What Sandoval should say

As Gov. Brian Sandoval prepares for his biennial State of the State next week, here’s the speech I wish he’d give:

My fellow Nevadans,

I’m ready to lead our state through the painful and difficult challenges ahead.

In Nevada, as in America, the gap between the very rich and the rest of us is wider than any time since the Gilded Age. It’s no accident that the poor in Nevada pay 10 percent of their income in taxes, while the rich pay 1.5 percent. The ultra-wealthy use large campaign contributions laundered through ever-increasing and creative Political Action Committees to create even greater political muscle to protect their economic might.

Some call this a system of legalized bribery, as contributors later demand tax perks, lax oversight and special interest legislation as the price of their support. We all turn a blind eye to it, insisting money buys access but never a vote. But we are all complicit if we ignore this fundamental flaw in our political system as we watch unlimited campaign contributions destroy our ability to make decisions based on the long-term health of our state.

Therefore Secretary of State Ross Miller and I will join forces with legislative leadership to sponsor major campaign finance reform and end the money laundering of “leadership” PACs that collect unlimited contributions and dole them out to caucus members. Let’s change the political culture in Nevada and set an example for the country by enacting publicly funded campaigns.

The truth is that after years of significant budget cuts, the state of our state is dismal on many fronts.

The traditional gateway to a better life, educational attainment, is no longer available for many children. Our public schools are starved of funding, and the middle class is being priced out of higher education.

There’s no funding to fix leaky roofs or buy smart technology. But Nevada does have the money. We choose to allow our broken tax system to export it to foreign and out-of-state corporations instead of investing it in our children.

Our jails and prisons provide more mental health treatment than our state programs. Administrators have requested solutions like a 24-hour urgent care center in Las Vegas to take the pressure off emergency rooms and direct the severely mentally ill to more appropriate services.

Despite this clear and urgent need, I did not include this $7.5 million program in my proposed budget, leaving it to languish on a list of “Items of Special Consideration,” which really should be subtitled “Items Nevada Really Needs but Can’t Afford” because we’d rather subscribe to the myth that zero corporate taxes will bring us prosperity.

Nevada ranks dead last in per capita public spending. I call on the Legislature to pass SJR 15 immediately before the mining lobbyists have time to descend upon you. Let the voters decide if Nevada should reap a portion of their windfall profits since we have to endure the pillaging and pollution of our public lands and the ghost towns left behind when the gold is gone.

Nevada is a great place to live and work. We don’t need subsidies or other carrots for tax-dodging corporations who play state against state in their race to the bottom. Let’s enact real tax reform based on studies from the last 60 years that tell us a broad-based business tax is an essential component of a healthy state tax system.

And let’s make Las Vegas the Marriage Equality Capital of the world by passing legislation to repeal the arcane and discriminatory anti-gay marriage amendment and replace it with a law that allows all committed, loving couples the same right to marry that straight couples enjoy.

Let’s grow up Nevada! I promise to lead you down a new path to prosperity and equality.