by Las Vegas Review-Journal Editorial Board, January 7, 2023
If Gov. Joe Lombardo accomplishes even half of what he laid out in his inauguration speech last week, he’ll have a very successful tenure.
Gov. Lombardo took office on Monday, followed by a public ceremony on Tuesday. His upcoming State of the State address will offer more details, but his first remarks offered Nevadans a glimpse of how he proposes to lead. While it’s early, Gov. Lombardo sounds committed to the promises made by candidate Lombardo. That’s refreshing.
He listed “personal responsibility, fiscal discipline and limited government interference” as ideals to preserve. That’s a welcome contrast to the Sisolak administration, which, with the help of legislative Democrats, greatly expanded the size and scope of state government.
The upcoming legislative session will present an immediate opportunity for the new governor to demonstrate fiscal discipline. The Economic Forum projects that Nevada will have more than $2 billion to spend over the current biennium’s budget, a significant increase. Undoubtedly, there will be many bureaucracies and special-interest groups eager to get a chunk of that money.
But that would be shortsighted. A recession in 2023 or 2024 is a real possibility. If visitor volumes decline, particularly in Las Vegas, future tax collections will suffer. Better to save for a rainy day than increase baseline budgets by spending now and have to cut later. If Gov. Lombardo allows legislative Democrats to blow out the budget, he’ll be setting Nevada taxpayers up for the slaughter. That would run counter to his commitment to hold the line on taxes, which he called “a promise I shall keep.”
On education, the governor said, “I will pursue my top priorities of expanding school choice and improving school security.”
Both of these are important. Empowering parents to explore the best educational options for their children is vital to attacking Nevada’s dismal achievement numbers. In states around the country, choice programs have produced academic gains for all students. Competition is a powerful motivating factor. School choice incentivizes school administrators and teacher unions to work together to make things better for students.
Unfortunately, Democrats have shown more fealty to their teacher union allies than to kids struggling academically who need options. But school choice is broadly popular with the public. Gov. Lombardo should draw a clear contrast with Democrats if they refuse to engage on this issue.
He’s likely to find bipartisan support for strengthening school discipline. Trying to find alternatives to expulsions and suspensions is a noble goal, but so-called “restorative justice” hasn’t worked. Students need a safe environment in which to learn and those who disrupt that process need to understand there are consequences for their actions. Both political parties should have an interest in promoting campus safety.
On the downside, Gov. Lombardo said little about the importance of transparency. His aversion to open records was a serious liability during his tenure as Clark County sheriff. He’s now leading the state executive branch. He must make it clear to both his office and his agencies that he will demand a commitment to accessibility and accountability.
Gov. Lombardo will have plenty of challenges, particularly governing as a Republican with a Legislature dominated by Democrats. But his inaugural comments emphasized many important points and provide reason for optimism.