Sandoval to release Nevada budget today
Gov. Brian Sandoval is scheduled to give his second State of the State address to lawmakers at 6 p.m. today, outlining his goals for Nevada and a proposed $6 billion-plus state spending plan for the next two fiscal years.The first-term Republican governor’s speech, to be delivered in the Legislative Building, will be televised statewide. Prompt reaction is expected from legislative leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, as well as from advocates for various interest groups following the speech.Sandoval came into office two years ago, bullish on a state racked by unemployment, bankruptcies and foreclosures, saying in his first State of the State address that if Nevada were a stock, “I’d buy it now.” Today, he will report on the state’s progress during his watch and set up his priorities for the two years remaining in his first term.The popular head of state is approaching the session that begins Feb. 4 from a more centrist vantage point than the conservative-talking candidate who became the state’s first Hispanic governor in the 2010 elections.Sandoval is expected to outline new economic development goals. He already has revamped the state’s approach to economic development, making it a cabinet-level position and establishing a blueprint to focus on attracting key industries such as tech, aerospace and medical services while helping existing businesses to grow. His administration says he’s halfway toward achieving a goal to create 50,000 jobs by the end of his term.He also is expected to discuss more education goals. Sandoval has pushed for education overhauls that give the governor authority to appoint a state superintendent and three out of four voting members on the state Board of Education, and put in motion efforts to abolish using teacher seniority when determining layoffs.Sandoval has said he will propose expanding the state’s Medicaid program to encompass people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, adding an estimated 78,000 Nevadans to the Medicaid rolls. The federal government will pick up most of the tab for the first three years, though the state will share in added administrative costs.The state’s Economic Forum has projected tax revenues of $5.8 billion for the upcoming biennium. Combined with extending $620 million in sunset taxes, that would bring the proposed money pot to $6.4 billion, roughly the same as the current budget.State agencies, meanwhile, have requested $419 million more than that for “items of special consideration” — a wish list of wants and needs such as $83 million for the Department of Education and $100 million for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. At the same time, Sandoval has said he will propose tax cuts for small businesses to help them meet health care reform requirements and has pledged to veto any tax increases. Though Nevada’s jobless rate remains the highest in the nation — 10.8 percent in November — the economy has shown a more steady heartbeat from the record high jobless rate of 14 percent in October 2010. Despite the slow upward move, Sandoval is unlikely to unveil any big policy initiatives.
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