Las Vegas Sun

January 20, 2018

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Nevada is not Nevada and English is not English

Gov. Brian Sandoval brought his “Optimism is the Foundation of Courage” tour to the Four Seasons this afternoon to deliver a distilled State of the State to an appreciative Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce luncheon that numbered in the hundreds. Not much new, but the words he uses, starting with “revenue reallocations” and “county participation” from earlier in the week, are the beginning of a new lexicon that would make George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Rod Serling proud. To wit:

----He talked about “shifting services to the appropriate level of government,” a euphemisms for pushing an unfunded mandate on to the locals. Even Andrew Clinger, during a taping for tonight’s "Face to Face," acknowledged the state was not providing the counties with a new funding source to take new services but that they would have to “prioritize” just as the state has.

And the Sun’s Delen Goldberg has Clark County doing the Chicken Little dance;

----Sandoval said he has “repurposed funds to the highest and best use,” another way to describe shifting those dollars around in what are one-shot ways to balance the budget but create future obligations.

----My favorite: “We deserve an open and honest debate over whether taxes should be raised in this economy.” Winston Smith, are you listening? Big Brother is telling us that we need to have an open and honest debate even though he doesn’t want to have one on new revenue. When pressed by myself and Steve Sebelius afterward, Sandoval gave no quarter to that inconsistency, continuing to say “they’ve said we will need revenue” and “It’s not a debate now.” (Indeed, he said the tax plans are hidden in the “Bat Cave,” which makes me wonder whether Steven Horsford is Batman and John Oceguera is Robin, or the other way around?)

True enough, although Sandoval is obviously trying to smoke out the Democrats and others who want new taxes by mentioning some whispered solutions being bandied about: A franchise tax modeled on Texas, a tax on mining (it would cost jobs, he said, despite record profits and despite the theory of captivity) and a sales tax on services. But even though the Democrats won’t come forth and say what they really mean, Sandoval cannot sustain the argument he wants an honest and open debate when he has closed mind to the other side. How does that make any sense?

----Sandoval effusively praised new Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones, Washoe Superintendent Heath Morrsion and UNLV President Neal Smatresk and said he was “listening” to their concerns. This is Orwellian, too, because what good does it to do listen when you have no intention of giving them more money? Sandoval also planned to meet today with Nevadans for Nevada, that new amalgamation of public employee groups, but does anyone think he will then oppose changes to collective bargaining and PERS? (He was very vague in his State of the State and has provided no long-term reform plans on threes issues.)

He is the Frasier Crane of governors – “I’m listening” – but without any intention of solving their problems or providing much succor at all. I wonder if they feel patronized. I also wonder if they will ever criticize the proposals. (Indeed, I learned today one higher ed official is circulating the moniker, “The Benevolent Butcher,” for the governor who is as nice a guy as you can find wielding that budget cleaver.

----Finally, Sandoval concluded with a line he clearly loves: “"We will make Nevada Nevada again, and I think you all know what that means." If you do, please email me and explain it.

Here’s the bottom line less than two weeks before the session starts: Sandoval can deliver a message and stays on it despite how obnoxious Fourth Estate members can be. He is impervious to any of our tricks. Meanwhile, I am not convinced that Horsford and Oceguera are on the same page, or if they even know what book they are reading, and I believe the potential for the Democrats to splinter as they get more frustrated is huge.

And when that inevitably happens, the Legislature will be the Legislature again.

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