Official Democratic response to Gov. Brian Sandoval's State of the State Address, delivered by Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Democratic leader of the Nevada Assembly.
Hello, tonight you heard from Governor Sandoval, on his vision of Nevada in his state of the state address. As the Democratic leader of the Nevada Assembly, tonight I want to talk to you about issues important to ALL Nevadans.
I believe that we need to move our state forward in the next legislative session in a way that helps all of us—no matter what your circumstances. I know you have heard that before, but it’s more important than ever that in this legislative session we actually deliver. No one believes our state is currently at the levels of economic or educational performance we need to meet the challenges we face together. Now is the time to set a course for a better future. We cannot afford to wait any longer.
I thank the Governor for his hard work on behalf of the state, and for his willingness to seek solutions. I know the Governor cares about Nevada. But more than that, we both care about the direction Nevada will take, and that all Nevadans share in a bright future.
We are at a point where clearly have, just two choices. One is the politically easy choice. The way we’ve always gone, the way that has seen us pass the buck time and again without addressing our deeper issues. The other choice, the better way forward is rocky and difficult, involves tough decisions and compromise, but it ultimately will lead us to a better place. We have hard choices to make, and it is time we make them.
These days it may seem that we are farther apart than ever, and won’t get anything done. I work for a living, like most Nevadans. I go to work each day, like most Nevadans. In my day job, you don’t stop working with someone because they have a different opinion than you do. You talk to them, explain your differences and find a workable solution everyone can agree with. When you are faced with difficult choices you don’t just get to say, “forget it” and go home without getting the job done.
In Carson City, we’ve gotten used to just not getting the job done because we refuse to make the hard choices—on both sides of the aisle.
We cannot leave this session only having played partisan games and shuffled papers, while moving around “new found dollars” as the result of budget gimmicks. That does nothing to move our state forward. Our work will require give and take on ALL sides. This means real hard choices, and adult conversations about the direction we want our state to take.
But I am encouraged that we can get things done. We have shown that in the past Democrats and Republicans can work together when there are shared interests at stake. Things such as TESLA it was an economic development bill that helped bring jobs to Nevada,. We can get things done. We need to continue to do that. But it’s easy to come together, when everyone “wins.”
The real question is can we come together on the difficult questions—how will we fund an educational system that desperately needs improvement, how will we find the resources to invest in all of Nevada’s children, not just a chosen few, and how will we have real tax reform without bold political courage? Can we come together on the hard choices?
And it is important that as we make these hard choices, and we do so also for the people that didn’t watch the Governor’s address this evening, and aren’t watching my response to it. The people that don’t think voting affects their life, and the people that live every single day with economic anxiety, those are the people who can’t be left behind in the New Nevada.
Currently not everyone is sharing in the state’s recovery. That’s the hard truth and we need to keep in mind when making decisions about our budget. The glimmering lights of the Las Vegas strip may still be on, but in the shadows of those buildings are people living with constant insecurity.
I know the Governor inherently cares about these people, just the same as I. But we need to do more than care. We need to remember them and act on their behalf. We need to remember them in EVERY single decision we make in Carson City. People, men and women that work two jobs to support their family. We need to remember the kids that through no wrong choice of their own are victims of poverty.
Unfortunately, some Republicans in the legislature see the economically insecure as lazy or down on their luck because of their own “bad choices.” If we are going to truly be One Nevada, we need to stop that mindset immediately.
There is a part of Nevada that is hard to see when one tours only the rising companies in the state. Or when politicians just walk around schools that are part of photo ops. I spend plenty of time in classrooms in my district, where the schools really have 45 kids in a classroom. This Nevada is hard to see from the country club cocktail parties, and even harder to see in a room filled with like-minded individuals who’ve never had to worry about poverty, or a loved one that lives in constant fear of being separated from their family.
Those people that live and work every single day, day by day, paycheck to paycheck, with insecurity and worry, that they who may be cast aside as we build the New Nevada. They are aware that there’s a chance today their employer may cut their hours. Or today they’ll get an unexpected hospital bill they can’t pay. My everyday constituents need stability, not new question marks in their lives. How can we provide that if we are forced to make even more cuts?
A “New Nevada” that only benefits those at the top will look a lot like old Nevada. Everyone says they are ready, finally, for broad-based tax reform. That is encouraging talk. But that can’t mean only working families pay more in sales taxes. It also can’t mean that all we do is raise fees across the board to avoid the hard choices. We are in this together, and just like the state’s biggest businesses need an environment they can succeed in, the housekeepers, the landscapers, and the food servers that make Nevada work every single day deserve good wages and fair treatment, and a tax system that works for them.
