Posts Tagged ‘mining’

Business Margin Tax Initiative Petition Filed, Legal Challenge Expected

By Sean Whaley | 12:44 pm June 6th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A business margin tax initiative petition filed with the Secretary of State’s office won’t see signature gathering efforts start right away because a legal challenge to the proposal is expected, a teachers union official said today.

But Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association, who filed the petition to establish the tax that would bring in $800 million a year from large Nevada corporations, said it is expected to withstand any legal scrutiny. The language has been vetted by several attorneys, including association attorney James Penrose, she said.

“We usually go through about a month looking for any kind of legal challenges,” Warne said. “We expect that there will be some coming.”

NSEA President Lynn Warne answers questions about the margin tax proposal filed today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Even with delays due to legal efforts to derail the proposal, there will be no difficulty in collecting more than enough signatures from registered voters by November to put the proposal to the Legislature in 2013, she said. The Legislature has 40 days to approve the proposal or it goes to the voters in 2014.

Called the “Education Initiative”, the actual language implementing the 2 percent tax on companies making gross revenues in excess of $1 million a year is 32 pages long.

Penrose said the mining industry would be required to pay the tax the same as other businesses. The gaming industry would pay the tax on non-gaming revenue, such as hotel operations.

Warne said a number of groups have expressed interest in joining with the teachers and the AFL-CIO in supporting the measure, which she said will created a broad-based business tax that will ensure public education won’t face further cuts to programs or require teacher layoffs.

While complex, Warne said she expects voters will support the margin tax proposal in 2014 should the Legislature fail to act.

“We believe that they (voters) are looking for a fair, broad-based tax but they are looking for funding for schools, for kids, to make sure Nevada moves off the bottom in per pupil expenditures,” she said.

If the tax proposal is approved by the Legislature in 2013, the liability would begin in 2014 with the first collection due in January 2015. If approved by voters in November 2014, the liability would begin in 2015 with the first collection due in January 2016.

Warne said the proposal relies on the Texas margin tax, and Assembly Bill 582 of the 2011 Nevada legislative session, for its implementation.

If implemented, the tax revenue would flow to the state general fund and not be earmarked for public education, but Warne said the revenue pie would expand and provide more money for the public schools.

“The Legislature will fund education as they deem appropriate,” she said. “There will just be more revenue for them to be able to appropriate to education. We hope they do so properly.”

While the language has just now been filed explaining how the tax would be levied, the proposal has already come in for  criticism from a number of sources.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said he opposes the tax and said tax policy discussions need to be considered by the Legislature, not at the ballot box.

Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller, who earlier this year proposed petitions to raise both the gaming and mining tax, called the margin tax a “destructive, terribly complex tax.” Miller had filed his proposals as a way to offer voters alternatives to a margin tax, which he anticipated would be sought by teachers, He dropped his efforts in April.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute has also criticized the tax. Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at NPRI, said in a statement issued Tuesday that a margins tax would be a “disaster” for Nevadans.


Audio clips:

NSEA President Lynn Warne says she believes voters will support the tax if asked to do so:

060612Warne1 :25 per pupil expenditures.”

Warne says the money will go to the general fund but that public education should benefit:

060612Warne2 :09 do so properly.”

Warne says the association will wait at least 30 days to collect signatures because legal challenges are expected:

060612Warne3 :11 are seen through.”


Rural Economic Activity Boosts Nevada Taxable Sales By 7.2 Percent In March

By Sean Whaley | 3:07 pm May 29th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s taxable sales jumped 7.2 percent in March over March 2011, but the state’s two largest urban counties showed more sluggish growth, the state Department of Taxation reported today.

Taxable sales totaled $3.9 billion in March, driven by Nevada’s rural counties where large energy and mining projects helped boost the numbers overall. For the fiscal year to date, statewide taxable sales are up 7.5 percent.

Clark County was up only 1.9 percent in March, and Washoe was up only 3 percent.

But White Pine County posted a 672 percent gain in taxable sales to $161.3 million compared to $20.9 million in March 2011. Several other rural counties associated with mining also showed strong increases, including Elko, up 16.4 percent; Esmeralda, up 50.1 percent; Lincoln, up 74.5 percent; Lyon, up 71.4 percent; and Pershing County, up 41.5 percent.

Fifteen of the state’s 17 counties showed gains in taxable sales in March.

The utilities taxable sales category, which would reflect energy project activity, was up 431.7 percent in March.

State Taxation official Brody Leiser said that without the utilities related purchases in White Pine County, the state as a whole would have been up only about 3 percent in taxable sales in March, a figure closer to the gains reported in Clark and Washoe counties.

A $225 million wind farm project is being built by San Francisco-based Pattern Energy in White Pine County. There is also a major transmission line project being built from the county south to Clark County.

Photo by Leaflet via Wikimedia Commons.

Mining activity around the state has also increased with the high price of gold.

Major taxable sales categories showed mostly gains in March.

The motor vehicles and parts dealers category was up 15.8 percent; building material and garden equipment-supplies was up 34 percent, clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 7.9 percent, and merchant wholesalers-durable goods were up 5.6 percent. Food and beverage stores were up 7.6 percent, furniture and home furnishings were up 11.8 percent, accommodations were up 21.1 percent, and food services and drinking places were up 0.8 percent.

The construction industry continued to be negative, and was down 16.4 percent in March. General merchandise stores were also down in March, by 6.2 percent.


Audio clips:

Brody Leiser of the Tax Department says White Pine activity fueled the March taxable sales increase:

052912Leiser1 :15 and Washoe counties.”:

Leiser says categories related to mining include machinery manufacturing and merchant wholesalers-durable goods:

052912Leiser2 :27 see the activity.”


Amodei Will Run For Re-Election, Touts Accomplishments In First 55 Days In Congress

By Sean Whaley | 11:38 am November 7th, 2011

RENO – Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., made it official today, saying he will run for a full-term in District 2 in the 2012 election.

Amodei, on a tour of his district with his Washington, DC staff in tow, made the unsurprising announcement at an open house in his new Reno office in the Bruce Thompson federal building here. Amodei will also visit Elko and Winnemucca on his trip and return to Washington on Sunday.

