It took nearly the entirety of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s two terms as Nevada’s governor, but the state has finally paid off a nearly $800 million debt to the federal government.
During the Great Recession, the state saw 175,000 jobs dry up and the unemployment rate soar above 14 percent. The state was forced to borrowed some $773 million from the feds to cover unemployment benefits for out-of-work Nevadans.
Nevada has since created more than 245,000 new jobs, unemployment has dropped to 5 percent, and as of Dec. 1 — nearly seven years after taking the loan — the debt to the federal government has been paid in full, Sandoval announced Tuesday during a press conference with the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce.
“I was there in 2010 and 2011. I went to the job fairs where people were out of work and were desperate for any kind of a job,” Sandoval told the Review-Journal after the press conference. “I personally appreciate it that much more because when I stepped in we were in the worst position that we’d ever been.”
But Sandoval said the debt reduction wasn’t the only good news.
“This is truly a landmark day because not only have we paid it off, but we have over a billion dollars in the unemployment trust fund,” Sandoval said. “So this is almost a $2 billion turnaround in a matter of seven years.”
Hugh Anderson, chairman of the Metro chamber’s government affairs committee, praised Sandoval for his leadership in repaying the debt and rebuilding the trust fund.
“Repayment of this $800 million is very significant effort and accomplishment, and something we should be very proud of,” Anderson said. “We pay back our bills.”
And paying off the debt also brings good news for Nevada’s nearly 70,000 employers in the form of a tax break, Sandoval said.
The unemployment insurance tax rate, which was used to help pay the debt down, will drop from 2.58 percent to 1.95 percent, Sandoval said, which should equate to about $180 million savings for employers and businesses.
Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@email@example.com or 702-383-4638. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.