Posts Tagged ‘governor’

Poll Finds Nevadans Divided On New Tax Proposal But Strongly Favor Education Reform Efforts

By Sean Whaley | 11:08 am September 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The results of a poll of Nevada residents conducted on behalf of the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN) show that 45 percent of those queried believe a 2 percent margins tax on business proposed by teachers will generate the revenues necessary to support public education.

But 49 percent say the new levy, if approved, would raise prices, increase the state’s already high jobless rate and hurt business, according to the poll by Public Opinion Strategies of 500 likely voters taken Sept. 19-20. It has a margin of error of 4.38 percentage points.

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

And when asked if money alone will improve Nevada’s public education system, only 22 percent agreed, with 73 percent saying the system also needs significant reforms.

The Nevada State Education Association is currently circulating petitions to take the proposed new tax to the Legislature in 2013, but a legal challenge to the proposal remains alive in Carson City District Court.

The poll found that 59 percent of those surveyed said the amount of taxes they pay is about right, with 22 percent saying taxes are too high.

And 58 percent said the governor and Legislature should raises taxes if necessary to avoid cuts to education and health care, while 32 percent said spending should be cut instead.

RAN began conducting the semi-annual poll in 2009, and many of the questions have been asked each time. In this way, the poll can give not only a snapshot of current conditions, but it can also identify trends by comparing results from earlier polls.

Poll information is then shared with RAN members, the public and state legislators so that the concerns of our state will be considered when policies are shaped in Carson City.

Among the other findings in the latest survey:

- Gov. Brian Sandoval is popular, with 62 percent approving of his job performance. But only 45 percent say the governor understands their problems, and only 33 percent say the Legislature does.

- A majority of those surveyed, 52 percent, say the state should not freeze the defined benefits offered to public employees through the state retirement system, while 41 percent say a freeze should be implemented to save money.

- The survey found that 48 percent of respondents believe that Nevada should opt into the Medicaid expansion provided for under the Affordable Care Act, while 44 percent say the state should opt out because of the cost and because the neediest residents are already covered.

- Asked about the conservative Tea Party Movement, 26 percent of respondents said they had a strongly or somewhat favorable view of the movement, with 35 percent saying they have strongly or somewhat unfavorable views.

Public Opinion Strategies (POS) is a national political and public affairs research firm. Founded in 1991, POS has conducted more than five million interviews with voters and consumers in all fifty states and over two dozen foreign countries.

Nevada Voters To Weigh In On One Controversial State Ballot Measure In November

By Sean Whaley | 7:43 am September 19th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada voters will determine the fate of only one statewide measure in the Nov. 6 general election, but the proposal put on the ballot by the Legislature is somewhat controversial.

Question 1 on the ballot asks Nevada voters if the state constitution should be amended to allow the Legislature, on extraordinary occasions and only with two-thirds support of lawmakers in each house, to call itself into special session. Sessions would be limited to 20 days, but could be convened on a continuous basis if the extraordinary occasion requirement was met and with two-thirds support from lawmakers.

The term “extraordinary occasions” is not defined in the proposed constitutional amendment.

The Nevada state Senate in session, 2011. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The constitution now says that only the governor can call a special session of the Legislature.

Currently, legislatures in 34 states are authorized to call a special session.

Nevada voters have rejected this concept once before, in 2006, by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.

The measure is on the ballot after Assembly Joint Resolution 5 was approved by the Legislature in both 2009 and 2011. In 2011, the proposal passed both houses only by a party line vote with all Republicans opposed.

Opponents of the proposal are concerned the change could move the Legislature away from its tradition of meeting on a part-time basis.

In a discussion of the ballot language for the question by the Legislative Commission in June, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said the ability of lawmakers to continue special sessions indefinitely was a concern.

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said at the commission meeting that giving lawmakers the authority to call themselves into special session could be important if a situation like that in Illinois arose with impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich. It is unlikely that a governor facing impeachment would call a special session to allow for his removal from office, he said.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said in an interview this week that with the state getting bigger and issues sometimes requiring immediate attention, there are times the Legislature may need to convene itself into special session.

“I think it is closer to the people if the Legislature has the ability to do that,” he said.

But Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said this week he likes the way the system works now.

“I like the fact that we have a strong chief executive state,” he said. “That the Legislature can’t call itself into session for whatever purpose it chooses. I think the system that we have is functional for our state.

“And the idea that the Legislature can start calling itself into session whenever it wants just doesn’t really fly with me,” Kieckhefer said.

Special sessions of the Nevada Legislature have become more frequent in recent years, in part because of the state’s ongoing budget problems. But they have all been called by the sitting governor at the time. Gov. Brian Sandoval has not yet called for a special session in his 21 months in office.

The last special session was called in February 2010 by then Gov. Jim Gibbons to deal with a shortfall in the state budget. It lasted seven days.

There have been 10 special sessions of the Legislature since 2001. They were called for a variety of reasons, including tort reform for the medical industry and the impeachment of the late state Controller Kathy Augustine. Many were called because the Legislature could not finish its work by the constitutionally-mandated 120 days, a limit approved by voters in 1998 and taking effect for the first time in 1999.

