Guy Farmer: Sisolak: More spending with no new taxes
January 19, 2019
In his State of the State address last Wednesday evening, Nevada's new governor, Las Vegas Democrat Steve Sisolak, proposed an 8 percent increase over his predecessor's budget without any new taxes, which reminded me of former President George H.W. Bush's "no new taxes" pledge. When Bush broke that pledge, voters turned against him, a cautionary tale for Sisolak. I wish him well.
"The proposals laid out tonight are presented with the goal of ensuring that every (Nevada) family . . . sees the benefits of the economic recovery that those at the top have already felt," Sisolak told a packed house in State Assembly Chambers on Wednesday. His $8.8 billion, two-year budget proposal includes 3 percent pay raises for school teachers and state employees, funding for more mental health clinics and several other new spending proposals. Former Gov. Brian Sandoval had submitted an $8.1 billion budget.
Sisolak said he would pay for his new spending proposals by maintaining payroll taxes at current levels even though they were supposed to decrease, and by continuing to keep vehicle registration taxes flowing to the state's general fund. We'll see about that.
Democrats, who will be in the majority in both houses of the 2019 State Legislature, which convenes in Carson City next month, applauded Sisolak's initiatives while Republicans were cautious and skeptical. "A lot of things sounded good," said Assembly Minority Leader Jim Wheeler, a Gardnerville Republican. "If the money's there (for teachers), I don't have a problem with that (but) I have a problem with unionizing state workers, big time."
In his address, Sisolak supported collective bargaining rights for state employees, but Wheeler and his fellow Republicans believe that move would cause state personnel costs to skyrocket, setting up a major battle in the forthcoming legislative session.
Sisolak, who received strong financial support from the legal marijuana industry in his gubernatorial campaign, also proposed a new Cannabis Compliance Commission, claiming it will be the "gold standard" for managing the marijuana industry. However, I'll believe that claim when I see how the new commission operates. Because, after all, the federal government's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still considers marijuana to be a Schedule One "dangerous drug."
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Our new governor also plans to appoint a Patient Protection Commission to "take a comprehensive view of health care in Nevada." That's a good idea and I hope he accomplishes this goal.
On gun control, Sisolak wants to ban bump stock devices like the ones the killer used in the Las Vegas Strip massacre on Oct. 1, 2017, and also wants to prohibit people who are subject to restraining orders from buying firearms. I support these reasonable proposals.
I nodded in agreement when Sisolak celebrated the first state legislature in U.S. history with a female majority by calling for a round of applause for all of the women who have made history in Nevada's capital city. I too applaud this historic milestone while cautioning against pursuing diversity for its own sake. As the late, great Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, people should be judged on the content of their character, and not on irrelevant factors like skin color or gender. As you know, I oppose racial and/or gender stereotyping.
Although I supported Sisolak's Republican opponent, former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, in the gubernatorial race last fall, I wish Sisolak well and hope he succeeds. I view the new governor as a relatively moderate, mainstream Democrat as opposed to the open borders/abolish ICE left-wing crazies who are trying to take over the national party. As a successful businessman, Sisolak understands how capitalism works and can be expected to govern accordingly. Good luck, Governor.
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal's senior political columnist.