Sisolak lays out plans to restore jobs, expand technical education and support small business
Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday laid out plans for supporting small businesses, advanced and technical education to put Nevadans back to work and increasing access to clean energy.
During his pre-recorded speech, he said among the new programs he will be creating is the Nevada Job Force to call on leading companies in the state to fund, design and implement training programs to prepare Nevadans for new jobs and pushing the state university system to transfer the state’s community colleges to, “a new independent authority that will focus on making Nevadans job ready.”
“It’s not enough to just aim for a full reopening of our current economy. We must look forward to the kind of economy that will let our state prosper in the future,” the governor said.
He said his goal is also to increase Nevada’s share of federal grants by $100 million over the next two years and $500 million a year by 2026.
He said he is also calling for major upgrades to modernize the state’s government systems — especially the unemployment security systems. He said when the pandemic hit, a system that was handling 20,000 claims a week suddenly found itself facing 370,000 claims a week, an increase that overwhelmed employment security and left some 243,000 claims waiting to be verified by August.
Sisolak confessed that putting together a budget in these times was extremely difficult.
He said the proposed executive budget “reflects the emergency we are currently in.” But he said the state’s financial situation has improved slightly over the past couple of months, bringing in a projected $418 million more than the Economic Forum projected in June.
But General Fund revenues in 2022, he said, will be nearly 9% less than the previous year, about $4.1 billion.
Sisolak said that is a decrease of about $187 million compared to the previous budget. To avoid deeper cuts, he said he is transferring the $97 million recently deposited in the Rainy Day Fund to cover reductions.
He said his budget will not continue the state worker furloughs imposed last summer and protect their health benefits.
So far, the state has pumped out some $50 million to small businesses. He and Treasurer Zach Conine are adding another $50 million to that total to support small businesses.
On top of that, he said Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall will work to create a Small Business Advocacy Center to help those businesses take advantage of the available resources. Those programs provide up to $10,000 in emergency grant funding to businesses to help them keep the doors open and pay employees.
The governor also proposed the creation of “Innovation Zones,” campuses designed to allow startups, research and new technology to flourish. He did not include details about the legislation for that proposal, but said it would not involve taxpayer-funding or tax abatements, such as the roughly $1.25 billion in rebates that Gov. Brian Sandoval’s administration offered to lure Tesla to Northern Nevada.
Sisolak said one firm, Blockchains, LLC, has committed to invest in Nevada once the legislation passes and would “create a small city in Northern Nevada that would fully run on blockchain technology,” bringing high-paying jobs and tax revenue with it.
Blockchain is a digital ledger that records transactions of cybercurrencies, such as Bitcoin.
Sisolak said he is hoping the long overdue federal support for state and local governments will soon arrive.
“That support is critical and it’s outrageous that it hasn’t arrived already.” A top priority, he said, is getting K-12 students back in schools.
Sisolak said in conclusion that the division and polarization gripping the nation must end.
“It’s breaking down trust in our institutions and threatening our ability to solve the problems we face,” he said.
Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus of Wellington issued the Republican response, saying executive power to shut down the economy and businesses must be reigned in, opposing any suggestion of tax increases and issuing a call for election reform.
She especially called out the Clark County Teachers Association proposal to ask voters for huge tax increases to support teacher salaries saying, “Attempting to manipulate Nevada’s complex tax structure via ballot initiatives is both irresponsible and short-sighted and will hurt Nevada families.”
Titus said the first round of business shutdowns in March, “had a devastating impact on Nevada’s infrastructure and this is still felt today.”
She said draconian policies decimated the private sector and mismanagement by government agencies failed to provide people with much needed resources. She said those areas need improvement.
Titus said an estimated 60% of businesses that closed because of the pandemic won’t ever reopen and harsher restrictions will just hurt more.
“Any blanket government shutdown is not sustainable and threatens the livelihood of many Nevadans still trying to recover from the first mandatory shutdown,” she said.
She called for an effective and accountable government that works with the private sector to provide a working framework and is answerable to Nevadans.
“During the upcoming legislative session, we must rein in the overreach of our state government and safeguard individual liberty,” Titus said.
On elections, she said Republicans are working on a slate of election reform bills. Chief among those is to greatly restrict or reduce access to mail-in ballots, a system that even the Republican Secretary of State said worked well this election cycle.
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