Previously there had not been a special session since 1989.


Audio clips:

Sen. Mo Denis says there are times when the Legislature may need to call itself into special session:

091812Denis :22 into special session.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer says he likes the system as it works now:

091812Kieckhefer :28 fly with me.”



Budget Office Says Democratic Spending Plan Nearly $1 Billion Over Sandoval Budget

By Andrew Doughman | 3:56 pm May 23rd, 2011

CARSON CITY — Legislative Democrats intend to spend almost $1 billion more than Gov. Brian Sandoval requested in his $6.3 billion budget, according to a spreadsheet obtained from Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget office today.

The majority of the $968 million in spending replaces budget cuts in K-12 education, higher education and social services, which Democrats have long argued will eviscerate the state’s social safety net and destroy the state’s education system.

Throughout the past few weeks, the Legislature’s money committees have closed various state budgets, sometimes at levels higher than the governor recommended in his general fund budget. They finished that process this past Thursday and staff reviewed the numbers this weekend.

The majority of the expenditures come from $626 million in the K-12 budget, $205 million in higher education and $121 million for health and human services.

Democrats plan to pay for their budget with a $1.2 billion combination of extending 2009 tax increases, a business “margin” tax and transaction tax on services.

Extending the 2009 taxes would secure $626 million in funding for the Democratic budget plan, $342 million less than legislators would like to spend.

Since extending the taxes appears to be the most likely to pass, legislators may have to whittle away at their additions to the governor’s budget. They have scheduled a meeting tomorrow during which they intend to “reconsider” some of their earlier budget add backs.

Republicans and Sandoval have so far opposed the plan, and Democrats need at least several Republicans to join them to create a two-thirds majority to override a Sandoval veto of any tax plan.

Republican legislators on the Senate and Assembly’s money committees have also largely voted against the additions to the budget.

“Between Thursday and Monday, they [Democrats] realized they closed a budget that is totally unrealistic,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.

Kieckhefer had also requested the full expenditure list from the governor’s budget office. The $968 million number has not yet been finalized.

Representatives from the office of Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, declined to comment since they have not had time to review the governor’s numbers.



Governor Sandoval Calls For Patience, Optimism In Televised Speech

By Andrew Doughman | 6:50 pm May 3rd, 2011

CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval tonight highlighted an improved economic output as reason to stay the course with his proposed general fund budget.

During a televised address from the governor’s mansion,the governor highlighted a lower unemployment rate and an aggregate $440 million reduction in budget cuts that comes from revised revenue projections and federal government changes.

He used his speech as a platform for patience and optimism, refuting claims from Democrats that Nevada needs more revenue.

“We can’t tax our way out. We can’t cut our way out. But we can, and will, grow our way out,” Sandoval said.

As Nevada’s economic recovery continues, he called on the Legislature to establish “priority triggers” to make sure any new revenue goes to Nevada’s K-12 or higher-education system.

“It’s pretty simple: we will agree now that as revenues increase we will direct that money straight to education,” Sandoval said. “Just as the most recent economic projections came in higher than many expected, there will be continued growth, and we should therefore trigger new revenue directly into the classroom.”

He also challenged claims from Democrats that his budget still eviscerates the states social services and education system, even after the revised economic projections.

“Some will say this is not enough. Yet they offer no plan for how to find additional money without harming the fragile economic recovery we now know Nevada is experiencing,” Sandoval said.

Legislative Democrats, however, today said the governor’s budget is still unacceptable.

“I could not support the governor’s proposed budget because it absolutely destroys our kids’ education,” said Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.

Democrats today voted to close the K-12 budget with $700 million more in spending than the governor recommends. They have not yet, however, described a funding plan to find that money.

““I did not get into public service to rob the children of Nevada of the opportunity to succeed,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas. “Today, we closed the (public education budget) at an acceptable level. Our young students deserve no less.”

Democrats also declined to respond to the governor with a televised rebuttal.

“Tomorrow is a new day and we hope we can all come together and solve this budget,” said Democratic spokesperson Charles Blumenthal.

Republicans, however, appeared on television with Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston following the governor’s address.

“We can do without a tax increase because we are basically going to grow the economy,” said Sen. Joe Hardy.

Democrats could be close to presenting a tax plan.
They have paraded representatives from some of the state’s most influential businesses through legislative hearings during which groups like the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the Nevada Resort Association have hinted about conditional support for taxes.
Republicans, however, dismissed these efforts.
“Frankly, they’re not doing a good job of it,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.

In his speech, Sandoval also highlighted education reforms he touted on the campaign trail and spoke of during his State of the State address. He also announced that a major new business will be coming to Northern Nevada, creating 650 jobs.


Legislature Debates Cuts To Benefits, Overtime, Pay Increases For States Employees

By Andrew Doughman | 2:42 pm April 29th, 2011

CARSON CITY – State employees could face further pay increase suspensions as well as cuts to holiday pay under a bill proposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

State employees would again face a pay freeze for the time the years they have worked with the state, as well as any potential merit pay. This is in addition to a proposed 5 percent salary cut.