“First of all it’s Day 55 of the Amodei tenure in congress,” he said in a briefing with the media. “But I think in terms of delivering on the ‘I think I can hit the ground running’ (campaign promise) –  (I) introduced two pieces of legislation already, co-sponsored several, first day I was sworn in voted on the right to work deal with NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) and South Carolina – so it’s been a pretty busy time.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., talks to the media today in a Reno open house. / Nevada News Bureau.

Amodei was elected to replace Dean Heller in a special election Sept. 13, 55 days ago today. Heller was appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval to the U.S. Senate to replace John Ensign, who resigned. Amodei was on his way to Washington the next day and was sworn into office on Sept. 15, casting his first vote the same day.

Amodei said he still feels like the new guy after nearly two months in office, and still has to figure out a way to buy a television and get it back to his apartment on the DC metro.

Amodei said he is grateful for Republican leadership and Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., for making room for his appointment to the Natural Resources Committee. Nevada representation on the panel is critical given that 85 percent of the state is under the control of the federal government, he said.

“There was not an opening, and so one of my colleagues was nice enough to say, ‘I’ll step aside to create an opening’, so that was a big deal,” Amodei said.

Amodei’s fledgling legislative efforts include a measure asking the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to go through Congress and not use executive authority to create wilderness areas in the west, and a proposal just introduced to create the Pine Forest Range Wilderness Area north of Winnemucca. The proposal has been endorsed by Humboldt County officials and other stakeholders.

“I firmly believe it’s possible to use resources responsibly in an environmental sense but maintain multiple use concepts, so we’re going to be going forward with that,” Amodei said.

Amodei said he has had good discussions with BLM officials about ways to speed up the permitting process to let mining projects go forward to create jobs in Nevada.

“I can tell you that the complaint I’ve heard the most is the amount of time it takes,” he said.

Amodei said he endorsed Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential race because he is “the most vetted and most electable” of the candidates. Romney is also the only candidate who asked for an endorsement, he said.

“I just think Mitt Romney is the strongest general election candidate in the field right now,” he said.

Amodei also defended his hiring decisions, responding to a Reno Gazette-Journal report that no Nevadans are on his Washington, DC, staff.

The Nevada Democratic Party wasted no time in trying to capitalize on the story: “In case we needed further evidence that Republicans aren’t focused on getting Nevadans back to work, the RGJ reports that career politician and lobbyist Mark Amodei doesn’t have any Nevadans employed in his Washington office. Apparently in the state with the highest unemployment in the country, Amodei could not find one Nevadan to work in his DC office,” spokesman Zach Hudson said in a statement today.

Amodei said he did not turn down any Nevadans for the DC staff jobs, and noted that he and his staff were on the job responding to constituents in record time.


Audio clips:

Rep. Mark Amodei says it has been a busy 55 days:

110711Amodei1 :18 pretty busy time.”

Amodei says getting a seat on the Natural Resources Committee is a big deal:

110711Amodei2 :16 a big deal.”

Amodei says environmental concerns and resource development can go hand-in-hand:

110711Amodei3 :10 forward with that.”

Amodei defends his Washington, DC staff hiring:

110711Amodei4 :19 closed in Nevada.”


Assembly Hears Details Of Sandoval Social Services Program Cuts In Friday Budget Review

By Sean Whaley | 5:57 pm April 29th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Assembly worked late today meeting as a Committee of the Whole to review Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget for health and human services.

The review by the entire 42-member Assembly followed a similar session held in the Senate earlier this week.

The review took note of the nearly $50 million in “add backs” by the Sandoval administration to a number of programs run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including the restoration of $5 per resident day in Medicaid support for elderly Nevadans living in skilled nursing facilities.

Sandoval had originally proposed a $20 per resident day cut in Medicaid funding to skilled nursing providers. The amendment reduces the cut to $15 a day.

Amendments to Sandoval’s two-year, $5.8 billion general fund budget were sent to lawmakers earlier in the week.

In the Senate session on Wednesday, Majority Leader Steven Horsford noted that it will be up to lawmakers to determine where the $50 million in additional funding will be put to use in the budget.

Horsford, D-Las Vegas, questioned whether allocating $2.2 million in scarce funding to keep the Wells Conservation Camp open was a better choice than further restorations to mental health programs.

The funding for the Wells camp has been recommended by Sandoval, prompting Horsford to suggest the add backs are largely aimed at insuring support for the budget from rural Republican lawmakers.

Other restorations proposed by Sandoval include funding for autism, mental health triage centers, mental health residential supports and $2.2 million for elder protective services rather than shifting the cost of this program to the counties.

Even with the program restorations, Democrat lawmakers in the Assembly continued to focus on the cuts that are still part of Sandoval’s budget, such as funding to support the operation of mental health courts.

Sandoval Chief of Staff Heidi Gansert said the mental health courts are not cut in the governor’s budget, but are proposed to be shifted to the counties to fund.

HHS Director Mike Willden said as he prepared his agency’s budget he focused on the retention of core services. The mental health courts, designed to keep mentally ill offenders out of jail, are valuable programs, but the funding from the state does not cover the operation of the courts, he said.

Mike Willden of the Department of Health and Human Services testifies in the Assembly today/Photo: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

Instead, the state funding first implemented in 2003 provides psychiatric case workers to work with those with mental health issues in the court system to keep them out of jail and from committing further crimes, Willden said.

If the counties choose not to fund these caseworkers, then the courts could cease to operate, but the individuals would still be eligible for the pool of services available from the department, he said.

Senior Washoe County District Judge Peter Breen testified in support of funding the courts in the Senate and Assembly reviews. He said the program is far cheaper to operate then sending the mentally ill to jail or prison, saving $10 to $12 for every $1 of investment.

Breen called Sandoval’s funding shift a “death sentence” for the mental health courts.

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said Sandoval has talked of shared sacrifice, but the cuts in his budget will be borne disproportionately by people in need.

Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-Las Vegas, urged the Sandoval administration to look at Nevada’s antiquated tax system, including the low taxes paid by the mining industry, rather than implementing some of the cuts in his budget.

