Monday, Feb. 7, 2011 | 3:27 p.m.
Here are Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford's opening remarks:
Our Hope for the 2011 Legislative Session:
Build a Better Future for Nevada’s Children
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford
Mr. President, newly elected members of the Senate, colleagues who I have had the honor of working with during past legislative sessions, family members and guests -- good morning and welcome to the opening of the 76th Session of the Nevada Legislature.
We are here today because we love this state -- from the Reno Arch to the Eureka Opera House; from the neighborhoods of West Las Vegas to the rich farmland of Yerington, from the suburbs of Henderson to the rural counties of Elko and everywhere in between-- we are blessed with an abundance of resources.
Like all of you, I take my position seriously and want to do what is best for the people I represent. Like all of you, I want to make Nevada a better place to live, raise our families and work. So to my colleagues, I am grateful for your service and proud to be here with you.
To Governor Sandoval - as I have said to you privately and as I again say today - I congratulate you on your election as our state’s 30th Governor. You have been elected at a critical time in Nevada’s history. All of us in this chamber, all of us in this state – no matter his or her political affiliation -- want you to succeed as our Governor. I will do everything I can to ensure that we work together to restore The Nevada Dream.
PUT NEVADA BACK TO WORK
Putting Nevadans back to work must be Job One of this Legislature.
We passed a blueprint during the February 2010 Special Session showing how the Legislature can spark private sector job creation. SB5, of the 26th special session, is successfully funding some twenty projects, providing more than 2,500 private sector jobs in the hardest-hit industry in this recession, construction.
Working together, we can follow through on recommendations from the Vision Stakeholder Group, Nevada 2.0, the Lieutenant Governor’s economic development task force and the Nevada Jobs Coalition, to put more Nevadans back to work.
I call on this Legislature to make the Creating Nevada Jobs Initiative a top priority within the first 30 days of this session, and the Governor should sign it so we can quickly put as many as 5,000 Nevadans back to work. It can be done.
A job offers a sense of self-worth, dignity and purpose. I applaud the Governor’s Silver State Works Initiative and I will make it a priority for approval by this Chamber.
Helping provide job training and employment placement for our veterans, those on public assistance, ex-offenders, our young people and the disabled will make a real difference in the lives of the people we represent. With proper training and guidance, all Nevadans can contribute in a meaningful way. It can be done.
OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE
Much has already been predicted and much will be said about this session. From the pundits who will portray it in columns of winners and losers to those who express optimism, to those who call for a return to a time of prosperity – a time that may have existed for some, but not all Nevadans.
My belief, however, is that this session will only be fairly judged years from now. Our children will judge it. It will be judged by their success or failure, and the success or failure of the state in the years to come.
Did you know that, for first time in our nation’s history, our children’s generation may not do as well as ours? Think about that for moment.
Despite all of our challenges as a nation, from slavery, to the Great Depression, through world wars, to the equal and civil rights era to now, this may be the first time that a generation does worse than those who came before.
Now we may complain that this new generation is spoiled, doesn’t work as hard and doesn’t always appreciate what they do have – at least that is what I say to my children. But the hard facts are, when it comes to educational achievement, health, and income, our children may not do as well as we have.
As an elected official, as a father of three, I find this unacceptable and will not accept this for their future.
Our local communities, our state and our nation will not prosper if our children do not prosper. We cannot grow our economy or develop new, innovative industries if our children are not prepared to compete globally. We will not have thriving or safe communities if our children lack hope.
Besting the education achievement scores of Mississippi – let alone those of Virginia or Maryland – can no longer be the goal. In this legislative session we must think globally, about a knowledge-based economy where our children can compete for jobs and succeed against children in China and India.
It is with that eye to the future that Governor Sandoval committed to strengthening and preserving the Millennium Scholarship program created by the late Governor Kenny Guinn, and I commend him for that. That’s why we must keep our promise to our students and their families by not making the Guinn scholarship less secure by increasing college tuition to unreasonable levels.
Of course, the Governor and I do not agree on everything, but let me make clear that when I disagree with the Governor, I do so NOT for political gain or advantage, but from a sense of obligation and purpose to do my part, however small, to turn the focus away from all of us and our current situation and toward our children and their future.
The Governor, and some in this chamber, suggest that Nevada’s kids can withstand deep and severe cuts to their education. Some believe that the solution is to cut to the extreme, wait for the economy to recover and only then, perhaps, rebuild. That theory for achieving success has been tried and disproven. You cannot build a strong economy – or a strong future – on a foundation that is faulty and frail.
