Wednesday, January 16, 2013

State of the State Liveblog

So it's finally here. Governor Brian Sandoval's State of the State speech is happening. So consider this a "stream of consciousness" that will be updated as the speech goes on. We'll also be on hand to cover the Democratic response from Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis (D-North Las Vegas), as well as the initial media spins of the night.

Tomorrow morning, we'll have more in-depth reporting and insight on what happened.

6:07 PM: Sandoval just noted the backdrop of his previous State of the State. Funny enough, he took credit for the VERY last minute budget deal that was forced on him & the Legislature by the Nevada Supreme Court!

He then noted the real economic progress that Nevada has made since 2011. And he noted the growth in state revenue collections. However, he did not note the reasons why economic recovery has been so much more difficult than that in our neighboring states. (Hint: It's the public infrastructure, stupid!)

6:11 PM: Sandoval then basked in the glow of "teacher punching". Yes, nothing quite improves public education like stripping away teachers' workplace rights! (/snark)

Sandoval then shifted to his more "moderate" policy prescriptions. He touted all day kindergarten, English language learner aid, "Jobs for America" in schools, and... Teach for America! Seriously?

At least the other programs seem promising. Legislators just have to fight for actual funding to make them work.

6:16 PM: "School choice!" Yes, nothing quite improves public education like threatening to starve it to death.

6:18 PM: Huh?! Whatever happened to teaching?

6:21 PM: Wait, so UNR & UNLV can actually start new programs for a change? Will they ever have a chance to reopen the programs they've had to shut down in the past decade?

At least Sandoval is actually proposing new programs and some new funding for our colleges. But again, this only barely scratches the surface of what our colleges truly need.

6:27 PM: Sandoval then shifted to boasting about "companies moving to Nevada". Ah yes, Apple. Should we really boast about sweetheart deals that encourage tax evasion elsewhere? And where are the jobs produced?

At least Zappos is doing stuff down south.

Oh, and here it is! Sandoval promised, "No new taxes." So how again do we invest in restructuring our economy?

6:30 PM: Shorter Sandoval: "Fuck you, feds! We can scare our sage grouses all on our own."

Oh, and here comes the promise to allow for online gaming. Jeez, this is about time.

6:35 PM: Finally, health care. Sandoval touted the 78,000 Nevadans who can finally access health care with ACA Medicaid expansion, as well as the $500 million that will be pumped into the economy...

Then he unveiled his plan to undermine it by demanding co-pays from Nevadans who can't afford them! Hello, what is Medicaid? I want to hear Sandoval's answer. And I'm sure these poor patients love to hear politicians threaten to take away their health care should their political fortunes change.

6:39 PM: OK, here's the easier stuff.

Sandoval applauded the work of Catherine Cortez Masto and everyone else who worked on the federal foreclosure settlement. Hopefully, that aid actually reaches the homeowners who need it.

Sandoval also did a touching salute of Nevada's military veterans. Hopefully, they can get more than just nice words. They need health care. They need jobs. And they need real support. That's the kind of respect that they deserve.

6:43 PM: Sandoval just did a lovely tribute to the history of the women's suffrage movement. Nevada granted women the right to vote 5 years before the nation did overall.

Nevada has often been a leader in civil rights... So can we be again? Governor Sandoval can begin by announcing his support for repealing Question 2 and giving Nevada's LGBTQ families the right to civil marriage that they so deserve.

6:57 PM: Here's Mo Denis' response.

After doing a bio, Denis addressed the issue of tax fairness and overall revenue. Yes, why continue raising sales taxes on the working poor while shoveling more bailouts for billionaires? So what's the alternative?

Mo Denis also responded to Sandoval's claims on education. Thankfully, he flat out declared that Sandoval's "modest increase" of the education budget is not enough. He also promised Democratic action on fighting for universal full day Kindergarten.

"Improving our schools is key to creating new jobs in Nevada." True. And it IS government's responsibility to create an environment that's conducive to job creation & economic growth. That's why California, Arizona, & other Western states have seen more sustained economic growth while we've been wishing for a good month of casino wins.

We do need more tech & biotech jobs. And we do need more economic diversification. Hopefully, Mo Denis and other Democrats in Carson City are serious about pursuing this. The current path is not sustainable.

7:01 PM: Mo Denis also had some words to say on health care. He applauded Governor Sandoval's decision to accept the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion... But he said nothing on Sandoval's crazy-ass scheme to charge co-pays! Please don't let him get away with this travesty.

He then closed with a plea to consider smarter & more robust investment in our social safety net. Lack of health care means lack of economic development. And because we won't even care for kids with Autism, people & businesses notice. This is the real, screwed up state of our state.

One can only hope Mo Denis means what he says in promising to fight for a fairer budget.

7:15 PM: So now, the spin begins! Or wait, did it already start? Ralston noted on KSNV 3 (Vegas) that Sandoval's "no new taxes" $6.5 billion budget uses quite a bit of fiscal gimmickry to evolve from the Economic Forum's original $5.8 billion projection. (One of them clearly is further extension of the 2009/2011 "Sunset Taxes".)

Another interesting facet is Sandoval's attempt to look "moderate" by essentially stealing Democratic policy ideas... Then twisting them to make them at least a little more palatable to his fellow Republicans. See Medicaid expansion and full day Kindergarten.

So what have we learned tonight? Well, you tell me. Yet again, Brian Sandoval gave a "sunny" spin to the harsh reality of the current State of Nevada. While our economy is recovering, it hasn't come anywhere close to full potential. And it won't unless we get serious about investing in our public infrastructure.

So again, will Nevada Democratic Legislature leaders fight for that? Mo Denis offered some glimmers of hope. It just remains to be seen if he and Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick offer more details... And then work this session to actually implement them.

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