Sandoval says agencies must share pain of cuts
LAS VEGAS – Keeping tax rates steady and relocating businesses to Nevada are key to turning around the state’s moribund economy, Gov-elect Brian Sandoval said.
Sandoval singled out human services and education spending as fiscal priorities, but cautioned that all state services will likely share the pain of budget cuts. Nevada faces a budget deficit of up to $3 billion, though Sandoval expressed optimism that the gap could be as low as $1 billion.
The Republican was elected in November and will be inaugurated on Monday. He succeeds one-term Gov. Jim Gibbons, who was ousted by his party in the June primary.
Sandoval takes office under a cloud of gloom.
Nevada surpassed Michigan as having the highest jobless rate in the nation in May, then hit a record 14.4 percent in August. The unemployment rate dropped slightly to 14.3 percent in November.
The Silver State also faces record bankruptcy and foreclosure levels and its once mighty tourism and construction industries have buckled in recent years.
Gibbons has refused to meet with Sandoval since his November victory, citing a horse-riding accident in September that left him with a broken pelvis. Gibbons also won’t attend the inauguration.
Sandoval, however, has maintained a sunny outlook, casting his new administration as a beacon of hope for recession-wary Nevadans while offering few specific solutions.
“If Nevada was a stock I would buy now because we are going up,” he said.
Sandoval pledged to lure businesses from other states with the promise of Nevada’s low taxes and roll back state spending to 2007 levels without undermining social services.
He plans to improve schools by encouraging educators to embrace merit pay and other performance measures.
“I’m not going to equate funding with success,” he said.
But while Sandoval acknowledges that the next few years will require “shared sacrifice,” he also has refused to detail which services will be eliminated or slashed.
To help offset Nevada’s financial woes, he said he will take a salary cut.
Asked how he will create jobs immediately, Sandoval said he will fight off proposed tax increases when the state Legislature convenes in 2011.
“Raising taxes would be the worst thing we could do,” he said.
Sandoval, Nevada’s first Hispanic governor, also said he will consider any Arizona-style immigration laws put forth during the legislative session.