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Gov. Sandoval and the state budget

Gov. Brian Sandoval addressed Nevadans in a 15-minute speech Tuesday evening, calling on legislators to come together and enact a budget “that will fuel the fires of job growth and economic prosperity for all, and to do it by June 6,” as required by the state Constitution.

The governor repeatedly expressed optimism, saying the economy is improving. The Republican also expressed happiness that the latest economic projections indicate the Legislature will have an additional $274 million to spend, which he vowed to pour directly into the public schools, restoring extracurricular activities and the class-size reduction program.

But while the governor’s presentation was positive and avoided finger-pointing, the implied criticism of posturing and dawdling by the legislative opposition was hard to miss.

In both the Assembly and state Senate, majority Democrats have for months been conducting hearings and demonstrations designed to evoke sympathy for all the “victims” that supposedly would be harmed if the governor’s budget is enacted without another round of tax hikes.

Tuesday, mere hours before Gov. Sandoval was to speak, legislative Democrats went further, voting in a joint meeting of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees their own spending plan for public education, establishing a level of spending some $700 million higher than Budget Director Andrew Clinger says the state can afford — still without indicating how it would all be paid for.

The goal? Clearly, it’s to create a level of spending that can only be met, oh so reluctantly, with new tax hikes.

Yet the governor, who increasingly resembles the only adult in the room, stood firm Tuesday, saying “Government alone can’t create the kind of job growth we need. Business, especially small business, is the engine that will drive … Nevada’s economic recovery.”

He has toured Nevada job sites, he said, where “I have seen the rows of empty desks” once filled by Nevada’s laid-off workers. “These businesses cannot afford another tax increase. We can’t make them choose” between hiring back out-of-work Nevadans and “paying Carson City’s bills.”

The governor also insisted, “We owe it to our students and teachers to change the failed culture that has prevailed in our places of education. … Reforms must be part of the picture. …

“We can’t tax our way out … but we can and will grow our way out,” the governor said. Some will say even an extra $270 million for the coming biennium “is not enough, yet they offer no plan” to find the extra money “without harming the fragile economic recovery Nevada is now experiencing.”

It was a calm and reasonable speech. Those who were hoping Gov. Sandoval would turn belly-up, agreeing to sacrifice Nevada businesses on the altar of further tax hikes in order to keep the government gravy train in gear, may want to look at the calendar and get serious.

Because Gov. Sandoval is right. New tax hikes now would be like dumping a load of mud on a crop of spring seedlings.

Instead of the same old rhetoric, which measures only spending instead of results and endlessly moans that Nevada is “last in everything,” Gov. Sandoval offers an alternative vision of hope, sensible frugality and growth.

Nevadans need only embrace it.

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