(Jim Clark) – Last Friday was the date by which pending Nevada legislation had to pass in its house of origin or get swept into the dustbin of history. To be sure, committee chairs and the governor can exempt bills they deem important. Moreover, any legislator can revive a lapsed law by taking it on as an amendment to the legislation that survives. Nonetheless, there was a great deal of legislation passed last week. Let’s review what Gov. Sandoval proposed in his State of the State speech and take a look at how he’s doing in those goals.
In January, the governor told Nevadans that his top goal was to reform education and improve Nevada’s standing for educational achievement. He proposed more funds to build schools, to bolster charter schools, to insure every child can read by 3rd grade, to improve Nevada’s high school graduation rate, to increase the number of alternatives by which kids can get their education, to rein in public employee union collective bargaining, and finally, to “zoom” in on underperforming schools and improve their educational achievement. To pay for all this, the governor proposed making permanent about $600 million in temporary business taxes and raising additional revenues by basing annual business license fees on business’s gross income.
GOP legislators, while deferential to the governor’s wish list, have their own pet projects. In addition, Republicans absolutely hate to raise taxes so it has not been all smooth sailing for the good ship Sandoval.
A bill to provide more funds to build and maintain schools was approved earlier by extending bond rollover tax authority an additional ten years. What that means to Washoe County taxpayers is not new taxes but that a scheduled 10% reduction in our real estate taxes is not going to happen. Frankly, if they had not given that money to schools, other agencies would have grabbed that taxing authority so taxpayers would see no relief in either case. Coupled with that legislation was a removal of a requirement that new school buildings be built paying union labor wages (called the “prevailing wage” law). In the future, there will be heated competitive bidding on school construction jobs. As Incline’s former assemblyman (now senator) James Settelmeyer described it, in the future we will be able to build six schools for the same cost as five under the old law.
A school choice bill was approved over Democratic objections providing a fund for about 1000 scholarships statewide for students from low to moderate-income families to have resources to enroll in private schools. Additionally, a bill was approved and sent to the senate which provides that children who cannot read by the end of third grade will be held back until reading proficient.
A hotly contested bill to curtail collective bargaining by public employees was approved by the assembly and sent to the senate. It would allow employees to resign from a union at any time instead of a narrow two-week period each year; it would exclude administrators and supervisors from the bargaining unit and make it easier to discharge principals of underperforming schools.
Although there is a growing awareness by business and GOP legislators that additional revenues are probably going to be necessary to assure implementation of Sandoval’s education reform plans there does not appear to be any consensus what form that will take. Although the governor’s plan to structure business license fees as essentially a gross receipts tax has been condemned by the great majority of businesses an alternate GOP Assembly plan to raise revenues by increasing payroll taxes is now opposed by gaming.
As of press time, the tax issue remained unresolved.
Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.