Working people, regular constituents in my district, have it harder than ever at the moment, and those are the people, ultimately, that will make Nevada a better place. Or they will continue to be discouraged and disappointed by the hard choices we refuse to make.
These people don’t have lobbyists, but they do have elected officials. These are the people that Democrats in the legislative building will be thinking about day in and day out.
I will not trade concentrated wealth at the top for more of the same at the bottom and middle of our economic ladder.
So let’s have an honest conversation. I am happy with what the Governor has started proposing for our state employees, and I am encouraged we are going to end furloughs and get people the pay they deserve. But let’s also look at how we’ve treated those workers to ensure we never find ourselves in that situation again. They work as hard as anyone, and it is an embarrassment that many of them who help families who depend on state services find themselves after their shifts getting up into the back of those same lines. Because we’ve failed to invest in our state employees.
That also goes with how we have conversations about people that belong to private sector unions in our state. Unions are not a deterrent to economic growth. A union is a group of people organized collectively to speak with one voice, in a world where it is often drowned out. But more than that, union workers built this country and our state. They did so in concert with business leaders, together in a struggle that ultimately benefitted us all.
If Republicans in the legislature are going to forget that, and think they are going to slash the rights of workers, lower the minimum wage, or create impossible working conditions, we should realize that’s no way forward. We cannot move our state forward by tearing people down. If we are in this together, it is time to act like we believe that.
We know the choices we have to make. They are not easy but hard choices never are. A real debate over tax reform is necessary. Should someone able to pay $5,000 for table service at a nightclub pay a little bit more money so that we can, lower car registration for regular folks? Absolutely. Should a person with enough disposable income to spend $500 on a festival ticket, not pay a little bit more so that we can fund a sales tax holiday for families to buy school supplies for their kids? Of course we should.
Why does Donald Trump pay less in his corporate property taxes than most Nevadans pay on their personal property taxes? It’s not right. Why, when everyone from the Chamber of Commerce to the Guinn Institute says that Nevada needs to grow into the 21st century, do we still refuse to do the work that can make that happen?
Why when Southern Nevada is the economic engine that drives our state, do we all too often find ourselves fighting amongst each other to recognize the simple fact that southern Nevada is growing. It needs a different type of investment and infrastructure than other areas of the state. It doesn’t make Southern Nevada any better than the Rurals, or Northern Nevada. It just makes it different, with different needs, and different responsibilities to help us grow.
We must make Southern Nevada a priority this session, because when Southern Nevada grows, ALL of Nevada grows. That starts with investment that we’ve been fighting for for years at UNLV. With projects such the Global Business District which would be an economic boom for Las Vegas and put us as the top convention destination in the world.
The time is now over for talk. We must make the hard choices, so that we don’t continue to hide the problems with a budget to small to fix anything, but large enough to look like something is getting done in a TV ad. We must make the hard choices, because it’s the right thing to do. I am optimistic that Nevada’s best days are ahead. But I am also under no illusions it happens because we click our heels and hope. It happens because we stop the political games and we make the hard choices with bold leadership.
We do it so we can say, we did it for the Las Vegas service worker that is just finishing up her second shift so she can go home and spend more time with her young son, who came home from a school that is finally improving.
We do it for the teacher in North Las Vegas who chose their profession for pride, not profit, that now has a classroom where every student has the attention they need, and the tools they deserve.
We do it for the new technology worker in Reno, who has had the red tape cut and the ability to start their own business without government interference, but instead now has government’s support, helping him or her get ideas to the marketplace fast enough to compete not just locally, but globally.
And we do it, so that all Nevadans can participate in a new Nevada, where our children’s futures will be brighter than ever.
Democrats are at the table, ready to work, we’ve always been at the table and ready to work, and we will continue to be throughout this legislative session. The test will be seeing who is there with us, with serious proposals for our state and open-minded exchanges over policies. Because when it comes to down to the moment, every Nevadan will know who is talking the talk or walking the walking. Who really has put in the hard work. Who has the best interests of the state in mind. You can try to lie to them, but you’ll know and so will they.
I’m Marilyn Kirkpatrick, I thank you and I invite you join me in getting to work for all Nevadans.