The bill would also make changes to the benefits package for new hires, eliminating a severance provision worth five years of retirement benefits if an employee was laid off because of budget cuts. Instead, the employee would get six months of health benefits.

Representatives from the governor’s office testified that the proposals would put Nevada better in line with neighboring states.

They said new state employees earn a maximum of 104 hours and a minimum of 80 hours per year in paid sick leave among the states neighboring Nevada. In Nevada, new employees earn 120 hours per year in sick leave.

The governor’s proposal would reduce sick time for all employees more toward the Western state average of 98 hours per year.

“If you look at that as the high and low, Nevada was two days beyond the high of any of our neighboring states,” said Julia Teska from the state budget office.

The 5 percent salary reduction saves the state $379.7 million. The suspension of pay increases saves $212 million.

The state does account for paying out employees for accrued vacation and sick leave, so the budget office did not offer a direct savings number.

State employee unions lined up to testify against the bill in a legislative hearing this morning.

“This is another bill that seems to be attacking state employees,” said Vishnu Subramaniam, representing the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

State employees would also earn reduced overtime pay for hours they work on holidays. Changing holiday overtime pay would save an estimated $2.7 million.

Now, all state employees get paid on holidays, and working on a holiday earns an employee pay at 1.5 times the normal hourly rate. Altogether, that means state employees now earn money at 2.5 times the normal rate for working on holidays.

This proposal would lop off 0.5 of that rate so that state employees would earn double time on holidays.

“The proposals that you’re making are not intended as a budget cut per se, but to equalize us with what the market says when you look at the marketplace,” said Randy Kirner, R-Reno.

Public sector union representatives said that the cuts disproportionately affect the working class. They said that the state continues to pay out six-figure salaries to contractors and high-level administrators while balancing the budget with reductions in benefits and pay for the rank and file.

“This is just something of greed,” said Kevin Ranft, also from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

A legislative committee took no immediate action on the bill, but legislators are expected to address the proposal again as part of the governor’s budget.


Nevadans Would No Longer Elect State Board Of Education Under Proposal

By Andrew Doughman | 7:44 pm April 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevadans would no longer see education board representatives on their ballots if a proposal before the Legislature passes.

Assembly Bill 548, recommended by an education task force, would give the governor the power to appoint the superintendent and state board of education.

Proponents of the bill said it would drastically simplify Nevada’s current education system. The Nevada’s Promise task force members testifying today before a legislative education committee said that it would also make the governor more like the CEO for education.

“In any successful sports team, the same is true,” said Punam Mathur, vice president of human resources for NV Energy and a member of the task force. “It is clear somebody is in charge.”

The governor, with recommendations from the Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the Assembly, would appoint three board members per year for three-year terms. The board would also shrink from 10 members to nine.

The governor would appoint the superintendent from a list of nominees drafted by the state board.

“We think that what we’re presenting to you has natural checks and balances in it so we can keep all the key leadership bodies in it fully involved and fully engaged,” Mathur said.

She said it makes a highly-visible elected official – the governor – more accountable to education.

Although Nevadans currently elect the state board representatives, lending those offices a degree of accountability, Mathur and others asked: How many Nevadans can name their state board representative?

Opponents to the bill said the bill would politicize the education system to the detriment of students. They also championed Nevadans’ ability to elect board members such as the Board of Regents that governs Nevada’s colleges and universities.

“Nevadans want to pick their judges just as they want to elect their state board,” said Craig Stevens, director of government relations for the Nevada State Education Association.

The teacher’s union representative said that the union liked most of the recommendations from the Nevada Promise task force. This one, however, would not necessarily help students learn more, Stevens said.

The bill enjoys support from some Democrats, although the Democratic caucus has been split over some education bills the Legislature is considering this session.

The Assembly Democratic caucus met for more than one hour before voting on education bills today, after which the vote showed several Democrats voting against the bills.

The committee took no immediate action on Assembly Bill 548.

If passed, the bill would create a fully-appointed board by Jan. 1, 2015. It would also eliminate the need for the Legislature to consider redrawing the districts voters use to elect their school board representatives. The Legislature must redistrict this year based on data from the 2010 Census.


Gov.-elect Sandoval Says Attracting New Businesses To Nevada A Top Priority

By Sean Whaley | 4:56 pm November 10th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval said today he will make it a priority as governor to encourage businesses to relocate to Nevada from neighboring states where taxes have been raised to deal with the economic slowdown.

In order to bring those businesses and jobs to Nevada, the state has to live within its means and maintain its minimal tax and regulatory environment, he said.

That means Sandoval, who takes office in January, will present a balanced budget to the 2011 Legislature that contains no tax or fee increases.

“Raising taxes and fees is the worst thing we can do when our economy is struggling,” he said.

Sandoval mentioned a recent report naming Nevada as the 5th best state in the country to do business, and he said preserving that ranking and capitalizing on it will be a priority of his administration. California ranked 50th in the same survey.

