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Flashback: What legislative leaders promised last year

Nevada Senate Majority Leader Steve Horsford, D-Las Vegas, and Assembly Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, promised us a lot when Democrats took full control of the 2009 Legislature last year.

They promised to "PREVENT" foreclosures in Nevada, create economic diversification and improve public education.

Read it for yourself and let me call Nevadans everywhere into this general discussion: How’d it work out for you?

Sen. Horsford’s opening speech:

Mr. President and my colleagues of the Nevada Senate, today marks the beginning of another defining moment in Nevada’s history. We are confronted with enormous challenges. 125,000 Nevadans are out of work. Thousands of families are losing their homes. Our education system is at risk of failing our most prized possessions, our children. On these things, there is agreement. But it is not enough to simply recognize the challenges – the people of Nevada are looking to us to solve them as well. They do not want to see their university system dismantled. They do not want us to balance the budget on the backs of teachers. And they do not want children and seniors to pay the price of economic turmoil by having this Legislature and Nevada’s Governor tear down everything that has been built up over the years. We cannot allow this defining moment to undo the work many in this chamber have accomplished despite the economic challenges before us.

The people we represent want us to chart a different economic course, one that attracts new industries and lessens our reliance on tourism to sustain ourselves as a state. They want solutions that put Nevadans back to work and provide adequate revenues to support
education, health care, and other vital services.

There can be no doubt we face enormous challenges. But those challenges also provide us with an opportunity. An opportunity to choose the kind of future we want for ourselves but, more importantly, for our children. We can, and must, seize the opportunity to Make
Nevada Great in this new century.

What we do in the next 120 days can set a new course for Nevada. We can begin to diversify our economy by developing our abundant renewable energy resources – creating jobs and giving consumers an ability to reduce their energy costs over time. We can fight
for our educational system by keeping the best and brightest teachers in Nevada – providing for smaller class sizes and demanding better outcomes in student achievement.

We can align the resources and infrastructure of our colleges and universities to better meet our state’s economic opportunities without forcing students to pay three times as much in tuition. We can make healthcare a priority and ensure programs like Nevada Check-Up and Medicaid services for families and seniors are preserved. And, we can reward the hard working people of Nevada by making government work harder and smarter for them.

Now, the economic stimulus package pending in Congress will help us solve some of our budget problems and lay the groundwork for a new economic future, improving our infrastructure, augmenting our education system and social services, developing our renewable energy resources and creating new industries. And it will be up to us to make sure that money is wisely spent. But we must all remember the federal stimulus will not solve all of our problems. We will still need to make cuts and even eliminate some programs that are ineffective or have simply run their course. Every state agency and every program needs to be on notice that they will be audited for efficiency and that everyone will have to make sacrifices in order to help us get through this critical budget shortfall – and beyond that, to survive in the new economy. But we can and will protect what matters most—the future of our children and the opportunity to Make Nevada Great.

While the task ahead may seem daunting, we know it can be done. It can be done because we have faced challenges before. It has been people like the Senate Minority Leader who have provided leadership for our state for many years and his experience and judgment will be integral this session as well. And I cannot help but hear the voice of our friend and colleague, Senator Joe Neal, whose passion for this process and compassion for the working people of this state are guideposts by which we should all measure our actions.

It can be done because each of you in this chamber brings a set of strengths and talents that will serve the people of Nevada well. Last week, Speaker Buckley and I put forth the initial elements of a legislative agenda, and we will be adding to it in the next few weeks. I hope and trust you will help us.

I am humbled by the position I now hold as the Senate Majority Leader, and mindful of both the responsibility it brings and the change it represents. But I want to say to each of you that I also know I cannot do this alone. I welcome your ideas and proposals, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. The challenges we face cannot be met by one person or one party alone. The challenges are too great. We come to this Legislature as Democrats and Republicans, but must leave it as Nevadans who have done their job for
our fellow citizens. History has shown that Nevada’s citizen legislators possess the capacity to do the very best when they are asked. Ladies and gentlemen, I am asking.

The people of Nevada are asking: Will we Make Nevada Great Again.

I tell you, It Can Be Done.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Rep. Barbara Buckley’s opening speech

Welcome to the 75th session of the Nevada Legislature. We recently completed the 25th special session, which means that this will be the 100th legislative session in Nevada’s history.