The proposed budget is being balanced on the backs of those who can’t speak for themselves, he said.

Gansert said the budget will see some further revenues and restorations before it is finalized. The Economic Forum, a panel of private sector fiscal experts, meets Monday and is expected to forecast more tax revenues, she said. A separate review this week of the “minor” state tax revenues has already projected $72 million in additional funds, Gansert said.


Many Proposals To Amend Nevada Constitution, Including School Vouchers, Fail To Advance In Legislature

By Sean Whaley | 2:05 pm April 15th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Efforts in the Legislature to amend Nevada’s constitution failed for the most part to move forward today as a deadline hit to get measures passed out of committee.

Measures creating a lottery, repealing the minimum wage and allowing tax dollars to be spent on religious schools all failed to advance.

One of the most significant failures came on the issue of vouchers for religious schools. Two measures, including one introduced by Gov. Brian Sandoval, did not make it out of committee by the deadline.

Sandoval has advocated for the change to allow for the use of tax dollars by parents to send their children to private schools, including religious schools. The state constitution currently bans the use of tax money for sectarian purposes. His measure would have clarified that using tax money to educate children in religious schools would not violate this prohibition.

But Sandoval’s proposal, Assembly Joint Resolution 8, did not even get a hearing in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee by the deadline.

Senate Joint Resolution 10, a separate measure by Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, had a hearing Tuesday but never came up for a vote in the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee. It would also have amended the constitution to allow tax dollars to be spent on the education of children in religious schools.

While a number of parents spoke in support of his measure, public school officials and the state teachers union were opposed.

Roberson said he appreciated the Democrat-controlled Senate holding a hearing on his proposal, but was not surprised that it did not come up for a vote.

“The Democratic Party is in the majority, and so many of these folks, their core supporters are the public sector unions,” he said. “They’re being asked to hear legislation and vote for legislation that one of their core constituencies is vehemently opposed to.

“Frankly I think it is shameful that they won’t even consider a vote in the committee on SJR10,” Roberson said. “But they are in the majority and that is their prerogative.”

Roberson said the discussion of school choice will not go away. If Republicans can win another seat in the state Senate in 2012 they will be in the majority, and proposals such as school vouchers will be brought forward again.

“So this is the opening salvo,” he said. “We’re not finished by a long shot.”

Amending the state constitution is not an easy task. Any legislative proposal to change it requires passage in two consecutive sessions, then a vote by the public. So if any pass this session, they will have to be approved by lawmakers again in 2013 and then approved by the voters in 2014 before they could take effect.

Most of the proposed amendments failed to survive the deadline.

A proposal to establish a lottery in Nevada to fund education failed to advance. The proposal has come up in numerous legislative sessions over the years but has never been successful.

Also failing to win a committee vote was a proposal from Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, to repeal Nevada’s minimum wage law.

At a hearing earlier this session, Hardy argued Nevada’s law, which sets the minimum wage at typically one dollar above the federal level, has reduced hiring by restaurants and other businesses that rely on unskilled workers.

The measure was criticized by labor representatives who argued Nevada voters approved the current law and the Legislature should not attempt to override the will of the people.

A few of the proposed constitutional amendments remain alive, including Senate Joint Resolution 15, which would remove the separate tax rate and assessment method established for Nevada’s mining industry. The proposal was given a waiver from the deadline by lawmakers.

If ultimately approved, it would allow the Legislature to set new tax rates for the industry, which has been the focus of some lawmakers this session looking for additional revenue to help fund the operation of state government and education.

Another measure sought by Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, to require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to impose an unfunded mandate on local governments, is exempted and so remains alive. The idea was embraced by local government officials at a hearing earlier this week.

Lee said the time involved in getting an amendment to the constitution approved should give lawmakers and the executive branch enough time to get the state’s finances in order before it could take effect.

“We owe them the responsibility of running a good state,” he said.

Also still active is Assembly Joint Resolution 2, which would provide for annual sessions of the Nevada Legislature. The Legislature now meets every two years.

Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says he is not surprised his measure did not come up for a vote:

041511Roberson1 :09 public sector unions.”

Roberson says core Democrat supporters are opposed to school vouchers:

041511Roberson2 :12 vehemently opposed to.”

Roberson says the debate over school choice is far from over:

041511Roberson3 :06 a long shot.”

Roberson says it is shameful the committee did not hold a vote on his measure:

041511Roberson4 :13 that’s their prerogative.”

Sen. John Lee says the time involved in getting his constitutional amendment approved will give the state time to get its finances in order:

041511Lee :10 own personal finances.”

Specific Tax Proposals Finally On The Agenda In Week Nine Of The Legislature

By Sean Whaley | 5:30 pm April 1st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Tax revenues, or more specifically the lack thereof, have been topic No. 1 during the 2011 legislative session.

Thus far it’s been mostly talk, with GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval saying no to any new taxes or fees and some Democrat lawmakers saying additional revenues are essential to preserve education and critical social services. Republican lawmakers thus far are standing with the governor.

But the tax debate is going to get down to specifics in week nine of the session when two tax measures, one to raise liquor and cigarette taxes, and a separate measure to increase the cigarette tax only, will be heard by two different legislative panels.

The Assembly Taxation Committee on Tuesday will take up Assembly Bill 333, which would raise taxes on hard liquor by 25 percent from $3.60 to $4.50 a gallon. Taxes on beer and wine would increase as well.

The measure, sponsored by Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, would also increase cigarette taxes from 80 cents a pack to $1.70 a pack, for a 112.5 percent increase.

Together the increases on these “sin” taxes would generate about $250 million to the general fund over two years, according to a fiscal note from the Nevada Department of Taxation.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Revenue Committee will take up Senate Bill 386 to increase the cigarette tax to $2 a pack, a 150 percent increase.

Cigarette and liquor taxes were last increased in Nevada in 2003.

The American Lung Association of Nevada is seeking the cigarette tax increase in SB386, but Amy Beaulieu, director of Tobacco Control Policy for the organization, will be testifying in support of both measures.

