“We could be in for a long session. Or we could work together to try to do what’s best for Nevada. Only time will tell.”
— Nevada Assemblyman Greg Koenig, R-District 38, on the 2023 Nevada legislative session.
The 82nd Nevada legislative session began on Feb. 6. Democrats maintained a majority in the Senate and a supermajority in the Assembly. Women were chosen as chairs for nine of 10 Assembly committees and six of 10 Senate committees, and 59 percent of the elected legislators are women.
With a Democratic Legislature and a Republican governor, compromise and cooperation will be crucial. Gov. Joe Lombardo said working in a bipartisan way will be a “central covenant” of his administration. As Assemblyman Koenig says, time will tell how well this works.
Lombardo has made his priorities clear. He wants to increase educational funding to public schools by 22 percent. He also wants to send tax money to private schools, in the name of “school choice.” He has pledged $50 million in funding for this. Increasing funding is great, but sending tax money to private schools, not so much.
He wants to increase state workers’ salaries by 8 percent the first year and 4 percent the second year, to fill the 24 percent vacancy rate among state employees. State employees generally make less than similar positions in the private sector, so increasing salaries will help in recruitment.
He wants state agencies to return to pre-pandemic conditions, including requiring workers to return to their physical offices by July 1 instead of working from home. Time will tell if this actually increases efficiency.
He wants to cut gas taxes for a year, which he says would save Nevadans $250 million. What would help him do this is the unprecedented budget surplus, $325.8 million, left to him by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak.
What also helps is the funding Nevada has received as a result of the Infrastructure Act passed by Democratic President Joe Biden. Nevada has received billions for roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Here in Fallon we can see the results of this in road projects all over the county.
The primary job of the Legislature is to approve the state budget for the next two years. This involves setting spending priorities and then appropriating funding for them. As Koenig said, “Usually with a budget deficit, the battle is where to cut, now with a budget surplus the battle is just as fierce where to spend.” (Fallon Post, Jan. 27)
One area where Nevadans need help is in our health care. In 2021, Gov. Sisolak signed Nevada’s public health option into law. It’s projected that this law will lower insurance premium costs for participants by 15 percent. In response, on April 26, 2022, while running for governor, Lombardo called the public option “bull …”. (Associated Press, April 27, 2022)
Lombardo didn’t even want to give Nevadans the choice. If he truly cares, he will work to make health care more affordable for everyone, instead of belittling attempts to expand it.
Lombardo has said his goal is to “carry the cause of conservative ideals that are anchored by the personal responsibility, fiscal discipline and limited government interference.” (Reno Gazette Journal, Jan. 24)
This sounds good, but when we look at the Republican Party in general, we see how far from these principles they have drifted. Congressional Republicans ignore personal responsibility for the decisions they make. Their default position is to yell louder and blame everyone else.
Forty years ago, fiscal responsibility under Republicans went out the window. President Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt; President George W. Bush then doubled it. President Donald Trump added almost 25 percent more to the existing debt.
And limited government interference sounds like a joke when we see Republicans banning books, interfering with women’s medical decisions, and telling parents how to raise their children.
All of us would like to see a leader who truly believes in and practices personal responsibility, accepting blame if it is warranted. We want all government agencies to practice fiscal responsibility, using our tax money for projects that benefit all of us, not just a select few. And we want government to let us live our lives as freely as possible, while protecting us from those who would harm us.
Nevada has been fortunate to have several capable Republican governors in the past. We all hope Lombardo will follow that same pattern and live up to the principles he claims to believe in. Only time will tell.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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