(Chuck Muth) – It must be unbearably cold up in Carson City these days for all the southern Nevada Democrats who pretty much sat on their hands to keep them warm throughout Gov. Joe Lombardo’s first State-of-the-State address Monday night.In fact, Lombardo had the Democrats so discombobulated that they even refused to applaud proposals that would otherwise be right up their alley – if Lombardo wasn’t a Republican. Now, in assessing the governor’s speech and budget proposals from a conservative perspective, it’s important to acknowledge the political reality of the situation as we approach the start of the 2023 legislative session. Democrats control the State Senate and only need to peel off one Republican to override any gubernatorial veto. They also enjoy a super-majority in the State Assembly and don’t need any GOP votes to pass tax hikes or override a veto. As such, conservatives shouldn’t expect much of their agenda to pass. In the ’23 session, Republicans are pretty much going to be on defense the entire time. The best conservatives can probably hope for is that Lombardo turns out to be an extremely effective goalie. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t prepared to take a few shots. For example, the governor proposed cutting the gas tax for a year to give Nevadans – who have been suffering from the highest gas prices in the U.S. under former Gov. Steve Sisolak and President Joe Biden – some relief at the pump. Something Sisolak should have done over a year ago. Lombardo also proposed cutting taxes on small businesses who were slammed HARD by Sisolak’s COVID shutdowns. That would free up money to give jobs to more Nevadans and invest in growing their businesses – which, by the way, would boost tax revenue organically without raising taxes. On election reforms – a big issue for many conservatives – Lombardo called for voter ID, returning Nevada to its pre-COVID system of optional mail-in balloting, and making “ballot harvesting” illegal again. He also wants to require that all mail-in ballots be received by election day, not five days after election day. Of course, Democrats know all of this makes it easier to cheat in elections and will fight the governor tooth-and-nail against his proposals. In addition, the governor also called for the creation of an independent redistricting commission that, as Review-Journal editor Steve Sebelius wrote, “would ostensibly take the politics out of redrawing political district lines.” Why is this so important? If you look at the numbers from the November election, Republican State Assembly candidates statewide garnered over 55% of the popular vote, yet lost two seats and now hold fewer than a third of the seats in the lower house. That’s because of the politics of gerrymandering that Democrats shoved through last year after the new census numbers were released. An independent redistricting commission won’t completely take politics out of the process, but it would be a marked improvement. Lombardo called for the repeal of the Democrats’ “public option” health insurance boondoggle. He called for the reform or repeal of the Democrats soft-on-crime bill from 2019 which, the governor pointed out, has only “made things worse” in the keeping Nevadans safe. He also proposed harsher penalties for felony theft, domestic battery and possession of fentanyl. In addition, the governor called for permanently expelling violent and disruptive students from classrooms. Hard to argue with that…though Democrats will certainly try Lombardo also proposed boosting pay for Nevada state troopers to stop local governments from “poaching” state law enforcement officers – a problem that’s been around for over 20+ years. He also called for Nevada to become more energy independent from California. Gonna be interesting to see the details of that proposal. Sounds like he wants to introduce more free-market choice in Nevada’s energy market, currently monopolized by NV Energy. Yes, Lombardo proposed giving state employees a pay raise, but not as high as Sisolak proposed. Frankly, I’d have preferred that his proposal include cutting “non-essential” government workers – the way Sisolak did to private sector workers during his COVID shutdown – but that would be a non-starter in the Democrat-controlled Legislature. And with that, let’s get to the elephant in the room… Some conservatives have gone cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs over the governor’s proposal to boost per-pupil spending by some $2,000, which the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports will push up the average spending per student to $12,406. To put that in perspective, that means the average 25-student public school classroom will be receiving over $300,000. Even if you paid the teacher in the classroom $100,000, you’d still have over $200,000 to cover building costs, fixtures, utilities, teaching materials, etc. If the public schools can’t get the job done with all that money – and pull Nevada out of the basement when it comes to educational achievement – the governor promised he will “be standing here in two years calling for systemic changes to the governance and leadership in K-12 education.” In other words, Gov. Lombardo called the Democrats’ bluff. Conservatives know that more money ain’t gonna fix what ails our public schools. However, the governor is now in a strong position to propose massive changes two years from now when all that extra money gives taxpayers little or no return on the investment. On the other hand, conservatives should be doing the Snoopy Dance over three other education-related reform proposals outlined in Lombardo’s speech…
- Creation of the Office of School Choice in the Department of Education to make sure parents know all the options they have. “Traditional public schools are not, and should not be, the only option,” declared the governor. Amen and hallelujah!
- $50 million to fund Opportunity Scholarships that allow parents to send their children to the private school of their choice. Many would like to see that figure higher…but it’s a start.
- A five-year deadline for public schools to improve literacy scores “and to ensure that students who are not proficient in reading do not advance beyond third grade until they are brought up to grade level.”
Ah, the difference a governor makes!But Democrats are already digging in their heels. In response to the governor’s proposals, Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager declared: “There are things in the speech that we don’t agree with and probably won’t be working on.” So… Was the governor’s speech everything a conservative could wish for? No. However, in the current political reality it was about as good as it could be under the circumstances, and in a number of ways, better than expected. Certainly FAR better than anything Sisolak would have proposed! Keep in mind, Gov. Lombardo only had two months to put together his budget in the face of very hostile Democrat opposition. He’ll now have two full YEARS to put together his next one. Conservatives should give the man a chance and take half-a-loaf for now. And instead of nipping at the governor’s heels for not being “perfect,” knuckle down and start preparing to give him more Republicans in the Legislature in 2024. Rome wasn’t built in a day. FAMOUS LAST WORDS “I’m telling you at this point, right here, in front of the audience and public viewers, I will not raise taxes. Never.” – Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, 10/3/22 Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, publisher of Nevada News & Views, and founder of CampaignDoctor.com. You can sign up for his conservative, Nevada-focused e-newsletter at MuthsTruths.com. His views are his own.