“I think we have a great opportunity to bring new businesses from the states of California and Oregon where they’ve chosen to raise taxes and where they over-regulate,” he said. “And so there are a lot of prospects out there. In fact I’m already beginning to make phone calls in terms of businesses that are looking at the state of Nevada to tell them that we have a very strong business environment. That this is a great place to live.”

Sandoval said Nevada has challenges with its education system, but that he will address that as well to ensure the state is attractive to new business.

“You know, it is no myth,” he said. “There are a lot of significant companies that are making serious consideration about relocating to the state of Nevada, and I’m going to be personally involved. And I’m going to make the phone calls, I’m going to make the visits, I’m going to sign the letters. I’m going to do whatever it takes because the bottom line is, is we need to bring more jobs to the state of Nevada and get people back to work.”

Sandoval met Tuesday with state Budget Director Andrew Clinger, getting his first review of the state revenue and spending picture. Today he also reappointed Clinger as budget director, and named former state Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert as chief of staff. He also named Dale Erquiaga, a former Clark County School District official, as senior adviser. 

Clinger said prior to the Tuesday meeting he anticipates the state will receive about $5.3 billion in tax revenues in the coming two-year budget that will begin July 1, 2011. The precise number will be set by the Economic Forum on Dec. 1.

The current two-year budget will see about $6.4 billion in general fund spending, although this does not include about $1.1 billion in revenue being spent in the current budget that will go away in the new budget, including $600 million in federal stimulus funds.

State agencies and higher and lower education have submitted budgets totaling $8.3 billion.

Sandoval called the budget meeting productive but preliminary, saying he is a long way from making decisions on how to balance the budget with only about $5.3 billion in revenue.

“There are still a lot of hard choices that have to be made,” he said. “There are going to be some budget reductions which I take very, very seriously.”

Audio clips:

Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval says cuts will be needed to balance the budget:

111010Sandoval1 :08 very, very seriously.”

Sandoval says Nevada has a great opportunity to attract new businesses from neighboring states:

111010Sandoval2 :09 and over regulate.”

Sandoval says he is already making calls to businesses to lure them to Nevada:

111010Sandoval3 13 place to live.”

Sandoval says there are major companies seriously considering relocating to Nevada:

111010Sandoval4 :22 back to work.”

Reid and Sandoval Wrangle Over Budget And Taxes In Second Debate In Nevada Governor’s Race

By Sean Whaley | 10:15 pm October 7th, 2010

Taxes, the state budget and a looming revenue shortfall in 2011 took center stage Thursday in the second debate between the two major party candidates for Nevada governor.

Democrat Rory Reid emphasized his detailed proposals to create jobs and balance the budget without new taxes, while Republican Brian Sandoval focused on the need for the state to cut spending and live within its means.

Reid spent much of the hour-long debate in Las Vegas criticizing Sandoval for failing to produce a plan to balance the state budget, which faces a huge gap between tax revenues and anticipated spending needs in the coming two years.

“And Brian can’t talk about his plan tonight, because he doesn’t have one,” Reid said. “It’s hard for me to point out the problems in his plan because he hasn’t released it. He said in June he would deliver a plan to the people of Nevada. It’s Oct. 7. He still hasn’t. Where’s your plan, Brian?”

Sandoval responded that Reid’s budget plan contained “fantasy” revenues of more than $1 billion.

“If you took the time to review his plan, it includes $615 million of fantasy money that we don’t have,” he said. “It has another $400 million of money that supposedly is going to come from modernization and efficiencies that isn’t there.”

Reid would raise taxes to balance the budget, Sandoval said.

“We’re going to have to go back to 2007 levels,” Sandoval said. “That’s the expenditures that we’re going to have to have. We’re going to have to continue the furloughs, but if we make these tough decisions we’ll be able to balance the budget.”

Reid countered that his budget plan is based on solid proposals that do not require new taxes, and he again complained that he could not comment on Sandoval’s budget proposal because he hasn’t presented one.

Sandoval said Reid has repeatedly said he would not raise taxes to balance the budget, but recently acknowledged that if he was presented with a budget from the Legislature that raised taxes, he would accept it.

“No tax ever created a job,” he said.

The debate produced no major gaffes or changes in script from either candidate. Sandoval continues to lead Reid, the son of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in polls.

Reid emphasized his experience as chairman of the Clark County Commission, balancing budgets as large as the state budget.

Sandoval said he has experience with the state budget as a member of the Legislature, and prepared and worked within an executive agency budget as attorney general.

Both rejected any notion of increasing a variety of taxes, from mining to a sales tax on services, to balance the budget despite the anticipated revenue shortfall needed to fund basic programs.

Reid said Sandoval would have to cut public education and lay off teachers to balance the budget.

Sandoval said his plan would not lay off teachers, and he countered that Reid’s plan to continue furloughs for public employees and teachers would result in a cut to education despite his comments to the contrary.

The two candidates also differed on the new federal health care legislation, with Sandoval saying he supports the legal challenge to the constitutionality of the law.

Sandoval said the law is driving up the cost of health insurance premiums in Nevada, and that it could cost Nevada $500 million over 10 years in increased Medicaid costs.