Congratulations to our new legislators: Assemblyman Paul Aizley, Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, Assemblyman Don Gustavson, Assemblyman John Hambrick, Assemblywoman April Mastroluca, Assemblyman Richard McArthur, Assemblywoman Ellen
Spiegel, and Assemblywoman Melissa Woodbury. You worked so hard to get here – knocking on doors, attending meeting after meeting, learning about things you’ve never even thought of before. Campaigns are very difficult. Things are said that are not true or only half true, and that is hard. But the voters elected each of us to address the very serious problems that are facing our state, and we must put all the campaign negativity behind us and work side-by-side to find solutions.

To our returning legislators, welcome back. We have all been given an amazing opportunity to represent our assembly districts and the state. The state needs the best of all of us in these very difficult economic times. This session will be about what kind of state we want to be. While there are so many economic issues beyond our control, there is much within our control that we can focus on immediately.

We have opportunities to lead our state in the right direction. We have an opportunity to stabilize our housing market. Continued foreclosures are wrecking our economy – one out of eleven families in Nevada is losing a home, many because they signed an adjustable rate mortgage and cannot refinance. As of October, 2008, 47,000 Nevadans were 30 days or more delinquent on their mortgages. And the rest of us face plummeting home values as a result, with the median price paid of a home falling to a five-year low.

Forty-eight percent of Nevadans now owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth. Residential construction has come to a crashing halt with huge job losses, consumer confidence is affected, and state revenues have plummeted.

If we are to get our state on the road to economic recovery, then we must stem the hemorrhaging in our housing market with meaningful measures to PREVENT foreclosures. This session we will have an opportunity to enact legislation that would institute mediation for homeowners who wish to remain in their home and who are desperate for a workout agreement.

The program would operate statewide and would use senior judges and our judiciary to administer it. The lender would be required to participate and to work in good faith toward resolving the situation.

This Legislature can also:

•• Protect renters from surprise evictions when the homes they are renting are foreclosed, and
•• Crack down on lenders who are scamming people. This legislation will be a top priority for the session. If we provide meaningful relief to those in jeopardy of losing their home and stabilize our housing market, our economy will turn around quicker.

People I have talked to all over the state are terrified of losing their jobs. In better times, when we clung to the illusion that our state was recession-proof, we never worried about coping with a 9 percent unemployment rate. Job creation must be one of our top priorities.

While there is discussion all across the nation of the need to create jobs through the development of renewable energy, we in Nevada are uniquely poised to do so with our vast renewable energy resources. That is why the Legislature will consider creating a green jobs initiative. We will be receiving stimulus money to support this program. If we train for the jobs of the future, we not only create jobs, but we will also diversify our economy to be less reliant on tourism.

Another serious problem facing us this session is the public’s loss of confidence in our health care system that resulted from the Hepatitis C crisis in Southern Nevada. We were all horrified by the news reports that more than 40,000 patients received letters telling them they needed to be tested for Hepatitis C and AIDS because an endoscopy center in Southern Nevada used unsafe medical practices. Many of us know someone who was touched by that crisis. This session, we will make it a priority to enact new patient safeguards to ensure that a situation like this will never happen again.

During this session, we must completely overhaul our state’s financial structure. In good times, the state spends a little bit of money on a lot of things and gets good at nothing. And in bad times, we destroy what we have built.

We can do better.

How?

•• We comb through the budget. We decide what we can cut, what we can reform, and what we must save.

•• We create a budget stabilization fund – a forced savings account – so that when new revenue comes in, we take 1 1/2 cents of every new dollar and put it in an account for bad times. It means less money when times are good, but less pain when times are bad. It also means that in the long run, we save money because we are not dismantling a program only to rebuild it when the economy rebounds.

•• We set short term and long term spending priorities. We didn’t get to near last place in our state’s rankings in a day – we won’t get to first place in a day. So, we need to plan and prioritize. If you don’t plan, you shouldn’t be surprised when you don’t arrive where you want to go.

We consider revenue to meet our priorities.

We examine:
•• uncollected taxes and every tax break that has been implemented over the last few decades;
•• how revenue is distributed between local and state government;
•• whether consolidation of government could yield more revenue;
•• gaps in revenue for our priorities and ways to address them, and;
•• how to make sure we don’t lose money in the long run by implementing an overall cut of 36% to our higher education system. When we face a crisis, it often brings people together. Maybe that’s a silver lining in today’s crisis. If we focus on stabilizing our housing market, taking advantage of the stimulus money to prepare for the new green energy economy, making some cuts – but avoiding draconian ones that will cost more in the long run – and overhauling our financial system, we will have done the best we can as a state in this time of economic crisis.

We will come out of this economic downturn – it’s just a matter of when.

In the meantime, we all must work together to focus on solutions that make sense for our state.

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