Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Real State of the State

Last night, Governor Brian Sandoval celebrated a "return to normal" here in Nevada. This morning, The Sun's Patrick Coolican reminded us of why we should be troubled by this. So has PLAN.

"Governor Brian Sandoval's State of the State speech short-changed education, human services, state workers and the people of Nevada. He showed more fealty to corporations and the discredited idea that no/low taxes bring economic prosperity than he did to our kids. He talked about no longer falling back. How can we fall back any further when we're last in everything, including education, health care and per capita public workers? He's cutting taxes on businesses but will force ordinary Nevadans to continue paying nearly the highest sales taxes in nation. Nevada's vexing problems won't be solved until we fix our revenue structure, which will require real leadership."
-- Bob Fulkerson, executive director, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada

That's a perfectly concise summary of what we heard last night. And ever since Sandoval's speech, we've seen even more "devils in the details". The Sun's Anjeanette Damon and David McGrath Schwartz started pointing out the chicanery in Sandoval's proposed budget.

Sandoval is extending tax increases that would otherwise expire. He is also diverting money from special funds — to the tune of $422 million — to support general state programs.

Democrats are being typically cagey about how they might seek to increase tax revenue, but they are hinting broadly that it’s an effort they will undertake. First, they will look at how existing taxes are both defined and collected. “How do you define who really pays those types of things?” Speaker Kirkpatrick said. “So we’ll be cleaning up those first, which will bring some revenue.”

Hidden in Sandoval's proposed budget are more raiding into the state "rainy day fund", diversions of money specifically meant for public education & transportation into the general fund, and using "roll-ups" to make a $47 million uptick in the education budget look like a $135 million increase. And on top of that, Sandoval wants to cut the modified business tax while extending the rest of the 2009/2011 "Sunset Taxes". And we're supposed to believe this is a "balanced budget" that properly funds what the state needs?

Democratic leaders questioned why he was cutting taxes for business when the state doesn’t adequately fund education, and why he was depleting the state’s rainy day fund.

“Why in the world would we cut the (payroll tax) when we can’t properly fund schools,” said Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, and incoming chair of the Senate Finance Committee. "Why would we eliminate the rainy day fund when we’re not in a crisis? That money is supposed to be for an emergency.”

Probably because he thinks this is the more politically appealing route. At least I'm not the only one seeing this. ProgressNow Nevada called out Governor Sandoval on taking the route of political convenience.

Tonight Governor Sandoval showed a lack of leadership. This was not the speech of someone looking to lead Nevada to a more prosperous future; it was one of a Governor pursuing an agenda that is best for his political future, not the people of Nevada.

We've heard Gov. Sandoval give his moderate song and dance before. But the action we've seen has been anything but - he's asked seniors, students, and the poor to sacrifice while not asking a single sacrifice from big corporations and out-of-state mining companies.

The reality is Gov. Sandoval is offering us nothing but more of the same – no serious investment in education or the social services that were already devastated by Gov. Sandoval’s previous budget.

This is the real state of the state. This is the ugly reality of what we will soon be seeing in Carson City. Brian Sandoval thinks he can cruise with another budget full of gimmicks and lacking real investment in the public infrastructure necessary for a brighter economic future. One can only hope the Legislature will consider smarter budgeting.

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