Reid said the challenge is politically motivated but acknowledged the potential cost issues for the state.

“There is potential for it to put significant pressure on states because Medicaid rates could go up significantly,” he said.

Reid said better management of Medicaid, including more managed care, can help deal with the cost issues raised by the new law.

Reid suggested in his opening statement that Sandoval would be beholden to special interests as governor, a theme in one of his television ads that portrayed the former federal judge as a lobbyist for the banking industry.

“Brian seems like a nice person, but I’m concerned about whether he is his own person,” Reid said. “The people behind him, the lobbyists that recruited him, the one’s that will write the bills and the budget that he proposes, they are the ones I’m concerned about. Because if he doesn’t have the strength to stand up to them, how will he ever stand up for you.”

Sandoval said he has experience, integrity and is opposed to tax increases in any form to balance the state budget. He said Reid has flip-flopped on taxes.

“When he was presented with the question that said: If you were presented with a budget that includes a tax increase, would you sign it,” Sandoval said. “And his response was, ‘I would.’ So the answers have changed tonight compared to the answer that was given previously.”

Audio clips:

Democratic governor candidate Rory Reid questions Brian Sandoval’s independence:

100710Reid1 :20 up for you.”

Reid asks Sandoval for his budget plan:

100710Reid2 :15 you’re plan Brian.”

Republican governor candidate Brian Sandoval says Reid’s budget is based on fantasy revenues:

100710Sandoval1 :21 doesn’t add up.”

Sandoval says Nevada government has to cut back:

100710Sandoval2 :12 balance the budget.”

Reid, Sandoval Debate Education in First Big Head-To-Head

By Sean Whaley | 6:48 am August 30th, 2010

Underdog Democratic candidate for governor Rory Reid took the opportunity at a first debate today with leading GOP candidate Brian Sandoval to challenge his opponent’s commitment to spending on public education.

In his opening remarks, Reid said he has a plan to erase a $2.5 billion shortfall it the state budget without cutting education. Sandoval would cut education and lay off teachers, he said.

Sandoval, leading by double-digits in the polls, parried Reid’s attacks, saying his proposals, including given parents the choice to send their children to private schools with public funding, would not result in teacher layoffs.

Sandoval said Reid’s budget plan would cut education despite his comments to the contrary.

The one-hour debate in Las Vegas, held at the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy and broadcast statewide, did not appear to produce any serious political gain for either of the two major party candidates.

Reid emphasized his experience as chairman of the Clark County Commission, saying he has balanced budgets as big as Nevada’s for eight years without raising taxes.

“Strength and consistency is what Nevada needs in its next governor,” he said.

Sandoval said his credentials as a lawmaker, gaming regulator, attorney general and federal judge, and said Nevada’s public education needs a shakeup.

“We need to do something tough, we need to challenge the system, we need to shake up the status quo,” he said.

Both candidates talked up their ideas of giving principals, teachers and parents more power over how to spend tax dollars in the classroom as ways to improve student performance and get more mileage out of the state’s public education investment.

Sandoval said he would achieve local control by using block grants to schools to let them decide how best to spend their limited dollars.

Reid said his proposal would be to let parents take their kids out of failing schools and enrollment them in successful public schools. He called his plan true choice.

“I provide real choice, not the false choice Brian’s plan calls for,” he said.

Reid attacked Sandoval on his support of private school vouchers saying it would take $100 million from public schools to fund the private education of those who could afford it.

In response, Sandoval said choice would create competition and improve education.

Not surprisingly, both camps claimed victory immediately after the debate.

The Reid camp said in part: “If elected in November, Brian Sandoval will continue Jim Gibbons’ shameful legacy of taking money from our children’s classrooms to supplement the state budget. Brian Sandoval does not consider education a priority. Brian Sandoval does not understand the simple fact that we will never get out of this economic slump and draw new industry until we have good schools.”

Sandoval’s commented: “My education plan is a bold approach to challenging the status quo. We must end the social promotion of our children, end teacher tenure and give parents choices to seek the best possible education for their children. It’s time to get serious about reform. Our children deserve nothing less.”


Audio clips:

Rory Reid says Brian Sandoval budget plan would cut public education:

082910Reid1 :38 in your classrooms.”

Brian Sandoval says he has plan to shake up public education system:

082910Sandoval 1 :46 will do that.”

Reid says Sandoval voucher plan bad for Nevada children:

082910Reid2 :08 a bad choice.”

Sandoval says Reid plan would cut education:

082910Sandoval2 :10 cut to education.”

Nevada Budget Expert Says Sales Tax On Services One Way To Solve Budget Shortfall

By Sean Whaley | 7:58 pm August 25th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada budget guru Guy Hobbs said Wednesday expanding the sales tax to encompass services is “not a bad place to start” in the effort to broaden the state’s tax base.

“Sixty percent of our economy is services, not a bad place to start,” he said. “A lot of those services are discretionary services, certainly not a bad place to start.”

Hobbs, a former director of finance for Clark County, and now an expert consultant on Nevada’s tax structure as part of Hobbs, Ong and Associates, said an idea floated earlier this week to impose a 2 percent tax on food appears to be more of a short term fix to the budget hole rather than a long-term plan to broaden the state’s tax base.

