the problem.”

There have also been cases in Henderson where decisions have been challenged for purely competitive reasons, and the bill would prohibit this as well, Ashleman said.

“I don’t think there is a cure for missing the meeting,” he said. “You should have to come and tell us something.”

But it doesn’t have to be in person, Ashleman said. If someone misses an issue, there can be a rehearing as well, he said.

“We have far and away the most liberal law in the United States for the citizens,” Ashleman said. “Most of them require that you have a much tighter nexus to the property. Anybody can come in and tell us for environmental reasons or other reasons, aesthetic reasons, they don’t like what is going on and they are able to do that.”

A similar bill was sought by Henderson city officials in 2009 but it did not pass. Ashleman said the 2009 bill, SB354, also contained controversial provisions regarding gaming enterprise districts. Senate Bill 85, which would apply to land use decisions throughout Clark County but not in any other Nevada county, has no gaming-related provisions, he said.

Other local governments are supporting the bill as well, Ashleman said.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, a member of the Government Affairs panel, said there is no intent to preclude the public’s ability to contest land use decisions. The intent is to allow individuals to file protests not only in writing to maintain a position as an aggrieved person, but by email as well, he said.

Mayo-DeRiso said she open to ways to alleviate her concerns about the bill.

“But the last thing we need to do is have a statute, an NRS statute, that supports blocking the public or keeping the public out of those decisions.”

Audio clips:

Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, founder of Northwest Residents For Responsible Growth, says the bill would limit the ability of a member of the public to appeal a land use decision:

031811Mayo-DeRiso1 :10 read the bill.”

Mayo-DeRiso says the bill requires proof that you are an aggrieved party:

031811Mayo-DeRiso2 :19 an aggrieved party.”

Mayo-DeRiso says it is a full-time job to try to keep up with land use decisions:

031811Mayo-DeRiso3 :09 what’s going on.”

Mayo-DeRiso says Nevada does not need a law to keep the public out of land use decisions:

031811Mayo-DeRiso4 :19 of those decisions.”

Henderson lobbyist Renny Ashleman says the city has a problem with people who don’t raise concerns with a proposal at a public meeting but challenge in court later anyway:

031811Ashleman1 :23 on the problem.”

Ashleman says a member of the public should be required to state a claim at a public meeting, in person or in writing:

031811Ashleman2 :09 disagree with that.”

Ashleman says the city and other governments in Clark County have liberal laws allowing citizens to challenge land use proposals:

031811Ashleman3 :20 to do that.”


Allegations Of Gerrymandering Fly As Legislators Address Redistricting

By Andrew Doughman | 10:50 am March 16th, 2011
CARSON CITY – When it comes to redistricting this year, the line from the Assembly Republicans goes like this: the “fair” process is unfair.

They say the process resulted in gerrymandering in 2001, when the boundaries of political districts were last redrawn.

“It was gerrymandered to death,” said Assemblyman Mark Sherwood, R-Henderson.

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea started a sentence like this: “Clearly, the way it was gerrymandered in 2001…”

The Assembly Republicans have data from the most recent election that they say shows that the current districts are unfair.

More Nevadans voted for Republicans than Democrats in the state’s 42 Assembly races last year.

But Democrats won 26 races to the Republicans’ 16.

Furthermore, Republican candidates earned more total votes than Democratic candidates during the past decade’s Assembly races.

But Republicans won fewer seats.

When electing representatives to the Assembly for the 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 sessions, Democrats won 130 elections while Republicans won 80. Click to enlarge. (Legislative Counsel Bureau)

The past decade has produced a 3-2 Democratic advantage in the Assembly.

After the 2010 election, Victor Joecks of the Nevada Policy Research Institute wrote that the current Assembly districts are unfair.

Among other things, he noted that the largest Republican-controlled district has more voters than the eight smallest Democratic-controlled districts combined.

But Democratic Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who is leading the Assembly’s redistricting committee, shrugged off the claims.

“If you don’t have anything else to argue, argue it,” he said. “Districts have to be equal population. You’re not going to have equal votes.”

“Common sense is wrong.”

Legislators drew all 42 Assembly districts with almost equal populations in 2001.

Every 10 years, legislators redraw the political districts based on the most recent Census data. They put equal numbers of people in each district.

It is people, not voters that define “fair.”

Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, employs experts to help legislators edit the boundaries of districts.

He said legislators are mandated to draw districts of equal population. The voter population in each district may differ, sometimes markedly.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has already said he wants the Legislature to draft a plan based on equal district populations or he will veto the plan.

“What is counted and what is important is the number of people, not the number of votes cast,” said professor William Eubank of the UNR political science department.

Two districts might have equal populations, but several factors affect voters numbers in each district. Some people cannot vote: children, teens under the age of 18, prisoners and some immigrants. Other demographic factors also predict whether an eligible voter actually will vote.

So what about that 3-2 split in the Assembly when Republican candidates got more votes?

“It’s one of those things that common sense tells you is wrong,” Eubank said. “But common sense is wrong.”

The Growth Problem

Even so, populations grow or shrink, leaving once-equal districts warped.

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden,  is part of the bi-partisan group “Fair Vote.”

He said the current system is not “fair.”

“I don’t believe the last reapportionment was fair to both parties,” he said. “We did not take into account, which I think we’re obligated to do, growth.”

Take Assembly Districts 13 and 22 for example. Republicans dominate both districts. When they were drawn in 2001, they comprised the outlying areas of Las Vegas.

Assembly Districts 13 and 22, at left and along the bottom of this image, are among the largest in the state because they absorbed population growth in Clark County between 2000 and 2010. (Nevada Legislature)

Now there are more than 220,000 people in each. Another Clark County district, Assembly District 11, contains 42,000 people. Based on the 2010 Census, a district should have 65,000 people.

