(Assemblyman Pat Hickey) – 120 days ago, each legislator came to Carson full of hopes and dreams. I came here hoping to see critical changes to the state’s education system.
I believe Governor Sandoval and the 2011 Legislature have taken the first steps to set Nevada on the right reform path towards a better educational future. In addition, an adequate level of funding to compliment those reforms–was finally appropriated for K-12 and the Higher Ed System.
By now, everyone knows an event took place at the end of this session that virtually no one here in Carson expected. With time running out, Nevada’s Supreme Court weighed in on money the state had improperly appropriated–blowing a huge hole in the Governor’s budget that forever changed the outcome of the 76th Session.
I understand the feeling. Still, it was a constitutional punch.
Approximately $656 million in the Governor’s budget was in jeopardy of causing possible litigation-producing taxpayer funded Special Sessions. Under those extraordinary circumstances, the Governor’s “rock and a hard place” decision to agree to an extension of existing taxes scheduled to “sunset” seems a wise decision. I personally believe it was the right decision.
Throughout the last 120 days, I worked to foster debate on critical reform issues. In creating a Freshmen Caucus, holding a Legislative Town Hall on budget issues, and sending out this weekly newsletter to legislators, lobbyists and constituents–I have attempted to forge discussion on
the five reforms myself and my Republican colleagues thought were crucial public policy issues. When all was said and done, we didn’t succeed in getting everything I wanted. One rarely does in politics. We did however, move the reform package down the playing field and will start next session with a first down on the 20 yard- line in the red zone.
What then, was accomplished this Session? Reform changes this legislative session to
education policy, [passed] collective bargaining, [partial reforms] public employee retirement benefits, [a good start] prevailing wage reforms, [not accomplished] and construction defect legislation [blocked by trial attorneys] are important policy changes that will help Nevada by saving taxpayer dollars in the future. For those among you who may look at Governor Sandoval’s and Republican lawmakers’ decision to extend existing taxes
as a broken promise—I understand your disappointment, but I do not agree with that conclusion. While I respect those who may feel betrayed, I would hope they understand what the options truly were. For myself, I am a Nevadan before I am a Republican. I believe my vote on the Governor’s budget reflects that fact. A fiscal “train wreck” likely triggering subsequent court cases and special legislative sessions at taxpayer’s expense would have caused greater instability to Nevada’s slowly recovering economy. As a small business owner, I too will have to continue paying a payroll tax that has been hard on my company. It was not an easy decision, but I am convinced it was the most responsible solution to pursue.
Governor Sandoval and Republican
lawmakers stood firmly against seven new Democrat proposed tax measures that Nevada’s recession-weary economy could not absorb. We also managed to eliminate the payroll business tax on the 115,000 Nevada small businesses that earn under $250,000 annually. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have served in the
76th Session of the Nevada Legislature. During the upcoming interim, I look forward to working with many of you on the issues important to each of us. Thank you as well, for reading this weekly report when you had the time. I will continue sending you periodic newsletters in the next year I hope you will find useful.
Please stay in touch and have a nice summer. Now that the Legislature is almost over, God may smile upon us again and the sunshine should return.
Thank you for listening
Before I comment on what the State Court’s decision meant to this budget and my vote, it is worth remembering the wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers. The checks and balances system and the separation of powers of the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government—are not always welcome, but they were enshrined in the U.S. Constitution for a reason. Obviously Governor Sandoval and Republican members of the Legislature were not only surprised but were disappointed with the High Court’s decision. Having said that, I trust the judgment of the man who has served as Nevada’s Attorney General as well as a Federal judge. On the day the decision came down, Governor Sandoval described it as “a punch to the gut.”