“We see it as a health impact fee,” she said. “Not only will it generate new revenues for the state, but we will see a 16 percent decrease in youth smoking.”

The increase in the price of a pack would also cause an estimated 16,000 adults in Nevada to quit, Beaulieu said.

Nevada ranks 35th now in the state tax imposed on a pack of cigarettes at 80 cents. New York is the highest at $4.35 a pack, while Missouri is lowest at 17 cents, she said.

Over 3,000 postcards in support of an increase in the cigarette tax have been delivered to Sandoval, Beaulieu said.

A number of other tax measures have been introduced this session, including one that would increase the amount of taxes collected from the mining industry, one to tax bottled water and another to impose a tax on some services. This measure, also sought by Pierce, would also extend the June 30 sunset on sales and other tax increases approved by the 2009 Legislature to fund the current budget by two years, to June 30, 2013.

None have yet had hearings.

These other revenue measures do not yet have fiscal notes indicating what kind of revenue would be generated if they were to become law.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said lawmakers on the Assembly and Senate money committees have completed a review of Sandoval’s proposed two-year, $5.8 billion general fund budget. Lawmakers are now considering what cuts in Sandoval’s budget should be restored, and what level of new tax revenue will be needed to fund those “add-backs.”

Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said the amount of new revenue needed to fund the budget will be known in the next few weeks.

In the discussion on taxes earlier this week, Horsford said there must be a review of the state’s revenue code, “in ways that fund education and other vital services.”

Horsford has also expressed concern about some of the one-time revenues Sandoval is proposing to use to balance his budget, suggesting they will create a hole in future budgets, forcing the Legislature to engage in a never-ending discussion of revenues and creating ongoing uncertainty in the business community about the state’s tax policy.

“I’m concerned that if we don’t take this opportunity to reform our revenue code in responsible ways that we’re creating even more uncertainty for the private sector, because now we’re choosing to have a discussion about revenue every two years,” he said.

It takes a two-thirds vote to raise taxes. Democrats do not have enough votes to increase taxes without some Republican lawmaker support.

In response to Horsford’s concerns, the Sandoval administration said lawmakers should focus on finishing work on the upcoming two-year budget in the short time remaining in the session rather than worry about spending in 2014 or 2015.

State Budget Director Andrew Clinger said he expects there will be some additional revenue available to restore some of the cuts in Sandoval’s budget when the Economic Forum meets May 2. The panel of private sector fiscal experts will revise their projections one last time on that date.

Any additional revenue would be used to restore cuts based on the top priorities of Sandoval and lawmakers.

Audio clips:

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford says there has to be a discussion about reforming the state revenue code:

040111Horsford1 :20 other vital services.”

Horsford says reform would bring stability to state tax structure:

040111Horsford2 :17 every two years.”

Sen. Sheila Leslie says lawmakers are close to determining the additional revenue needed to finish work on the state budget:

040111Leslie :12 up the number.”


Gov. Sandoval Says Washington, DC Meetings Productive, Could Help On Jobs Front

By Sean Whaley | 1:19 pm March 1st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he had productive meetings in Washington, DC, including talks with federal officials about clearing the way for permits to be approved so mining companies can expand and hire more workers.

Sandoval said there are several permits awaiting action that mining officials have told him could lead to the creation of 1,000 high-paying jobs in rural Nevada.

Gov. Brian Sandoval/Photo: Cathleen Allison/

Creating jobs in Nevada is Sandoval’s top priority as governor. Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation and ranks first in home foreclosures as well.

Sandoval met with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bob Abbey, director of the Bureau of Land Management, to talk about ways to get the permits approved so the mining industry could expand. He also met with an official with the Environmental Protection Agency, which is also involved in the permitting process.

“The concern for me was that there are several permits that are pending before the BLM that have been there for years,” he said. “And so my message was to see if we could expedite the consideration or what was the (cause of the) delay in doing that.”

Sandoval said Salazar has committed to talking with the mining industry about the permits.

There has been significant investment in those mines, he said.

“So I had a very productive meeting with the secretary,” Sandoval said. “It means a lot of jobs to our state, it is very important to our rural economy and I was very, very pleased at how receptive he was to that meeting.

“So I think it is an exciting development,” Sandoval said. “The secretary has made it a priority for him and I’m looking forward to a continued dialogue.”

Sandoval said the jobs that would come with the mining expansion pay on average $70,000 annually. There would also be a benefit to Nevada from taxable sales purchases of equipment by the mining companies, and eventually an increase in the net proceeds tax, he said.

Sandoval said the meeting with Salazar involved other issues important to Nevada, including wild horses.

The meeting regarding the mining industry permits was just one of many for Sandoval. He met with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, among others. The conversation with LaHood touched on the concept of a new interstate 11 connecting Las Vegas and Phoenix and on the potential for high speed rail between Las Vegas and Southern California.

Sandoval also met with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and had a discussion about the state’s potential interest payments on the money it has borrowed from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits.

“My understanding now is that the interest would be deferred and that the clock wouldn’t be running which would be beneficial to the state of Nevada,” he said.

If the proposal survives the federal budget process, it could mean $66 million to the Nevada general fund.

Sandoval and his 14-year-old daughter Maddy also visited the White House, where she met President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

“It was an incredible four days,” he said.

Sandoval also attended the National Governors Association meeting during the visit.

Now back in Nevada, Sandoval will continue his focus on jobs with an announcement Thursday in Las Vegas with Microsoft Corp. executives about a new technology center.

“It is exactly what I talked about in my State of the State,” he said. “That we’re going to identify these business clusters that we can capitalize on and technology is one of those.”

The center will produce a “few hundred” new high technology jobs and expand Microsoft’s presence in the state, Sandoval said.

Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he meet with Interior Secretary Salazar to see if mining permits can be processed:

030111Sandoval1 :13 in doing that.”

Sandoval says mining jobs are important to Nevada’s economy:

030111Sandoval2 :09 to that meeting.”

Sandoval says Interior Secretary Salazar was receptive to his concerns:

030111Sandoval3 :20 to continued dialogue.”

