Slingblade of the State address
By 5 p.m. Monday, the news media was in full force outside the Nevada Legislature, with coiffed TV reporters doing stand-ups in the lawn. Protestors, advocates for Nevada schools, chanted, carrying signs that said “Failed State.”
“Kids?” “Yes!” “Cuts?” “No!”
Some 3.5 busloads of pro-education, pro-human services protestors headed to Carson City for newly elected Gov. Brian Sandoval’s State of the State address.
Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada worked the microphone.
“Corporate taxes?” “Yes!” “Cuts?” “No!”
Two teens stood on the outskirts, interest piqued. Alex Cerny, 17, and Justin Floyd, 18, slapped Failed State stickers on shirts. Invited into the legislative building, though, they hesitated. “They’d let us in?”
True, they weren’t dressed in ties and black suits like the zillions of lobbyists (paid and unpaid), legislators (paid, but barely) and reporters (paid), walking with authority into Nevada’s lawmaking nexus.
The teens helped PLAN organizers carry signs to cars. As he walked off, Floyd sang, “Ain’t no power like the power of the people. The power of the people don’t stop.”
After this high point, the night careened downhill quickly.
Assembly chambers were packed with legislative aides, family members and lobbyists. A lobbyist near me said he prefers to be called an “advocate.”
A few marched outside to represent the Tea Party’s coalition of taxes-suck lobbyists. No need, really. No-tax rhetoric ruled the day. Folks want to believe that large businesses and jobs will magically come to Nevada attracted by our low, low tax burden. It hasn’t worked yet. Giving away the cow, milk and all, doesn’t seem to be landing a job for Joe Nevada. And now Joe’s kids can enjoy Sandoval’s new improved school system, where they’ll repeat third grade until they learn to read—with or without teachers, apparently. Applause.
Reading is important and easy-peasy to teach to huge third grade classes. The problem is bad teachers. The problem is teachers’ unions, who hate reading but love bad teachers and want to pay them tens of dollars. Good teachers should work for tips—and so the governor has provided $20 million in “performance pay” for them.
That said, Sandoval got a standing ovation for “saving” the Millennium Scholarship with, um, $10 million.
Forget history. Let’s talk math. Sandoval choked out the bad news: Evildoers wanted to “increase” the state budget by 34 percent. A bit misleading, here, as this percentage merely puts the budget back about where it was after only four rounds of amputations. How quickly missing limbs feel normal.
In his oddest rhetorical move, Sandoval referred to the education system as broken, then proceeded to give it a few swift whacks, stabs and kicks by defunding it further, citing dismal graduation rates. Apparently past rounds of budget cuts, year after year after year, have not improved graduation rates. They say you can’t “throw money” at a problem. You get what you pay for.
Sandoval’s solution to stumped universities? Regents can raise tuition. Keep bums outta college. The gov harbors little affection for college professors who teach non-market-friendly things like, say, literature. So much for reading. Go technology. Applause.
Sandoval’s fantasy—attracting gigantic tech and green energy companies to Nevada. He loves the plan so much that he’s expanding government to create a public-private partnership (nimble!) to wine, dine and provide hot stone massages ($10 million for this) to business execs clamoring to set up shop in the Silver State.
Sandoval read his speech almost verbatim, though he gave the state budget deficit at $1.2 million, meaning $1.2 billion—both erroneous. After proudly declaring that he’d buy stock in Nevada, he assured us, “It’s true!”