GABE STERN Associated Press/Report for America
CARSON CITY, Nevada (AP) — Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo said Monday he wants to cut business taxes, suspend the state gas tax for a year, make the largest investment in education in Nevada history, and use a budget surplus to propose a tax- budget policy. saving.
The Republican also proposed tougher criminal penalties, the creation of a new government agency to expand school choices, and a 12% pay raise for government employees over the next two years. He insisted that all initiatives could be implemented without any new taxes.
Lombardo also announced plans to join Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday to introduce a new venture to unveil plans for a $3.5 billion manufacturing facility in northern Nevada. It’s part of his drive to further diversify Nevada’s economy, which relies heavily on casinos and tourism.
Lombardo’s lofty legislative goals took center stage in his first address to the state in a crowded boardroom in Carson City, laying the groundwork for how he would deal with the Democratic-controlled legislature following his razor-thin victory in the western swing state. . .
The speech was met with a lukewarm response from Democratic leadership who stated during a press conference following the speech that there were parts they agreed and disagreed with, many of the proposals “left more questions than answers” due to what they called lack of specificity.
Lombardo said “not a penny” of the unprecedented surplus would go towards regular funding for the $11.4 billion biennial budget. Rather, he says, his plan emphasizes savings and one-time programs such as a gas tax suspension and a $313 million allocation for the Rainy Day Fund, which is used in emergencies.
Lombardo offered to add $313 million to what he called the “Nevada Way Fund,” another savings fund to be used for infrastructure and development projects after the traditional Rainy Day Fund reaches 25%.
“In simple economic terms, we buy with cash, not with credit,” Lombardo said.
Along with the creation of the Office of School Choice at the Nevada Department of Education, Lombardo announced $50 million in scholarships, a program created by a Republican majority in 2015. This makes it possible to use tuition vouchers for low and middle income people. students who want to attend private schools previously paid for by businesses that received tax credits for donations to the program.
“Private schools, specialty schools, charter schools, microschools, virtual schools and homeschooling are all viable alternatives that can increase student achievement potential,” he said, reiterating his support for expanding school choice.
It’s part of Lombardo’s proposed $2 billion increase in education funding over two years that would increase per-student spending from $10,290 this year to $12,881 by FY2025. to education, like a fund for a rainy day. Nevada has long been at the bottom of the national education and funding rankings.
To address the widespread shortage of teachers, interest from the stabilization account will be used to provide scholarships to public colleges or universities for residents who promise to teach in Nevada schools for at least five years.
However, Lombardo said that underfunded schools cannot justify poor performance. “And if we don’t start seeing results, I will be standing here in two years, calling for systematic changes in governance and leadership in the K-12 education system,” he said.
In his first three weeks in office, Lombardo has already issued four executive orders, including one instructing the Administration Department to eliminate approximately 24% of vacant positions among civil servants. The order also directed government agencies to return to pre-pandemic work, including regular business hours, by July 1.
The former Clark County sheriff was the only Republican in the country to defeat a Democratic incumbent governor in November, a significant victory in a western state on a battlefield where the predicted wave of GOP victories would not otherwise materialize.
The cornerstone of his campaign was around criminal justice, a promise to reverse the recent Democratic criminal justice reforms he called “soft on crime.”
He expanded on his plan to repeal parts of the 2019 Criminal Justice Reform Act, acknowledging that he had no objection to the bill at the time but saying that three years later it “made things worse.”
Lombardo said he would introduce a bill to toughen or expand some criminal penalties. This includes lowering the weight for possession and trafficking while increasing penalties, lowering the theft threshold, and “strengthening drug laws” by lowering the qualifying weight for possession and trafficking of certain drugs while increasing penalties, among others.
In a 90-second speech to the media in the hallway of the legislature, Lombardo acknowledged that his crime reform proposals may be the hardest target to get through the Democratic Party legislature.
At a rebuttal press conference, Democratic Assembly Leader Steve Yeager said that while he agreed with Lombardo’s statement that incarceration should be a “last resort,” Yeager opposed Lombardo’s efforts to repeal the criminal justice act and said he was disappointed that the governor would “recourse to a tough criminal narrative”.
Senate Democratic Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro noted that the governor made no mention of access to reproductive rights or affordable housing, as well as allowances for public school teachers.
“I think there are still a lot of details that we just don’t know, and so we will have to deal with these bills,” she said.
Associated Press writer Scott Sonner contributed to this report from Reno, Nevada. Gabe Stern is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Follow him on Twitter: @gabestern326.