Nevada Retail Sales Outlook For 2011 Positive

By Sean Whaley | 1:54 pm February 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Based on the latest taxable sales results, Nevada will likely match national forecasts calling for 4 percent growth in retail sales for 2011, the Retail Association of Nevada said today.

Much of the growth will likely be in areas other than discretionary spending, however, the group noted in its release.

Statewide, December and fiscal-year-to-date taxable sales comparisons to the prior year are largely positive, with sales up 11.2 percent in Nevada in December and 4.9 percent for the fiscal year-to-date.

Several counties are reporting somewhat less encouraging results, including Douglas, which was up just 0.3 percent for the month and is down 1.0 percent fiscal year-to-date. Washoe County reported a 5.6 percent increase in December and a 1.5 percent increase for the six month period ending in December. Carson City is up 4.9 percent in the latest month and 5.8 percent thus far in the current fiscal year. In Clark, sales are up 2.8 percent and 2.4 percent in December and fiscal year-to-date, respectively.

The review of the taxable sales data was authored by Applied Analysis, a Nevada-based firm providing information and analyses for both the public and private sectors.

The report shows that most of the significant growth is taxable sales activity – some of it in the triple-digit percentages and in the hundreds of millions of dollars – was generated in rural counties such as Elko, Esmeralda, Humboldt, Storey and White Pine. Sizable taxable sales gains in these counties are largely attributed to growth in sales related to utilities, mining and manufacturing equipment purchases.

So increases in taxable retail spending in rural jurisdictions appear to be less attributable to individual consumers, and more the result of rural industry investment. While still encouraging, much of this industrial investment is nonrecurring in nature.

Mary Lau, president of the Retail Association of Nevada, said core retailer categories reported mixed results in December statewide, with pockets of both encouraging results in auto sales, clothing and Internet retailers, and less encouraging results in building materials and general merchandise sales.

“With continued growth in mining and mining-related activities, it is likely Nevada will report gains in taxable sales consistent with national expectations for 2011,” she said. “However, it remains to be seen how much of that growth will be attributed to substantial improvement in consumer discretionary spending in our larger metropolitan areas, as opposed to relatively isolated growth occurring in our more rural areas.”

Based on seven consecutive months of national retail sales growth and better than expected holiday sales, the National Retail Federation (NRF) is projecting a 4 percent increase in retail industry sales (excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) in 2011. However, the federation cautions that rising commodity prices and continued high unemployment could become obstacles to economic growth.

With the price of oil rising to a new two-year high this week as unrest in the Middle East escalates, concerns about potential stagflation conditions are not entirely without merit.

In December, Clark County reported increases in sales in accommodations and eating and drinking places of 13.7 percent and 17.6 percent, respectively.  However, high oil prices mean high gasoline costs and rising airfare, both of particular concern to the Nevada tourism industry. The tourism industry and visitor spending strongly affect retail sales throughout the state.

Freshman State Senator Shakes Up Mining Industry As Legislative Session Begins

By Sean Whaley | 9:21 am February 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Freshman Republican state Sen. Michael Roberson got a lot of people’s attention last week when he engaged in a brief but spirited line of questioning at a Judiciary Committee hearing with mining industry lobbyists.

On the job just one week, Roberson, R-Las Vegas, was trying to get information from the mining industry about their profits in Nevada. He was not satisfied with the answers, and said afterward the mining industry might be able to pay more in taxes, firing a shot across the bow of one the state’s most powerful industries.

Sen. Michael Roberson

Roberson, the only attorney on the Judiciary Committee and one of only two in the 21-member Senate, did not mince words with the industry lobbyists during a discussion of a measure to take away mining’s right to use eminent domain.

In an interview in his legislative office last week, Roberson said it is his job to get the answers, and he won’t stop until he does.

“What I wanted to know from mining, and I didn’t get a straight answer – how much money are the mining companies making here in Nevada,” Roberson said. “What’s their profit? I think that’s important for the people to know. And it was clear to me, the lobbyists for mining didn’t want to give me those numbers.”

Roberson says he is in complete agreement with GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval on the need to balance the next two-year state budget without a tax increase. But restructuring Nevada’s tax system to generate more income from mining while reducing the burden on small businesses, for example, is worth considering if taxes don’t increase overall, he said.

Watching Roberson take on one of the biggest players in the Nevada Legislature was an eye-opener for some observers, but should not come as a surprise. Roberson ran a tough campaign to unseat the better funded Democrat incumbent Joyce Woodhouse in the November election in District 5, paring the Democratic majority in the Senate to a single vote.

Bob Fulkerson, director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), which has been pushing for a tax increase on the mining industry, said Roberson’s comments at the hearing, “broke the sense of entitlement the mining lobbyists swagger around with.”

“It was very refreshing to see a legislator from Nevada have the guts to expose mining’s sweetheart tax loopholes in such a forceful way,” he said. “It shows we make mistakes – me and PLAN, or anybody – it shows we can’t pigeon-hole lawmakers based on party and ideology.”

Roberson knows a bit about the mining industry, or at least its sometimes less appealing aftermath. Raised in Galena, Kansas, a small mining town with a population of 3,300, he saw the effects of mining on the community in the 1960s after the minerals had been extracted and the companies had left.

“It can’t help but color how I see things because in my formative years that’s what I grew up with,” he said. “And again, I’m not against mining. I’m not anti-mining. I think it is an important industry to our state, especially to the rurals, and I want mining to thrive here in Nevada.

“But it took many years before the EPA came in and finally cleaned up Galena. In fact I had already moved away by the 1990s.”

Galena is the name of a lead-based mineral that was also found here in Northern Nevada. Galena Creek in south Reno and nearby Galena High School share the same name.

Roberson said Galena itself was the poorest area of the state. On his campaign website Roberson describes himself as coming from “modest beginnings.”

After graduating from high school, Roberson attended the University of Kansas where he graduated in 1993 with a political science degree. He then attended the University of Kansas School of Law on an academic scholarship, earning his degree in 1996.

Roberson said he was inspired to get involved in politics with by the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. He worked on the U.S. Senate campaign for Sam Brownback in 1996 and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1997, where he worked on Capitol Hill for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay. He then worked for a political fund-raising company named CAPTEL.

