January marks the first full year of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s tenure in the Governor’s Mansion. Despite having presided over a partisan legislative session last year, the governor sits in a comfortable position politically as he enters the second year of his four-year term. The most recent quarterly polling by Morning Consult shows him with a 50 percent approval rating and a disapproval number of 27 percent.
His freshman report card, however, is a mixed bag.
In the asset column, the governor — who has cultivated a reputation as a moderate Democrat — successfully deflected the worst instincts of his party’s progressive wing despite the large Democratic majority in Carson City. While Gov. Sisolak did sign off on another damaging minimum wage increase, it was smaller than many in his party would have liked. He essentially held the line on taxes, and the state at this point remains attractive from a tax and business investment standpoint. He also angered many in the Trump Resistance by killing a proposal that would have hurt Nevada by tying the state’s presidential electors to the national popular vote.
In addition, Gov. Sisolak has shown a willingness to reform Nevada’s occupational licensing boards. He had a high-profile run-in with the dental board and asserted his authority by removing several members and staffers. Let’s hope he eventually supports a re-examination of the necessity of many of these panels in the first place.
The governor also deserves credit for signing a measure that strengthens the state’s public records law by imposing penalties for noncompliance. Several in his party opposed the bill at the behest of public-sector unions. Gov. Sisolak’s skepticism of tax handouts as an economic development tool represents another encouraging sign.
On the debit side of the ledger, Gov. Sisolak undermined his commitment to government transparency by putting his name to legislation that will keep secret certain information about public pensions. His failure to fully fund teacher raises in his budget — as he had promised — was a driving factor in the Clark County Education Association’s strike threats in August. He also signed off on the strangulation of the Opportunity Scholarship program that helps underprivileged children escape failing schools.
Finally, regardless of what happens during his next three years in office — or, perhaps, seven years — history may best remember Gov. Sisolak for affixing his signature to a bill allowing state employees to collectively bargain. This will have inevitable long-term fiscal ramifications for Nevada taxpayers while enriching government unions and crowding out other priorities.
Gov. Sisolak’s first year included a number of accomplishments. But on too many occasions, he caved to public employees and the education establishment at the expense of taxpayers. That lowers his grade to a mediocre “C.”