It feels so good when they stop.
With the state Legislature finally adjourned, it’s time to survey the carnage. And there was plenty of carnage in this session marked by Republican intraparty mudslinging.
First, let’s cue the band because everybody involved will be throwing themselves a victory parade. Some of it may even be deserved.
Certainly Gov. Brian Sandoval deserves high marks for delivering a breakthrough of potentially epic proportion in redefining Nevada’s education system.
We’ll pass on all the back-slapping over a compromise that creates the state’s largest-ever tax increase. By all accounts, it was the best deal that could be reached without jeopardizing the end goal of education reform. But it falls well short of the advertised overhaul of the state’s twisted tax structure. Worse, the governor knows it and choose to spend his time and efforts in off-stage deal-making rather than finding the right answer.
That means we’ll be right back here in two years with a whole new political calculus and conflicting expert testimony on whether a sales tax on services would make life better. We’re betting a strategy that seeks to introduce such a tax as a revenue-neutral adjustment that allows lowering the general sales tax would have legs. But if backers get greedy and try to impose a fix while increasing taxes, there could well be a nuclear winter that only the tea party could love.
I’m also troubled by the last-minute deal that reversed a decision to end prevailing wage policies on public school construction. It’s interesting that Democrats wanted that concession as the price for not toying with Sandoval’s tax compromise. No surprise that Democrats wanted something for the construction unions. But is that the one they really want to see in the next round of campaign mailers?
Sure, weakening unions is a hot button for conservative Republicans. But hiking the cost of each school means fewer new schools, which hurts the teachers, another Democratic constituency. And those same teachers are likely smarting from a shredding of their job protections.
It’s a tricky calculation and not one that seems to produce any real winners. Things like that just shouldn’t happen, even in the closing hours of a session.
On a happier note, UNLV made some real progress. It came away with full funding pledges for both the medical school and the new building for the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration. That’s epic and, 20 years from now, may be seen as a more profound improvement in Las Vegas life than the rest of the education changes.
We’re certainly rooting for Dean Stowe Shoemaker to realize every bit of his vision of UNLV as the pre-eminent hospitality school in the world. The market is right; the energy and skill are there; now the resources are in place and the finish line is in sight.
For Barbara Atkinson, the planning dean for UNLV’s School of Medicine, the race is just beginning. She — and everyone else involved in lobbying for the full $27 million in funding — stayed silent on the important question of where the school would be located. That was a good strategy that kept the Southern Nevada delegation focused on the prize.
Now the fighting turns inward as developers, educators, politicians and medical professionals start throwing elbows. As proponents kept pointing out, this school will be an economic catalyst and everybody would like it in their part of town.
The Metro Chamber of Commerce is officially neutral on the siting question. But after the beating the chamber took over its inability to articulate a meaningful position on Sandoval’s tax plans, it seems unlikely it will sit out this one. It needs to show it hasn’t lost its voice or its clout.
Should the school land in the medical district, somewhere near University Medical Center where there is a none-too-binding memorandum of understanding in place? Or should it be near Sunrise Hospital as part of a much discussed resurrection of the Maryland Parkway corridor? Or maybe part of the Union Village health care-focused project in Henderson? How about near the Veterans Hospital, where learning synergies might exist?
There are lots of good arguments here but only one will be a winner.
Let the games begin.