Roberson moved to Nevada in 2000 and is currently an attorney with the law firm of Kolesar & Leatham, Chtd.

Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said he first met Roberson at the GOP caucus meeting after the election and was impressed with his demeanor.

“He was not overly gabby but when he did talk, he was very thoughtful,” he said.

McGinness said Roberson’s line of questioning at the Judiciary hearing was appropriate, given the state’s budget situation.

“He went into the deep end of the pool right away,” he said. “He’ll do OK.”

Roberson, 40, said he enjoys serving in the Judiciary Committee and that the legislative process thus far is about what was expected. Roberson is also serving on the Natural Resources and Commerce, Labor and Energy committees.

“You never really know what it is going to be like but I guess this is generally how people described it to me before I got into this,” he said. “But I’m enjoying it. I really am.”

Being away from his wife, Liberty Leavitt-Roberson, a Clark County school teacher, and their two dogs, is one of the more difficult aspects of the job so far, but time away from family is part of the job description for a Southern Nevadan to serve in the Legislature in Carson City, he said.

“That’s the toughest part about this, I miss my wife, I miss my two little dogs, it’s tough being away from my family,” Roberson said. “It was tough not being with my wife on Valentine’s Day. But those are the sacrifices we make. We’ll be fine.”

While his comments on mining profits have garnered the most attention early in the session, Roberson said his legislative agenda includes reforms to public education and the collective bargaining process to try to drive down public employee salaries to make them comparable to the private sector.

Roberson said he wants a school choice program where parents can get a rebate for half the per pupil support to pick a private or public school or use the money for home schooling. It would require testing to show student achievement, he said. Roberson also wants a study of Florida’s school reforms to see which might work for Nevada.

Changes to collective bargaining are needed because the pay differential is 30 percent higher for public sector workers, he said.

“We’re never going to get control of this beast until we do something about narrowing that gap,” Roberson said.

His bills have not yet been introduced.

He would also support a change sought by Sandoval to change the public employee retirement system to a defined contribution plan for future hires.

But for now, mining is the hot topic for Roberson.

Richard Perkins, a lobbyist for the Newmont Mining Corp. and former speaker of the Assembly, said Roberson is thoughtful and asks good questions.

“But like any freshman legislator, Senate or Assembly, (he) is still trying to find his sea legs,” he said. “And the questions he asked this last week were a part of that process.”

The mining industry now needs to educate Roberson about the business and satisfy his concerns, Perkins said.

“His profile will more fully develop itself to all of us after that education occurs and we look at how he handles this specific issue,” he said.

Roberson said he does not yet know if the mining industry can afford to pay more, although he is inclined to believe the companies are doing OK.

“My general sense is mining is doing exceptionally well right now,” he said. “And I know for a fact small business in this state is on life-support.”

If that proves not to be the case, Roberson said he would not pursue a tax increase on the industry. But he wants the answers to the mining industry’s profitability in Nevada first and said he will get them.

Based on the exchange at the Feb. 14 judiciary hearing, the mining industry probably believes he won’t take no for an answer either.

Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says toughest part of job is being away from family:

022111Roberson1 :07 from my family.”

Roberson says it took long time for EPA to clean up his home town:

022111Roberson2 :17 by the 1990s.”

Roberson says he is not opposed to mining industry:

022111Roberson3 :16 here in Nevada.”

Roberson says he did not get a straight answer from mining on profits in Nevada:

022111Roberson4 :10 people to know.”

Roberson says mining lobbyists did not want to provide information:

022111Roberson5 :17 become more suspicious.”

Roberson says if restructuring of Nevada’s tax system makes sense and is revenue neutral, that is OK:

022111Roberson6 :08 open to discussing.”

Mining lobbyist Richard Perkins says Roberson’s questioning was part of his learning process as a freshman:

022111Perkins1 :10 of that process.”

Perkins says Roberson’s profile will become more clear after seeing how he handles the mining issue:

022111Perkins2 :08 this specific issue.”

New Senator Says Mining “Lobbyists May Live To Regret” Ignoring Her, Sparking Mining Industry Reaction

By Andrew Doughman | 3:39 pm February 16th, 2011

CARSON CITY – It took less than a day before Sen. Elizabeth Halseth had the attention she was looking for.

Tim Crowley, a lobbyist for the mining industry, said he called her this morning to schedule a meeting after she asked in a Tuesday night blog post, “did mining just hit a brick wall?”

“During the 2010 election cycle, the mining industry didn’t take the southern Nevada Republican senate candidates very seriously,” wrote Halseth, a freshman Republican from Las Vegas. “Considering the legitimate and penetrating questions posed by Sen. [Michael] Roberson, that may be a calculation the industry’s lobbyists may live to regret.”

She referred to the questions Roberson, one of those “southern Nevada Republican” Senators, posed to Crowley on Monday.

This morning, more than the snow in Carson City, her blog post had legislators abuzz with talk of Halseth openly advertising a “pay to play” strategy.

“I’m trying to think of how we want to say this,” she said outside of her office this morning. “They [the mining industry] didn’t take the time to talk and … meet with me. If I’m not informed about their side, how can I make a decision?”

Crowley said he saw the blog post Tuesday night.

“I don’t care what her motives were … it sends the signal that we need to be talking more,” he said during a phone call today. “I called her this morning; I think that’s what she wanted.”

Halseth’s blog post was later edited to tone down the rhetoric by replacing Republicans with “Clark County candidates” and adding a clause that clarified that it was meetings, not money, that mattered.

“During the 2010 election cycle, the mining industry didn’t take some Clark County candidates very seriously, by being unwilling to meet with some candidates regarding issues pertaining to mining,” the new post reads.

Roberson, a freshman Republican from Las Vegas, has also criticized the mining industry.

On Monday, he grilled Crowley over the rate of the state’s mining taxes. He felt like he didn’t get a clear answer.

Today, he signed on to a bill that would remove the mining industry’s eminent domain privilege, which allows the industry the same power the government has to take private land for market-value compensation.

