A group of Nevadans who don’t consider “moderate” a dirty word have opened the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities, named after the late governor, who worked effectively with both parties. His passion was education and tax policy, and his grasp of the state budget was unparalleled.
The charming Gov. Kenny Guinn was proud to be a moderate Republican rather than an ideologue driven by partisan politics. His widow, Dema, said: “This is a good group. I do think they’re going to make a difference and to me, that was very important. I saw them focusing on education and the economy, the things Kenny believed in.”
Before her husband died in 2010, “he was so worried about the state, always focusing on a vision for the future and how can we make this state a better state to live in.”
Phil Satre, former CEO of Harrah’s Entertainment and now semi-retired, is chairman of the center’s board, which is divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Looking at the national and state landscape, Satre said, “The voice of political moderation has all but disappeared.” He hopes to change that.
The goal of the Guinn Center is to provide solid research to help decision makers, but not perform the research from a particular political perspective.
Satre said the center’s papers won’t tell policymakers how to vote but will lay out the facts and offer ideas.
How does a margins tax work in other states? What education programs work, or don’t work?
Nevada Policy Research Institute is a conservative think tank that presents research and advocates positions. The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada does the same, from a liberal perspective. Even the Greater Las Vegas Chamber presents research on state issues from a business standpoint. The Nevada Taxpayers Association focuses on tax policy.
So why is a Guinn Center needed? Satre said it’s to get away from ideologies and to provide research for legislators who, because of term limits, may not have the background on some of the issues. “Our research will be data driven, not driven by a political agenda.”
The center has an executive director, Nancy Brune, and a research director, Tori Carreon, and will roll out its first research paper in February. A website is not yet operating.
Brune, educated at Yale and Harvard, has an extensive resume inside and outside Nevada and has written on topics including economic security, health outcomes, public sector reforms and immigration.
Carreon has been a researcher in three state legislatures — California, Wisconsin and, in 2013, Nevada. She’s also worked as a researcher in Los Angeles and San Diego.
Monday in Las Vegas there will be a private reception for a group of about 40 or 50 to let them know how the nonprofit center will operate. “Early board members have been talking about this for the last 18 months, and people need to know if it’s going to happen or not,” Brune said. “We’ll have a formal launch when we have a policy brief to share.”
Certainly the “dig in your heels and get nothing done” approach isn’t working. If the Guinn Center can shake the ideologues on both sides from their immovable positions by providing unvarnished facts about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to policy, and offer fresh ideas, then I say hooray.
I must agree with Dema Guinn, who said: “We’ve got so many problems we need to address, we have to make some changes. It’s not hopeless. But you have to make some tough decisions. Kenny had to make some tough decisions, but he always looked at the future as being bright and positive.”
If still alive, he’d be working with the center and not just because it carries his name, but because it represents his belief (and mine) that dogmatism doesn’t provide solutions.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275.