Republican Governor Brian Sandoval gave the State of the State address last week, and presented a letter that would be enclosed in a time capsule to be opened in 50 years, when Nevada hits its bicentennial age.
Sandoval stated that the governor’s “success or failure” in the year 2064 would, “largely depend upon our decisions today,” and then followed up with requests for a $1.1 billion tax increase and the expansion of education programs.
Nevada has rejected moves to add money to the education system in years past, and currently, also has the lowest high school graduation rate in the nation, except for the District of Columbia. Nevada’s per-pupil funding also falls near the bottom of the list.
In last year’s voting, the residents of Nevada widely rejected the “Education Initiative,” also known as the “Two-percent Margin Tax Initiative,” and also rejected a tax increase for the mining industries.
However, Sandoval’s popularity has grown with the Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature, and an apparent “rebound” of the state’s economy, and could accommodate his plans requested.
Political science professor from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, David Damore stated, “He had a huge win and is singlehandedly responsible for the Republican sweep. He’s in a position to start thinking of his legacy and what he wants to be remembered for.”
In Sandoval’s budgets from 2011 and 2013, were tainted by Nevada’s recession. Some policy goals were reforms to teacher tenure laws and plans for expanding full-day kindergarten classes.
Yet last week, his requests for statewide expansion of full-day kindergarten, doubling the funding for English Language Learners, and adding millions to funds for students in poverty, gifted students and children with disabilities was a much more bold statement.
Some Democrats noted that it mirrored the agendas they’ve been proposing for years but just couldn’t accomplish while they were the majority in the Legislature with a Republican governor. State Senator Mo Denis, for Las Vegas, said, “I never imagined the day where a Republican governor would be proposing things I’d been fighting for all this time.”
A major tax increase focused on businesses and extending taxes that are scheduled to expire this summer, much like the “sunset” taxes, which had a two-year cycle that has been repeatedly extended, is what Sandoval has proposed for paying for the education projects.
Anti-tax conservatives rebuked the proposals, calling them job killers and a breach of trust. When lawmakers convene Feb. 2, they have vowed to oppose the governor’s plan.
Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, said “The people of Nevada were told that this huge tax hike package was only necessary to weather the worst of the housing meltdown and economic crisis of 2009,” and that, “it is time for the Legislature to keep its promise.”
However, with Nevada’s job growth rating third highest in the nation, and the decrease of the state’s unemployment rate by nearly half of what it was at the time Sandoval took office, tensions are easing towards taxes and education funding.
Nevada System of Higher Education Regent Trevor Hayes said “For the last at least 10 years here in Nevada, we’ve been trying to plug holes and trying to survive until the next biennium. We’ve dug out of the hole and now’s the time.”