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State of the State

Governor Sandoval delivered the 2011 Nevada State of the State address Monday night in the Assembly chamber in Carson City.  The speech was quite something.  The governor proposed a considerable number of things, many of his budget proposals seeming almost magical.  The reorganization of economic development for the state was sweeping and the education proposals bound to be controversial.  Many of the proposed cuts were not quite as draconian as many might have feared, but it was far from rosy.

Governor Morden’s Budget of The Shadows
Note:  Governor Sandoval did not play Mr. Morden on Babylon 5 in the 90s.  But gosh, doesn’t he look like Mr. Morden?  Also, we like the good governor, so don’t get your panties in a bunch.

The governor talked a lot in his budget about restructuring the way Nevada spends money – not the way it raises it.  He quoted Bill Gates at one point while talking about education policy.  The governor tried to avoid associating his policies with any given political ideology – probably not a bad idea.  His suggestions for using government-directed activism developing new industries certainly sounded like new thinking – I would have put those at the beginning of the speech.

In that vein, it was good to hear a speech laden with optimism and ideas.  It was bad to hear about how much less money the state has to spend, and will be spending.  On the university budget, for example, the governor said there were cuts of 7% which were actually, he said, 16.6% unless the regents raise tuition.  There were other cuts to local support for health and human services programs.  Through this, however, the proposed budget preserves the Millennium Scholarship, a program which is controversial among hardline conservatives and few others.

Another notable quote in the speech was from Abraham Lincoln, who said:

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.

Abraham Lincoln

Sandoval used that quote to frame the hard choices he claimed would be necessary to get through this crisis.  This was a speech vaguely reminiscent of Bob Miller’s speeches from the early 90s, during the recession then.  Miller also made a lot of cuts and some reorganizations.

One wonders how Nevada will fare in the coming biennium.  Will there be a special session in 2012?  There are many who claim the tax structure in the state is not set up right.  In partial response to that is an argument that the economy is primarily to blame for this crisis, and the tax system isn’t in need of much reorganization. 

At the end of the day, though, there is truth to the argument that putting people back to work is the best remedy for the current state of things.  If the unemployment rate doesn’t go down – if the economic development proposals bear no fruit – it’s hard to imagine how any argument can be made for more cuts to government services.  Nevada is in a compromising position.  Here’s hoping the state’s leaders can work together to help kick start an economic recovery.