Las Vegas Review Journal reporter Benjamin Spillman blogged yesterday that Halseth and Roberson come from a set of fiscal conservatives who do not always agree with representatives from Nevada’s powerful industries.

Another newly-elected southern Nevada Republican, Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Mesquite, signed on to a similar bill in the Assembly.

Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, is sponsoring the Senate bill. That bill has not only received support from Democrats, but also from free-market think tanks like the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

Halseth said she still hasn’t made up her mind about whether to add her name to Leslie’s bill.

Bipartisan Budget Deal in Place

By Sean Whaley | 8:10 pm February 28th, 2010

(Updated at 1:47 a.m. on March 1, 2010)

CARSON CITY – As a deal to close an $805 million budget gap was announced today, bringing a close to a sometimes rancorous six-day special session, Republican lawmakers say they helped shape the debate that led to a minimal use of taxes and fees to balance the spending plan.

And in another more modest victory, Republicans in the Legislature won bipartisan support for a resolution asking the 2011 Legislature to consider opening up to public view the collective bargaining process used by local governments and employee unions to negotiate salaries and benefits.

Gov. Jim Gibbons asked for consideration of the collective bargaining proposal in his proclamation adding issues to the special session, and Assembly Republicans had made it a key point in their acceptance of any budget-balancing plan.

The proposal, along with a collection of education reform measures sought by Gibbons, including a voucher school proposal, did not get hearings, however.

Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, called it a win for her 14-member caucus, which is in a difficult bargaining position because of its minority status. Democrats in the Assembly outnumber Republicans 28 to 14, enough votes to approve new fees without support from the GOP members.

“Our caucus is very concerned about transparency,” she said. “We recognize that billions of taxpayer dollars are spent through collective bargaining process and we believe the taxpayers deserve to know where that money is spent.”

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, also welcomed the decision to seek transparency in the labor negotiation process.

Legislative leaders of both parties also praised Gibbons, who is facing a tough primary election battle against former federal judge Brian Sandoval, for working with them to craft an acceptable plan.

Gibbons spent long hours with lawmakers in closed-door meetings with legislative leadership over the past few days to come to an agreement.

The praise from Raggio was particularly noteworthy, given that he and Gibbons had exchanged some pointed criticisms in the days leading up to the session and during the session itself. Raggio has said in public comments he believes Sandoval is the only Republican candidate with a chance of defeating Democrat Rory Reid in the governor’s race.

Gansert has endorsed Sandoval in the primary race.

In announcing the agreement, Gibbons said everyone had to give something up to get bipartisan support and he credited Democrats and Republicans for working together.

“It took a lot of give and a lot of take and a lot of debate, some of it heated at times,” he said.

Raggio said the cuts to be implemented by the Legislature will be severe.

“There is going to be some pain out there,” he said. “Hopefully some of this will be an impetus for us to take a long hard look at how we fund state government, not to mention what goes on in local governments,” he said.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said she was pleased to be able to reduce the cuts to public and higher education. The agreement reduces public education cuts to $117 million instead of $211 million. Higher education is cut b y $46 million instead of $76 million.

Some of the “worst of the worst” cuts to Health and Human Resources programs were also restored, she said.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, also highlighted the ability to reduce the cuts first proposed by Gibbons.

“There are certain parts of the plan that each one of us don’t like,” he said.

But reducing the education cuts from 10 percent to 6.9 percent was a big victory, Horsford said.

Gansert said the language encouraging the 2011 Legislature to subject the collective bargaining process to the state open meeting law was added to Senate Concurrent Resolution 1, which passed the Senate earlier this week urging local governments and employee groups to mutually address the budget shortfall. Gansert said the language is as strong as allowed, since current lawmakers cannot bind future Legislatures to a particular course of action.

The vote on the budget bill in the Assembly was 34-8, with all eight “no” votes coming from the GOP caucus. The vote in the Senate was 20-1. Only Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, voted no.

While voting against the budget plan because of the mining and banking fee increases it contains, Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, said Republicans clearly influenced the dialogue over how to balance the budget.

When Assembly Republicans proposed their own plan that balanced the budget without new taxes or fees not contributed directly by users, it pushed Democrats to move away from those revenue sources, he said.

“Us showing a united front, with a solution, absolutely drove the Democrats to a resolution that is less reliant on more spending, more taxes and more fees, and back to being more fiscally responsible,” he said.

Gansert, who voted for the bill, said the Republican influence can be seen in that only about $52 million of the total shortfall is being addressed with new fees. Most is coming from $26 million in a mining claim fee increase that was modified to exempt small operators and $13.8 million from an increased fee on banks when filing notices of default.

That is just a fraction of the overall shortfall, she said.

The caucus did also agree to restore some cuts Gibbons had proposed in public and higher education, Gansert said.

“We absolutely don’t like all of it,” she said. “It was a struggle to add anything back to tell you the truth.”

Gansert predicted that some, but not all, of her caucus would vote for the plan and her prediction held true.

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, opposed the budget bill because of the banking and mining fees.

“There are some difficult pills in there to swallow,” he said.

Settelmeyer said he would have liked to see progress in the special session on the collective bargaining proposal as well.

“Our caucus stood up as a group and said it was important to us,” he said.

Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, voted for the agreement once he received assurances that the mining claim fee will not affect the small operators.

He praised Gibbons and the leadership for working out an agreement.

As to the failure of the Legislature to consider Gibbons’ other issues, Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said the proper focus of the special session was balancing the budget.

“These other policy concerns are best brought up in a regular session when the public can have full access and deliberations can be held. I don’t think it is appropriate to take up major policy reforms in a special session,” she said.

Special Session: 6:43 p.m.

By Elizabeth Crum | 6:43 pm February 28th, 2010

All right, Dear Readers!  Just in from the front steps of the legislative building where the governor and legislative leadership held a press conference, the gist of which was “we all pulled together as a team.”  Means they really, Really have a deal now, and we’ll see the bill hit the two floors tonight.

A legislative leader told me after the presser that they will cut and paste all the piecemeal stuff into an omnibus bill so…yes, it seems, this will be done tonight.