The idea was suggested by Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, as a way to bring in revenue and allow the state to reduce or eliminate other taxes, particularly the modified business tax.

Hobbs made his comments on the Face to Face television program hosted by political observer Jon Ralston and broadcast live statewide.

Hobbs said Nevada’s sales tax base is too narrow, and expanding it to cover everything from legal and accounting services to massages would be a way to bring in more revenue based on a sound policy going forward.

Recently the Nevada Policy Research Institute suggested broadening the state sales tax to include services and food as a way of growing the state out of its budget problems. The idea has drawn a lot of attention from lawmakers.

But the two major party candidates for governor have both rejected the idea of a tax increase to balance the state budget next year. The state is facing as much as a $3 billion shortfall, or about 45 percent of what is expected to be necessary to fund education and basic government services.

Hobbs said he does not believe the Legislature next year can cut its way out of the budget hole.

“There is no question we need to broaden our sales tax base, absolutely none,” Hobbs said.


Audio clips:

Guy Hobbs says expanding the sales tax to services a good way to broaden state tax base:

082510Hobbs1 :26 kinds of things.”

Hobbs says there is no question state sales tax should be broadened:

082510Hobbs2 :22 good policy decision.”

Rory Reid Calls for Reform and Consolidation to Balance State Budget

By Sean Whaley | 6:40 am August 11th, 2010

(Updated at 6:50 a.m. on Aug. 11, 2010)

CARSON CITY – Democrat gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid told the Nevada News Bureau yesterday there are other options for moving the state out of its current budget crisis besides increasing taxes and cutting programs.

In an interview at a local coffee shop, Reid pulled out two pieces of paper. One showed an organization chart for the state’s public education system from 1989. The other shows how it looks now.

The newer chart showed many more layers of government, including advisory panels, legislative committees and other bureaucratic creations that have evolved over the past 20 years.

Reid said the two charts demonstrate one way Nevada can save several hundred million dollars: by streamlining government services to eliminate redundancies and inefficiencies in state government.

Reid, who is trailing GOP candidate Brian Sandoval in the polls, said he has experience balancing budgets as chairman of the Clark County Commission, budgets that are as big as the Nevada general fund budget.

“I know how to do this,” he said. “I’ve balanced it in good times and in bad for seven years running without new taxes. There are more than two options. The third option nobody talks about is to remake our government.”

Clark County had multiple housing authorities at one time, but Reid said he worked to consolidate them into one agency. There used to be multiple public health agencies, now there is one.

Reid did not back off his no new taxes stance, saying the state unemployment rate, the foreclosure crisis, and the overall economic situation in Nevada makes the idea of expanding such levies a nonstarter.

“We need a leader in Carson City that knows how to reform government structures,” he said. “If we do what needs to be done, we will save hundreds of millions of dollars and still maintain services by reforming our government.”

Reid said he will be putting out a proposal in the next several days addressing this issue in more detail.

Reid said Sandoval is offering no realistic solutions, instead saying he will avoid layoffs, protect vulnerable citizens and government services and still balance the budget.

“That is impossible,” Reid said.

The Sandoval campaign offered this response: “As a two-term legislator, an attorney general who returned money to the general fund and as a private law practitioner, Brian is proud of his budget experience. It’s curious that just a few months ago Rory Reid refused to say how he might balance the state’s budget.  Now he’s attacking Brian – the only candidate to lay out how he would have approached balancing our state’s short term budget deficit without mass layoffs or new taxes.”

Reid weighed in on the state’s budget problems as state Budget Director Andrew Clinger has spoken in recent days of the severity of the impacts facing Nevada when the Legislature convenes in February.

Clinger said the state is facing an estimated $3 billion shortfall in the revenues needed to sustain state government for the next two years, or nearly 50 percent of what would be a $6.5 billion general fund budget.

On Monday Clinger said new taxes might be avoided if the state and counties worked together to more efficiently divvy up the delivery of government services and the revenues used to pay for them.

Even so, both Sandoval and Reid have steadfastly rejected any notion of raising taxes as a partial solution to the state’s budget problems.

In an interview today on the KRNV Channel 4 noon news, Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said he would not reject out-of-hand the idea of new or increased taxes as one option to solving the state’s budget crisis.

“There is no question that we are facing a very severe problem, the largest shortfall in our history,” he said. “We did take money from counties last time, cities and counties, and there is a bottom to that well also.

“No one wants to advocate raising taxes, or new taxes,” Raggio said. “We will probably have to look at restoring the taxes that are going to sunset. But I don’t think anybody should take a blood oath that we’re not going to look at that.”

Raising taxes is a last resort, he said.

“But I wouldn’t take it off the table,” Raggio said.

The 2009 Legislature raised the sales tax and the modified business tax on the state’s largest employers as part of a solution to balancing the current budget. Those taxes will expire on June 30, 2011 unless they are extended by the Legislature.

Reid said there is one other way that Nevada can get out of its budget crisis, and that is “growing” out of it through economic development. There are $5 billion worth of energy projects getting close to construction that will generate construction jobs and tax revenues to the state, he said.