So it’s a Goldilocks problem. After 10 years of population change, no district is “just right.” Most are either too big or too small.

Republican legislators point to these districts as proof of gerrymandering, suggesting that in 2001, Democrats schemed to lock urban growth in a few Republican-leaning districts. This would restrain Republicans from gaining more seats.

Making the districts equal by population could still help Republicans in urban districts because it would spread out Republican voters currently in those two massive districts.

“If we get districts balanced with people, then the votes will follow,” Goicoechea said. “We’re going to get 65,000 people in each Assembly district and call it good.”

If only it were so simple.

The Case For Cuts: After Criticism, Many Defend Governor’s Budget

By Andrew Doughman | 4:00 am February 7th, 2011

CARSON CITY – They speak of limbs hacked off, death and guts.

In a war of words, critics of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $5.8 billion budget have lambasted his proposed cuts to K-12, higher education and health and human services.

Conservatives have largely stayed silent while the critics lashed out. Now, two weeks after the governor released his budget and on the first day of the 120-day legislative session, they’re ready to defend it.

The “live within our means” crowd has said the governor’s budget, along with any legislative tinkering to iron out compromises, puts Nevada where it needs to be. Advocates for health and education have equated it to a starvation diet. The governor and others say each state dollar can do more.

When you’re at home, and you know you can’t afford something, you just don’t get it,” said Sen. Barbara Cegavske, one of the few Republican lawmakers to raise her voice during the past two weeks of legislative budget-overview hearings.

The governor has proposed 9 percent and 18 percent budget cuts to K-12 and higher education. But even those who have bemoaned the cost of the governor’s cuts have some concessions to make.

I think we have been guilty of hyperbole in the past where, you know, we get the first dollar of a cut and we would like you to believe that the sky is falling,” said Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, which comprises Nevada’s universities and community college. “Here we are a few years later and lo and behold the sky is right where it started out. It has not fallen in.”

Klaich made his comments at a meeting this past week between presidents of universities and community colleges and the Board of Regents, which govern the state’s higher education system. He warned the presidents not to overstate the cost of the cuts.

Later in the session, the extent to which advocates for school, university and human services programs justify their worth could influence how legislators choose what to cut and what to save.

Presenting worst case scenarios doesn’t do any good,” said Dale Erquiaga, the governor’s senior adviser. “Everyone knows they’re not going to try to fill that [budget] gap entirely with tuition [increases], including them. And so to say that they would is disingenuous.”

No new taxes

The governor has repeatedly said he will veto any bill with a tax increase. Democrats would have to rally their legislators as well as persuade some Republican lawmakers to cross party lines in order to have the two-thirds majority required to override Sandoval’s veto.

The governor’s staff remain confident that this is impossible.

They do not have two-thirds to raise a tax,” Erquiaga said.

Not all Democrats have pledged their support for tax increases either. Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, stressed the harmful effects of the cuts during legislative budget overviews during the past two weeks.

His counterpart in the Assembly, Speaker-elect John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, offered more compromising rhetoric.

As the Las Vegas Sun reported this past weekend, the two Democrats are approaching the session with different leadership styles, which could be a contributing factor to how the 120-day session is likely to play out.


The admonishments from Horsford and others have not persuaded some legislators. Rather than watch agencies and programs starve, this is the camp that says that the state can get leaner, more efficient and do more with less at the level of spending the governor has proposed.

Freshman Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, said this weekend that people don’t mind some taxes.

They just want to know how is it being spent, are we spending correctly,” he said. “That’s the systemic problem we’re having, the transparency of each of these agencies that we have.”

Although not the single agenda of any one legislator, the no-new-taxes scenario could look like this: Legislators vote to consolidate state agencies, reduce salaries of state employees and revise the state’s pension and benefits plans. They also make it easier to fire bad teachers and reward good ones. That same accountability system and culture, somehow, migrates to state agencies so the state can better track the effectiveness of its spending. Finally, the Legislature decides to shift services downward to county governments, a move that isn’t a burden because the Legislature concurrently gives counties more leeway in how they pay their employees. Counties also add accountability measures at the local level.

If you’ve been watching the firefighters down in Clark County, yeah, somebody should be watching something,” Cegavske said.

County leaders have criticized Clark County firefighters for making liberal use of their sick days, oftentimes when they’re not sick.

Republican leaders Sen. Mike McGinness and Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea have also written a letter in support of the governor’s budget. They argue that taxes are unnecessary because the state can reform “how government should operate.”

Jobs and Business

That philosophy of government harkens back to the Reagan years, when the governor and his senior advisers first entered politics.

Sandoval said that keeping people employed is his “most important” priority in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun. In the same interview, he said a business-friendly, low-tax environment will be the key to economic growth.

It’s a message echoed by conservatives statewide.

The best way to get out of it for those people and everyone is allow people to work,” said Victor Joecks at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank.

The governor has, however, used about $1 billion worth of one-time budget shifts to balance his budget. He hasn’t completely relied on cuts. Instead he has proposed to move around local funds and open up accounts that are now locked-in for bond repayment.

But critics have called the governor out more for his cuts than his accounting. Some have suggested a sales tax on services or a business franchise tax as ways to avoid eviscerating the state’s social safety-net and broaden the state’s tax base.

The governor still has strong support going into the session. But, as the Las Vegas Review Journal reports, the record number of freshman legislators and the presence of some key players don’t entirely rule out a tax increase if Horsford and other can advocates are especially persuasive.

The games begin today as the Legislature convenes later this morning.