“It’s as if the collective Nevada family has gathered around the table — each member leaning forward in his or her chair, eager to hear the news,” he said during Monday’s hourlong speech.
In it, he worked to build on his image as a thoughtful leader who will take care of the state.
Yet while he asked Nevadans to trust his lead, he also asked them not to look to government, particularly the state budget, to see them through the recession.
“Some believe government is the only solution to our current plight,” he said. “I disagree. Unemployment, foreclosures, bankruptcy — the cure is not more government spending, but helping businesses create jobs.”
OK, that sounds all happy and sunny and Reagan-y... But how about some reality? Hey, I told you so. All the flowery language in the world can't hide a turd... And Sandoval's proposed budget is one real turd.
What was surprising was that his budget, unveiled Monday, looks much like the one proposed by his predecessor, Jim Gibbons, in 2009 that was rejected by the Legislature: short on bold initiatives, long on kicking the proverbial can down the road by dodging permanent solutions.
Sandoval — who arrived at the state Capitol with a stellar reputation, an experienced staff and the endorsement of more voters than any other politician in November — not only kept his promise not to raise taxes but actually lowered them for Nevada’s largest employers.
He failed to keep his promise of limiting general fund spending to under $5.3 billion — the amount of tax revenue projected by the state’s official forecasters. (Total general fund spending would be $5.8 billion under his spending plan.)
How did he accomplish his task? With cuts to K-12 schools, higher education, state worker pay, combined with the sleights of hand that have become familiar in recent years. The Sandoval administration called them $1 billion in “revenue reallocations.”
In other words, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
And for me, it also feels like deja vu.
I've seen this train leave the station so many times before in California. I've seen the devastating cuts that do nothing to help, and actually hurt economic recovery. I've seen the teabaggers (and their ideological predecessors) hold the budget hostage as they propose no realistic solutions. What I saw from Brian Sandoval in Carson City last night didn't seem all that different from what I experienced when Arnold Schwarzenegger ruled Sacramento. And I've seen far too many instances of legislators taking the easy road of toying with ridiculous budgetary gimmicks (moving money from this fund to that fund, calling taxes something else, playing games with bonds, stealing local funds to pay state bills, etc.) instead of solving the actual problems at hand. And funny enough, it's often the teabaggers here whining about "Nevada becoming California".
Already, Sandoval has released an "education plan" that's legally redundant and nonsensical. He talked plenty about "diversifying our economy", but he proposed a budget that would dismantle the very colleges that are crucial to educating the workforce we need for a healthy, sustainable, and diversified economy. Sandoval even bragged about "restoring cuts" to critical health care services ordered by Jim Gibbons just before leaving office last month, but he was just playing numerical chicanery by "robbing Peter to pay Paul" (that is, stealing money from certain programs to fund other programs). Oh, and what Sandoval wants still isn't keeping up with population growth that occurred in the last decade and certainly isn't keeping up with increased demand caused by "The Great Recession".
Dreams of Californication, right?
Can we just make Jerry Brown our Governor, move all our legislators to Sacramento, and call it a day?
Or can we leave behind the mistakes made in California and Arizona and elsewhere, avoid all our own past mistakes, and move forward with new ideas that might actually make our economy healthier and make our state more sustainable? And perhaps take those ideas from elsewhere that work and make them work here?
Perhaps instead of listening to Brian Sandoval make taxes and revenue some sort of "scary bogeymen", we need to get real about the solutions we need to our problems and ensure we preserve and protect the public infrastructure, like schools and roads, that we need for a healthy economy and a climate that will bring more jobs to Nevada. Perhaps we need to leave behind our antiquated 19th century tax structure once and for all, and work on the kind of solutions necessary to make Nevada work in the 21st century.
“We believe the size and scope of Nevada’s financial difficulties are greater than the governor indicated and demand still more thought if the job is to be done right,” [Assembly Speaker-elect John] Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said from Carson City.
“Let’s level with Nevadans,” Oceguera said. “Reducing the cost and size of government, promoting business growth, rebuilding our infrastructure and improving our schools will not be enough to balance our budget.
“The situation is more severe, and (the) facts and figures unveiled through open, public legislative hearings and a rigorous examination will make that clear,” he said.
Oceguera said that because “Nevada could not find the will to repair” its weak financial structure when it was able during good economic times, “we find ourselves obligated to fix it now during hard times when we must.”
“Rebuilding and investing in Nevada will cost us,” he said. “But putting off solutions, which are right in front of us, will cost us dearly. We get what we pay for.”
I hope Oceguera and the rest of our lawmakers are up to the task. They have to be. We can't afford to fall back into the same trap.