January 24, 2023 - 9:00 pm
It was the best of speeches. It was the worst of speeches. That dichotomy defined Gov. Joe Lombardo’s first State of the State address, delivered Monday evening.
The economy is on upswing, which should substantially boost state revenues over the next two years. Gov. Lombardo’s budget includes tax cuts. His call to suspend the state gasoline tax for a year is a gimmick, but there is value in his proposals to impose permanent, albeit modest, decreases in the modified business tax and commerce tax. These tax cuts would offer a clear alternative to blue states looking to punish job creators.
The governor wants to save more than $2 billion. That’s a lot, but history suggests it may not be enough to weather a serious downturn.
Gov. Lombardo called for a new approach to public and school safety. He seeks significant changes to a restorative justice law the Legislature passed that contributed to increases in school violence. Things are so bad at many campuses that even the Clark County Education Association now says it supports Gov. Lombardo’s call for school safety reforms.
The governor made a strong case for much-needed changes to Nevada’s election system. Nevadans shouldn’t be waiting for days to find out election results.
On the other side of the ledger, Gov. Lombardo’s education proposals were somewhat disappointing and quite familiar — if not surprising in their deviation from his campaign rhetoric. As a candidate, he called for school choice and promoted education savings accounts. What he announced Monday bore little resemblance to that.
Gov. Lombardo called for $2 billion in new funding for public education, an eye-popping amount, claiming he will demand “results” in return. Yet former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval tried a similar approach, tying funding increases to the creation of programs intended ensure accountability. Legislative Democrats — in the minority at the time — cheered the money, cynically voted for most of the reforms and then gutted or repealed them once they regained power in both houses.
No matter how high the governor agrees to raise public school budgets, the education establishment will soon be asking for more. Absent a structural mechanism to ensure reforms live on, his insistence on “results” will be mere lip service.
Perhaps most disappointing was his tepid support for school choice. Gov. Lombardo’s budget calls for just $50 million for Opportunity Scholarships, with nary a mention of ESAs. Not a strong starting spot from which to negotiate.
Gov. Lombardo’s plan for Nevada had several high points, but his education plan should be viewed with caution and skepticism.