Sean Whaley will post a sum-up with quotes from the press conference and details of the bill on the front page (and all the other major newspapers will do a full write-up), so I’ll just share some interesting snippets:

– The deal includes a new (tiered by size) mining claim fee structure.

– The deficit is now officially $805 million (increased net proceeds revenue and secretary of state fees have reduced it).

– Ralston summed up the unspoken sentiment of the leadership (Gibbons, Raggio, Gansert, Buckley, Horsford) pretty well:  “We used to despise each other and called each other names for a few weeks, but now, for the purposes of this performance in front of the Legislative Building, we are The Five Musketeers — one for all and all for one.

– The governor acknowledged he has received the Race to the Top bill but said he has yet to decide whether to sign it. A split in opinions among his senior staff is causing the waver.  My source told and still tells me:  He will not veto.

– Cuts to state funding for K-12 education will be $116.8 million; cuts to higher ed will be $46 million instead of $76.  Most of the Health and Human Services cuts that had been suggested didn’t happen.  And the Nevada State Prison will remain open.

– A four-day work week for most State offices will be instituted. $10 million will be saved through cutting certain State contracts with outside consultants. No more cuts to pay for State workers. $197 million will be redirected from State funds to needed areas. A tax amnesty program will help the state collect $20 million in unpaid taxes.

– Mining fees and fees on new gaming licenses have been increased, and the fee paid by banks when filing a Notice of Default has been raised from $50 to $100.

– Gibbons, acknowledging he is breaking his no-tax pledge, said a “fee is a tax” when Ralston asked him about the $200 foreclosure fee. But when pressed about signing a bill with a tax, he said he had to accept it as part of the “compromise” and to head off a gaming or sales tax.

And some notes/quotes:

– Gansert:  Biggest disappointment was not getting transparency w/ collective bargaining done.  “We do think it’s critically important.”  She is hopeful they can/will get to this issue next session.  “The taxpayers deserve to know where their money is spent.”  Said she was glad education cuts were reduced to 6.9% by consensus, thinks it was “the right thing to do.”  When I asked her about wrapping the whole bill into one big measure and how that would affect yes/no votes from her caucus, she said “some” Assembly Republicans would be voting “yes” to the plan, some “no.”  Declined to say which would be which.

– Horsford in his office after:  On the super majority requirement:  Gibbons put it to the voters, and they approved it.  Unless there is a change to that, it’s the law:  two-thirds is required not just to pass a tax but to pass a fee. “That is creating quite a limitation particularly when you have a group of legislators saying “no” to everything.”  Said a lot more, but everything else he said was just a recap of prior comments.

A Deal!

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:39 pm February 27th, 2010

Looks like we can all go home tomorrow.  All the details to follow, but they worked out the mining thing, and the bank fees plus education cuts everyone could live with.

Faces beaming in the halls.

And, amazingly, the Senate is in session right now discussing Water.

Update (9:44 p.m.):  Per Ralston, on Channel 3 just now, education cuts = 6.9%.  So, less than the governor’s 10% but more than the 5% for which the Democrats hoped.

And gaming, apparently, got off scot-free.  This time.

14 Vote Republican Stonewall on Deck in Assembly?

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:06 pm February 27th, 2010

Just after the Assembly adjourned after unanimously passing AB-4 and AB-5 ,four Republican Assemblymen said “yes” and nodded in unison when asked if we could expect 14 “no” votes on various (or all) Dem tax/fee proposals.

A member of the conservative caucus referred to the “no new taxes” GOP budget plan put out on Thursday evening and quipped:  “If all the numbers are not going to add up in the end anyway, why vote for any of it?”

On the tail end of all that, the governor emerged from a GOP meeting and reiterated “no new taxes” as he headed over to Buckley’s office.

Also, here’s AD’s morning post on two Republican legislators who are trying to adjust the mining claim fee deal because (they say) jacking fees too high will harm the smaller mines:

With the details of a final budget agreement still in flux, rural lawmakers are working to change the deal to increase mining claim fees.

They contend spiking the fee to $125 from $10 to $15 won’t hurt the big mining corporations, most of whom are represented by the Nevada Mining Association, which agreed to the fee increases. But the increase will burden the smaller mines.

“It’s killing the little guys,” said Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, said.

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said large corporations will continue to explore, while the fee hike would hamper smaller exploration efforts.

If that happens: “No more mines,” Carpenter said.

The pair are hoping to convince legislative leaders to impose a tiered fee increase, charging big corporations as much as $300 and reducing the hike for smaller mines.

Live Tweets from Governor on Face to Face

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:12 pm February 26th, 2010

Crazy day here, Dear Readers. Will do a little catch up right now.  Let the blogging begin…

Got a chance to watch Governor Gibbons on Ralston’s show tonight.  Live Tweeted it.  Here they are:

From Face to Face studio: Gov light hearted, joking w/ set crew. “Where’s Mr. Ralston? Why am I here first? I’m taking his chair.”

Governor tries to sit in Ralston’s chair. Ralston says, “No, you need to be over here. On the right.” Everyone laughs.

Ralston: Where are you on taxes, really? GIbbons: Always said will not accept unless voted on by public or accepted by org/industry

Gov talking about gaming license application fees as source of revenue. Says applicants r not current gaming peeps so not gaming tax.

Ralston grilling Gov on taxes, mining: Gibbons says “distasteful” that mining can take advertisting $ as deductions in good years.

Governor: Let’s not build our revenue & spending around uncertainties, commodities.

Ralston quotes Speaker re: Gibbons reacting to political slam of day, not being consistent. Gibbons begs to differ. Shocker.

Gibbons talking general fund, reductions, education cuts; says debate is over revenue increases to fill in for lower edu cuts.

Gibbons differentiating between edu cuts that affect the kids directly, and cuts that get rid of highly paid adminstrators.

Ralston asked if Gov going 2 veto Race to the Top. Gov says looking at it, but still concerned re: language, DOE grant approval.

Governor jokes to Ralston just before last segment starts: “Don’t look so serious.” Ralston: “I’m smiling on the inside.”

Ralston asks Gov about primary, cites polls, why #s so low. Gov says it is difficult for all governors in tough economic times.