WHAT WE MUST DO
Consider Virginia: Fifty years ago, they were in much the same situation we find ourselves in today. Their schools struggled. Their educational achievement was at a national low and per capita earnings were at the bottom.
But they invested in their schools, colleges and universities. They invested in their kids. They invested in their future. And today, Virginia has some of the best schools in the country – schools that power a thriving, diverse economy, with high educational achievement and high per capita incomes.
We must work just as hard for the future here in Nevada. We will win if those of us in this chamber give our kids the tools today to build a thriving state tomorrow. We know this to be true and it can be done.
And so, to the Governor and those who have supported his position of no new revenue, I ask this one fundamental question:
Will you work with us to build a more balanced budget for our children, one that protects their futures and the future of our state?
If we are to build a bright future for the people of this state, Nevada cannot sustain two billion dollars in cuts.
Now, I know that government cannot and should not be all things to all people. I agree with the Governor that we cannot turn to government to solve all of our problems. More than anything, it will always be strong families that build strong communities and a strong state and nation.
But providing a quality education for every Nevada child is a constitutional requirement that we have all sworn an oath to uphold.
Yes, we can have a discussion about how to remove bad teachers and principals from our schools, but we should also applaud the great educators, the men and women who help lay the foundation for our children’s future success.
For me, it was the late Mr. Cozine, my 5th grade teacher at Ruth Fyfe Elementary in Las Vegas who helped me to realize the importance of critical thinking. Mr. Kelly, my 10th grade English teacher, who opened my world to literature. It was my speech and debate teacher, Ms. Statom, who challenged me to find my voice, something we all must have to succeed.
They and many more teachers like them are my heroes. Every educator who works each and every day teaching reading, math and science to our children deserves our honor, our respect, our gratitude, and a promise that we will not cut their salaries by 10 percent.
Who was that great teacher and mentor in your life? We all have them. That’s why we must find ways to improve education without devaluing the role of those who are educators. It can be done.
And of course, it’s not just our elementary, middle and high school students we need to consider: companies need an educated and trained workforce. We cannot cut our colleges and universities and expect to grow our economy. It just doesn’t work that way. Look around the country, states that have invested and protected higher education have thrived economically; states that have cut education have suffered economically.
Students camped out overnight just a few weeks back to register for classes at one of our colleges because they couldn’t all be accommodated. These young people know they can succeed and contribute if they get the right training.
Educating and the training of our workforce is as important to economic development as promoting a low-tax climate – because it all matters to a business’ bottom line. It can be done.
Economic development and recruiting new businesses to Nevada is also about ensuring a high quality of life for citizens.
Consider this: investing in community-based senior centers improves the chances our parents and grandparents get the attention and care they need, and saves all of us as taxpayers by minimizing the need for nursing homes and hospitals. Building a more balanced budget will allow us to invest in and benefit from community-based resources for those family members we love so much.
Let’s never forget the needs of our family members who suffer from mental illness, substance abuse and alcoholism. Building a more balanced budget will ensure we don’t just triage those with mental disorders and then send them back into our communities without support. It will ensure that we support parents whose children are diagnosed with autism. Too much progress has been made to turn our backs on parents who know, that with treatment, their children can lead full lives. It can be done.
It is time for us to put aside the partisan battling and electoral talk and come together as Nevadans.
We know that our state will not prosper if our children do not prosper. We know that we cannot grow our economy, or develop innovative industries, or stay at the cutting edge of technology, if we slash our schools.
Protecting those interests and the interests of our most vulnerable citizens is our challenge in these next 120 days.
And here is our opportunity. For decades, other leaders were unable to make the change our state so desperately needs. Instead of opting for Band-aids and sunsetting fixes, our opportunity is to tackle the structural changes needed so that our businesses and the people of Nevada can thrive.
Building a balanced budget for our children’s future. It will not be easy. The decisions will be tough. Cuts will be necessary.
But if we leave the elections and partisanship aside, if we work as Nevadans to find real, meaningful, lasting solutions to the structural problems that continue to exist, if we build a balanced budget for our kids, their futures and the future of the state, we will position Nevada for success for generations to come.
I know that this Governor, working with the leadership of this Legislature, in both parties across both chambers, can do it.
It can be done.