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September 2, 2015

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Imagine the state of the state two years down the road

Dear fellow Nevadans, legislative colleagues, trusted lobbyists and out-of-work educators:

I stand before you, here in 2013, after my first two years as governor of this great state of Nevada, having not (pause for applause) raised (pause for applause) taxes (enjoy the applause). I want to again thank everyone who voted for me and my platform of not raising taxes and not being named “Reid.” I appreciate the chance to serve this great but still overtaxed state.

When I assumed this office in 2011, I gave an inaugural speech in which I talked about optimism and opportunity. Indeed, I used the word “optimism” 10 times and “opportunity” 13 times. And I’m proud to say that those subliminal messages have paid off. Traveling across Nevada in the past two years, everywhere I’ve gone I’ve seen optimism on the faces of our citizens, or at least I’m told it’s optimism. And I choose to believe that. I mean, anyone who thinks this isn’t a time of opportunity hasn’t talked to a mining-industry lobbyist.

But my governorship has been about more than buzzwords, like “opportunity.” It’s also been about catchphrases, like “no new taxes.” Taking office, I vowed not to raise them, not even to save education, and I lived up to that promise: We didn’t save education.

But as Nevadans, we must look at this situation through the lens of optimism: All the cutting we did, and the massive tuition increases we forced upon higher education, provided valuable math lessons for Nevada students. And the social skills they develop in 75-student classrooms will come in handy in the job market of the future.

Speaking of which, I have talked a great deal about the vital importance of diversifying our economy. Of the need to keep taxes low so we could attract new companies to our state. Create jobs. I pushed hard for that initiative, even though many people said that without a good education system, Nevada could not attract new business.

So I’d like to thank the self-storage companies, warehousing firms, call centers and payday lenders who have responded by moving here. Not one of these companies, I might add, raised “education” as a concern about relocating. And to those critics who mock the “dozens of jobs” created by these businesses, I ask this: Did you also count the security personnel? Because that really does bring the total up.

Before the last Legislature, special-interest groups said we couldn’t balance the budget without revenue increases. But it turns out that we could — it just takes a willingness to make tough choices for other people. And I have that willingness. And, frankly, those departments of government that remain are operating with marvelous efficiency. Plus, we now have plenty of empty schools we can rent to those call centers.

We also learned that if the state takes money from local governments, and local governments are forced to increase fees to cover their own deficits, I still didn’t raise taxes. (Pause for applause.) And I think it’s important to keep that in mind, at least for a few more Novembers.

In closing, my fellow Nevadans, we’re in a time of shared sacrifice — from your perspective, probably more sacrifice than sharing, to be honest — and maybe what that requires us to come to terms with is, instead of the great state of Nevada, we’ll have to settle for the still-existing-in-concept state of Nevada.

But I want to end on an optimistic note, and so I offer these four words of comfort: I’m not Jim Gibbons. (Pause for applause.) Thank you, and God bless.

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