Audio clips:

Rory Reid says the state can save millions by remaking an outdated state government:

081010RoryReid1 :17 21st century economy.”

Reid says he has experience in reforming government structures:

081010RoryReid2 :15 reforming our government.”

Reid says Sandoval promising more than he can deliver:

081010RoryReid3 :23 that is impossible.”

Brian Sandoval Claims To Be Negotiating Debate Schedule, Rory Reid Campaign Says Untrue

By Sean Whaley | 3:24 pm July 13th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Republican and front-running governor candidate Brian Sandoval said today voters can expect to see him debate Democrat Rory Reid three times this fall in advance of the November general election.

Sandoval, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said he is still in negotiations with Reid over a debate schedule, but that three debates in the different regions of the state should provide voters with the opportunity they need to evaluate the candidates.

“I think that will be sufficient,” he said.

Sandoval’s comments took the Reid camp by surprise.

Reid spokesperson Mike Trask said Sandoval has been “hiding” and that there has been no communication between the two campaigns regarding a debate schedule.

“We’ve been chasing Brian Sandoval around the state,” said Trask. “Clearly he is buying time.”

Reid has accepted any and all offers to debate his opponent while Sandoval has turned down at least seven opportunities to do so, he said.

Reid had on a prior NewsMakers program challenged Sandoval to one debate a month through election day.

Reid also recently challenged Sandoval to debate him monthly on Jon Ralston’s statewide television program Face to Face.  Sandoval has said he will not agree to even one debate on the program, according to Face to Face executive producer Dana Gentry.

Sandoval has a substantial lead over Reid, chairman of the Clark County Commission, according to different poll results.

Sandoval is a former federal judge who stepped down from a lifetime appointment to the bench to run for governor. He defeated incumbent GOP Gov. Jim Gibbons in the June Republican primary.

On the program, Sandoval was also challenged on how he will balance the upcoming budget if elected governor. Gibbons has estimated the budget will have a shortfall of as much as $3.5 billion.

Sandoval reiterated that any budget plan cannot rely on new taxes, and noted that the shortfall may not be as severe as has been reported so far. A report from legislative staff shows the state is bringing in more money than expected, he said.

Sandoval says the deficit will range somewhere between $1.5 billion and $3.5 billion. But it will have to be addressed through spending reductions, he said.

“I think in this environment in a recession that raising taxes would be the worst thing that we can do,” he said.

Asked how he can balance the budget without raising taxes, Sandoval said the state has to reduce spending.

“We have to look at the spending side, that is exactly what I’m going to do,” he said.

Sandoval said teacher layoffs will not be part of any plan he devises to balance the budget.

With Nevada leading the nation in unemployment at 14 percent, the worst move would be to lay people off, he said.


Audio clips:

Sandoval on debate schedule:

071310Sandoval1 :8 will be sufficient.”

Sandoval on budget deficit:

071310Sandoval2 : 27 can’t afford it.”

Sandoval on suggestion of layoffs:

071310Sandoval3 :19 lay people off.”

Rory Says Eager to Debate “Early and Often,” Asks if Sandoval Will Keep “Ducking”

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:05 pm June 11th, 2010

Excerpt from a Team Rory press release this morning:

Rory Reid Accepts Challenges

Democratic candidate eager to debate early and often

Las Vegas, NV – Rory Reid has accepted a pair of debate challenges issued by members of the Nevada media.

He has accepted an invitation from the statewide television show “Face to Face” with Jon Ralston to participate in monthly debates with his opponent leading up to the November election. Rory also accepted an invitation to debate Republican Brian Sandoval on the statewide “Nevada Newsmakers” show with Sam Shad.

“Just like Jim Gibbons, Brian Sandoval wants to balance the budget on the backs of our children, jeopardizing our future, and I won’t stand for it,” Rory said. “So that’s what’s at stake, and I’m 100-percent committed to the fight. I am eager to debate Brian Sandoval about the importance of strong schools for a stronger economy, and every other issue important to Nevadans.”

Brian Sandoval said on primary election night: “No more hiding. We will debate about right direction for the future.”

But will Brian Sandoval live up to his word? Or will he continue ducking debates, as he did during the Republican primary, when he participated in only one debate? Even then, he agreed with Gibbons on virtually every issue. Sandoval ducked debates on “Face to Face” and with KDWN-AM during the primary.

My three cents:  Sandoval was able to avoid debating much during the primary, because he (knew he) really did not need to do so.  But he is going to have to debate Rory at least once or twice.  The price of not doing so could be too great (i.e. wide criticism from the media, fodder for attack ads).

And with or without the political fallout, I believe candidates for public office owe it to the voters to give them an opportunity to do/make a side-by-side comparison.

Candidates for Governor Disclose Supporters in Campaign Contribution Reports

By Sean Whaley | 1:19 pm June 7th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Campaign contribution reports for the front-running Republican and Democrat candidates for governor show they are about even in the money-raising and expenditure game.

