Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval covers accomplishments, goals in State of State
Gov. Brian Sandoval used his State of the State speech Tuesday to announce a major expansion of the Tesla plant at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center.
He said Tesla plans to build electric motors and gearboxes for the Model 3 at the Nevada plant. The expansion will add $350 million to the company’s investment and bring an additional 550 employees to western Nevada.
Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said that’s over and above the company’s existing commitment to provide 6,500 jobs in Nevada.
“This is new money to be invested by Tesla,” said governor’s Chief of staff Mike Willden. He and Hill said the expansion comes without new tax credits or other incentives.
Hill said the addition was proposed by Tesla officials which is pretty much at capacity at their California auto manufacturing plant.
Eventually, Hill said, he expects Tesla will have 10,000 workers at the Nevada site.
Sandoval said with Tesla and other major economic development projects, Nevada’s economy has “dramatically improved and we’re growing stronger every day.”
He said the state has had six years of job growth and now has 1.31 million jobs. Sandoval referenced Tesla chair Elon Musk when Musk said in 2014 Nevada was a “Get It Done State.”
“The evidence is undeniable,” Sandoval said. “We are on the right track because we made the right choices.”
Sandoval drew a standing ovation from Republican Senators and Assemblymen when he brought up the $60 million his budget would pump into reviving the school vouchers bill.
But Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, made it clear that program will face tough sledding in the Democrat controlled Legislature.
“Of course we’re going to oppose it,” he said. “It’s unlikely it’ll get any Democratic votes in the Senate.”
That would effectively kill the so-called Educational Savings Account program. As a side note, however, that would free up that $60 million in General Fund cash for other uses.
Sandoval said key to his economic development goals are the program to provide more and more Nevadans with post-secondary education and career skills that meet the needs of companies such as Tesla. He said right now, just 30 percent of workers have those skills and that double that, 60 percent, will need post secondary education degrees and training to get the jobs economic development is creating.
Sandoval said the list of programs he has proposed will add money for advanced training, nursing and other jobs to accomplish those goals at not only the two universities but Nevada’s four community colleges.
He told the joint session of the Senate and Assembly while he opposed legalization of recreational marijuana, he will respect the decision of the voters and work to make it a reality.
But he said he will do so with a 10 percent retail sales tax on recreational pot atop the existing 15 percent wholesale tax with all the proceeds going to education.
He said he also will work to make sure the industry is tightly regulated and to limit the sales of any marijuana products and packaging that “appeal to children and could be mistaken for candy.”
He praised state workers who, since the start of the recession, endured unpaid furloughs, cancellation of step increases, merit and longevity pay among other cuts. He said in some cases, those reductions amounted to a 30 percent less pay and benefits.
He said he was able to restore step increases and end furloughs in 2015 and give minimal pay raises. He said now it’s time to give workers 2 percent in each of the next two years “to recognize the dedication of our state employees.”
Kevin Ranft representing the AFSCME union for public workers said that raise is “a good start.”
“We’re grateful to the governor for recognizing state employees,” he said.
Sandoval’s budget also includes a $15 million initiative for state parks designed to preserve, enhance and expand the state parks system.
The centerpiece of that project is the proposed Walker River Recreation Area that will be made up of three historic ranches (Pitchfork, Rafter 7 and the Flying M) which are being donated to the state.
Together, they total 12,000 acres of property and 28 miles of the East Walker River valued at $8 million.
Other projects in the parks system will include preservation of the Fort Churchill adobe ruins and operating costs for the Van Sickle Bi-State Park at Lake Tahoe.
As a final note, Sandoval said for the remaining two years of his tenure as governor, “I will vigorously fight storage of high level nuclear waste in Nevada.”
He said the idea of opening Yucca Mountain endangers Nevada’s tourism and mining industries.