(Jim Clark) – Nevada Policy Research Institute is a Las Vegas-based think tank, not unlike the Heritage Foundation at the national level, which identifies the Silver State’s problems and researches for free-market solutions. They draw their conclusions and make recommendations. They then post them on their web site (www.npri.org) at no charge to any one who has an interest.
NPRI Chairman Ranson Webster recently hosted a meeting of NPRI’s advisory council in Reno. Special guest Heidi Gansert, Gov. Sandoval’s Chief of Staff, was the speaker. In attendance from Incline/Crystal Bay were Village League President Maryanne Ingemanson, Federated Republican Women President, Carol Del Carlo and yours truly.
Ms. Gansert reviewed a number of major plusses that came out of the 2011 legislative session. She said that despite Democratic majorities in both legislative houses, Gov. Sandoval achieved some significant accomplishments during the session. These included centralization of out-of-state business recruitment responsibilities under the governor and establishment of a $10 million fund dedicated for that purpose.
Gansert, the former Republican Assembly Minority Leader, told us that heretofore each economic development agency would ask for money, and the legislature would vote on it with no common theme. Under the new system, each agency has to submit a precise plan and funding request to the governor’s committee as opposed to the former method of just throwing money at the agencies.
Major accomplishments were attained in the field of K-12 education. Nevada’s confusing charter school law was changed to centralize school supervision in a single agency. Teacher tenure was eliminated and the selection of the state superintendant of schools was yanked from the state board of education and vested in the governor.
That was the good news.
Ms. Gansert then outlined some seemingly intractable problems lurking on the horizon, the most challenging of which will be funding Medicaid if the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Obamacare) is not overturned by the US Supreme Court.
An explanation by NPRI may help set the stage for Ms. Gansert’s observations: “Medicaid is a state-operated program that originally was intended to provide critical medical services for highly vulnerable populations. Although the federal government assumes a large share of its financial cost (51.7% in Nevada), Medicaid still accounts for an increasingly significant proportion of Nevada’s budget.”
Ms. Gansert said that the projected revenues of $5.34 billion for the upcoming budget biennium are $1.1 billion less than budgeted expenditures of $6.42 billion, primarily due to increased Medicaid expenditures anticipated under the current laws. At present, about 10% of Nevadans are enrolled under Medicare. If Obamacare is implemented the scope of eligible patients is expected to expand eligibility to 22% of Nevadans and the federal contribution to the program reduced in successive steps.
“The prospects,” Ms. Gansert said, “are that the Medicaid program under Obamacare will simply hog the budget and crowd out other critical state programs, including education.”
Ms. Gansert noted that Governor Sandoval had some major success in reining in bureaucracy and waste in the last session. Prospects for a change in leadership in the Nevada Assembly are “iffy,” but a GOP majority in the Nevada Senate would totally change the landscape for the 2013 session. She pointed out that a change of just one seat in the senate would produce a GOP majority.
Ms. Gansert identified the senate race between incumbent Republican Greg Brower and Democratic challenger Sheila Leslie as the most critical race in Nevada this year. Many of us in Incline/Crystal Bay know Greg since he previously represented us in the assembly and was speaker at the last GOP Women’s luncheon.
Sounds like a call to action.
(Jim Clark is President of Republican Advocates, a vice chair of the Washoe County GOP and a member of the Nevada GOP Central Committee; he can be reached at email@example.com)