(Chuck Muth) – Two weeks into office, Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo delivered his first State of the State Address and set a trap for Nevada Democrats who control both houses of the Legislature that reconvene on Monday.
Which, by the way, also happens to be Ronald Reagan’s birthday. Happy birthday, Gipper!
For decades, Democrats have been beating the drum that education in Nevada – the worst in the nation – was “underfunded.”
So armed with a budget surplus – thanks in large part to the “Blue State Bailout” – Lombardo called their bluff and proposed boosting education spending by a jaw-dropping $2 billion.
This would boost per-pupil spending by around $2,000, raising the total to over $12,000. But for Democrats, it’s never enough. And before the new governor even finished unpacking the moving van, they overplayed their hand and stepped right into the trap he set for them.
On Friday, Democrats called for an ADDITIONAL $250 million for education because…well, $2 billion isn’t enough. As former gubernatorial candidate Guy Nohra pointed out…
“Education boondoggle Nevada Democrat style: Keep throwing good money after bad. More money, worse performance for 30 years, and they are still at it. Astounding.”
The Democrats’ greed is now undeniably exposed to Nevada’s taxpayers. Who do you think is going to win this argument in the Court of Public Opinion?
That said, there’s also a catch to Lombardo’s proposal. Strings are attached.
The governor warned that if the ginormous boost in spending doesn’t produce results FAST, dramatic systemic changes would be imposed. That could include placing entire school districts under state receivership.
And it would also include a major expansion of school choice options, the table for which was set by Lombardo with his call to create a dedicated Office of School Choice in his Department of Education and a DOUBLING of funding for Opportunity Scholarships.
From his speech…
“In total, my executive budget puts more money in public K-12 schools and introduces more student and parental choices than any budget in Nevada history. For the first time, parents will have an advocate inside government promoting the expansion of school choice in Nevada.”
To which John Tsarpalas, president of the conservative/libertarian Nevada Policy Research Institute responded…
“With the election of a new governor, there has never been more enthusiasm among Nevada families to fix our broken education system.”
Added conservative Republican Assemblywoman Danielle Gallant…
“Finally we have a Governor who is putting our kids first!”
And school choice champion Valerie Gurr…
“It is really refreshing to have a governor who wants to expand the Opportunity Scholarship Program. (Lombardo) is proposing making funding permanent for it and increasing funding in record numbers that we haven’t seen before.”
And Erin Phillips, president of Power2Parent…
“Parents overwhelmingly support school choice, and now we have a governor who understands that education plays a critical role in the future success of our state.”
Indeed, while political reality precludes taking another run at Education Savings Accounts – which Republicans passed in 2015 but then-Gov. Brian Sandoval refused to fund – during the 2023 legislative session, you can bet they’ll be on the table in 2025 when Lombardo will have far more leverage to play.
As he said in a recent follow-up interview, “We’ll look at bigger bites as we move forward.”
Conservatives who are sniping at the governor’s heels over the funding boost have a valid point; that money won’t fix what’s wrong with education in Nevada. Been there, done that.
However, by proposing what, I believe, is the largest increase in education spending in state history, Lombardo has effectively taken that excuse for opposing school choice off the table.
If Democrats refuse to fund the Opportunity Scholarships and create the Office of School Choice, Lombardo has the hammer of a gubernatorial veto to deny the money boost Democrats so desperately want for our public school failure factories.
Again, Lombardo has only been in the captain’s chair for four weeks. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And you can’t throw a “Hail Mary” on every play. Conservatives need to give the man a chance rather than try to trip him up just as he’s coming out of the gate.
Or would you prefer to have Sisolak back?
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
“More than half the women in my administration are women.” – President Joe Biden, 2/2/23
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, publisher of Nevada News & Views, and founder of CampaignDoctor.com. You can sign up for his conservative, Nevada-focused e-newsletter at MuthsTruths.com. His views are his own.