Republican Brian Sandoval raised just over $900,000 in the first reporting period from Jan. 1 to May 27, but also reported spending nearly $1.1 million in the three-way primary race that includes former North Las Vegas mayor Mike Montandon and incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, who faces only token opposition in his Democrat primary, reported $983,000 in contributions in the same period, and expenses of $982,000.

Gibbons reported only $179,000 in contributions and $184,000 in expenses. Montandon reported $80,000 in contributions and expenses of $114,000.

A review of contributions to the candidates show support from mostly traditional sources. Fellow Republicans and business enterprises donated to Sandoval, fellow Democrats and business entities and labor unions gave to Reid. Both received contributions from different Nevada gaming operators and dozens of individuals.

The primary election is Tuesday.

Sandoval’s report shows that virtually all of his contributions have come from Nevada residents, including $500 from GOP attorney general candidate Jacob Hafter, $2,000 from the Friends of Heidi Gansert, a Reno assemblywoman in her last term, and $1,000 from Nevada state Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora.

The Sen. Bill Raggio Senate Campaign donated $500, as did Raggio, R-Reno, personally.

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed Sandoval, contributed $10,000.

The Las Vegas Hilton and the Boyd Gaming Corp. both donated $10,000 to Sandoval.

Reid too received most of his contributions from within Nevada.

He received four $10,000 contributions from television stations owned by Jim Rogers and the Sunbelt Communications Co., including his Reno and Las Vegas stations. He received another $5,000 contribution from Don King Productions based in Florida.

The Barbara Buckley Campaign donated $2,500. Buckley, D-Las Vegas, is the outgoing speaker of the Nevada Assembly. Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, donated $9,999. Friends for Steven Horsford donated $5,000. Sen. Horsford, D-Las Vegas, is the Senate majority leader.

Former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Richard Bryan donated $1,000. Former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-SD, donated $2,500.

Contributions have also come from several labor unions, including the Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 169 PAC in Reno, totaling $3,000. Another $5,000 came from the Laborers Political League based in Las Vegas. The Nevada Service Employees Union SEIU Local 1107 in Las Vegas donated $5,000.

A number of casinos owned by MGM Mirage also donated $5,000 each to Reid’s campaign, including the Luxor, MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay.

Gibbons received $600 from former GOP Rep. Barbara Vucanovich and $1,000 from Bruce James, a former U.S. Public Printer and chairman of Gibbons’ SAGE Commission. Wynn Resorts contributed $10,000. He also received four $5,000 contributions from companies owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Gibbons Holds Out Hope But Says He Will Not Seek Public Office Again If Not Re-Elected

By Sean Whaley | 4:02 pm June 3rd, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons said today the political pundits and pollsters may be in for a surprise when the votes are counted in the GOP governor’s race on primary election day June 8.

In an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, Gibbons said he does not believe that the polls showing him trailing challenger Brian Sandoval by double-digits accurately reflect the real mood of those Republicans who will vote in the primary.

Gibbons said in his travels around the state, he has observed pent up frustrations in voters over the growing national debt and other concerns, and that they are motivated to go to the polls.

Gibbons said he is not the establishment candidate despite being the incumbent, and that voters will support his campaign for another term as governor.

“I think what you are seeing is an underlying discontent with the voters that is going to show up on election day,” he said.

While he is trailing Sandoval by wide margins in recent polls, Gibbons pointed to 1994 when John Ensign was running for Congress in District 1 against incumbent Democrat James Bilbray. Now in the U.S. Senate, Ensign was trailing badly throughout the 1994 campaign but ended up winning by 1,400 votes.

“They are going to make an effort to go out and vote in this election in numbers like we haven’t seen since 1994,” Gibbons said.

The turnabout in the Bilbray race came, however, after a last-minute scandal emerged suggesting one of his aides was going to benefit financially from lands legislation Bilbray was sponsoring.

Gibbons said if he wins another term, the challenges he and the Legislature will face in 2011 will be enormous. The best current estimate is that there will be a $3.4 billion gap between revenues and current spending levels, he said.

But Gibbons said the answer to the dilemma is not raising taxes, which would only delay a recovery that is now beginning to be reflected in state revenue reports.

Gibbons said he has embarked on a program of zero-based budgeting in preparation for the session, identifying as the top priorities those programs and services the state is legally and constitutionally required to provide.

After that comes the remainder of the programs, listed in priority order. The most important programs will be preserved but many others will see cuts, he said.

The end result will be a smaller government in Nevada, Gibbons said. The state will not be able to do all that it has done for residents in the past, he said.

Layoffs of state employees are likely, but Gibbons said he has no figure on what number of jobs will have to be cut.

Gibbons said he will also seek to consolidate programs to reduce administrative costs, and undertake a review of the dozens of boards and commissions to see if some can be eliminated.

Gibbons said that should he not be re-elected as governor, that he does not intend to seek public office again.

Gibbons said he will celebrate on Tuesday win or lose because a loss will give him the freedom he has had to give up over the past 3.5 years.

“I don’t look at this election as being the termination of any part of my life,” he said. “It is the door opening for a new era, a new opportunity.”