More than politicians waiting for governor's priorities

As he makes final preparations for his first State-of-the-State address on Monday night, several local groups hope the governor's message is one of helping move the state forward.

Among them, the Ormsby County Education Association, the American Legion and Youth Voice, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group promoting political involvement among young people.

While each group has specific areas they see as most important, all said taxes and growth should be among Gov. Jim Gibbons' priorities for his first year in office.

"I expect taxes to be one of his priorities. He will have to address how we fund all these programs in a way that will not raise taxes," said Ryan Costella, Youth Voice CEO.

The other issue mentioned by all three groups was education, including the funding of teachers and improving the overall quality of education.

"I know the governor will be pushing 'education first,' which is nice, but I hope there is a focus on funding education adequately," said Gaylea Manning, president of Carson City's education association. "The studies have been done, the results are in and we don't fund education adequately in the state."

Manning, whose organization has approximately 400 members, said the "bare-bones" funding provided for education makes it harder to attract and retain quality teachers.

"The teachers in this district are the lowest paid in the state. It's either us or Washoe Valley," Manning said. "A new teacher coming into the Carson City district can't even afford to buy a home here. That's sinful."

Costella said, "the question Gibbons faces is how do we raise our quality standards in education. We are on the bottom of the list. When you start teachers at $28,000 a year, you are going to attract a lot of leftovers."

Manning said the organization will consider Gibbons' success this year by asking four questions:

Did teachers get more than a cost of living increase? Did health-care costs increase so much that it eliminated any monetary raise? Was there an increase in programs or requirements that take away from teaching time? Was the Public Employee Retirement System changed?

Manning said it comes down to a simple idea:

"Stop spending more money on a criminal than we do on a child," she said.

For Bob Reddick, District Four commander of the American Legion, the main concern is reduced funding and services for veterans. District Four includes Storey, Lyon, Douglas, Mineral and Churchill counties and Carson City.

"If none of the funding is cut for veterans' programs or the vets hospital in Reno, we'll consider it a good year," Reddick said. "The most important thing is to not take away any of the monies the veterans organizations get to operate support organizations like the VFW and the legion."

Yet Reddick said the organization is glad that Gibbons is a veteran himself and understands their issues.

"I know he is doing all he can for us and won't take away our support," Reddick said.

Costella said his idea of a successful year for the governor is more broad.

"I just hope he can move Nevada forward in a big way. Not making lists but getting Nevada to the top of them. I hope he works at bringing quality back to education. For me it's a matter of setting realistic goals and reaching them."

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.

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