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Maryland’s government is embracing an alternative way to monitor the state’s well-being called the Genuine Progress Indicator, which brings depth to the analysis of the state’s economic growth.
Tent cities and shacks sprung up on empty lots across the country. Food lines at soup kitchens wrapped around city blocks. Unemployment soared to 25 percent. Farmers watched helplessly as crop prices plummeted, then lost their land. The evidence was clear, yet at the height of the Great Depression, Congress lacked the tools to accurately measure just how the economy as a whole was faring. With no commonly accepted national income data, they had no guideposts upon which to base sound economic policy.
And so Congress turned to a young and promising Russian-American economist. U.S. lawmakers asked Professor Simon Kuznets of the National Bureau of Economic Research, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in economics, to develop a data set to assess the state of the national economy. In 1937, Kuznets presented a vast volume of data on income to Congress. It became the Gross National Product (GNP).
With remarkable foresight and humility, Kuznets warned that his newly minted GNP shouldn’t be used as an instrument of social policy. It could never adequately measure the things we value, he said, such as housework or caring for elderly parents. Nor, he warned, could the GNP distinguish between the growth of good and bad jobs. The data would be the same if workers earned their pay from employers who endangered their lives or guarded their health and safety. “Goals for more growth should be more growth of what and for what,” Kuznets said.
Alas, Kuznets’ warnings on the GNP — later renamed the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — went unheeded. Instead, the GDP became the barometer of health not only for the U.S. economy, but for the entire global economy.
More than 70 years later, the desirability of GDP growth is so entrenched in our national and international discourse that it’s hard to imagine it any other way. The revered indicator’s expansion or contraction can swing national elections. Conversely, talk of GDP declines can drive a country to war.
During tough economic times such as these, it’s particularly surprising to have a leader bucking the tide. Yet Martin O’Malley is doing just that. Maryland’s governor is the first in the United States to embrace a set of alternative indicators that bring depth to the analysis of his state’s economic growth. Under O’Malley’s leadership, the state’s officials are now gathering and annually updating economic, social, and environmental data that help measure the overall wellbeing of Maryland’s citizens.
The 26 underlying indicators, which collectively comprise the “Genuine Progress Indicator,” are a more meaningful gauge of the overall economic health and wellbeing of Maryland residents than standard economic measuring sticks. For example, the state tracks things like volunteerism, time spent with family and loved ones, and air quality in its quest to gauge its real progress. These indicators may lack concrete economic value, but studies show they help make a society more healthy and vibrant.
GPI assesses what’s left behind when the “gross product” expands. Is the landscape more or less toxic than before? Is the air and water cleaner or dirtier? How well-educated is the populace? Is public transportation decent? Is crime more common? Are too many people spending more time commuting to jobs than at home with their kids?
Maryland leads the nation in measuring overall societal wellbeing through the GPI, but there are similar efforts underway elsewhere in the United States, as well as in Canada, France, and even Bhutan. Yes, Bhutan, a tiny country nestled in the Himalayan mountains. There, “gross domestic happiness” carries more weight than the gross domestic product.
It’s time to recall Kuznets’ warnings about the limitations of the GDP and to pick up where he left off by embracing a new set of tools that will help shape good social, environmental, and economic policy — not just for Maryland, but for our entire country and the world.
Daphne Wysham is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, where she’s conducting research around ways in which alternative metrics to the GDP, such as Maryland’s "Genuine Progress Indicator," can be used to build a more sustainable society. www.ips-dc.org Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)
— by Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton
In recent weeks Republican state legislators have decided to thwart the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in “Roe v. Wade,” which gave women the right to have an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually around 24 weeks into pregnancy.
Legislators in North Dakota passed a bill banning abortions after six weeks or after a fetal heart beat had been detected, and approved a fall referendum that would ban all abortions by defining human life as beginning with conception. Lawmakers in Arkansas have banned abortions within twelve weeks of conception.
The morality brigade worries about fetuses, but not what happens to children after they’re born. They and other conservatives have been cutting funding for child nutrition, healthcare for infants and their mothers, and schools.
The new House Republican budget gets a big chunk of its savings from programs designed to help poor kids. The budget sequester already in effect takes aim at programs like Head Start, designed to improve the life chances of disadvantaged children.
Meanwhile, the morality brigade continues to battle same-sex marriage.
Despite the Supreme Court’s willingness to consider the constitutionality of California’s ban, no one should assume a majority of the justices will strike it down. The Court could just as easily decide the issue is up to the states, or strike down California’s law while allowing other states to continue their bans.
Conservative moralists don’t want women to have control over their bodies or same-sex couples to marry, but they don’t give a hoot about billionaires taking over our democracy for personal gain or big bankers taking over our economy.
Yet these violations of public morality are far more dangerous to our society because they undermine the public trust that’s essential to both our democracy and economy.
Three years ago, at the behest of a right-wing group called “Citizen’s United,” the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in politics by deciding corporations were “people” under the First Amendment.
A record $12 billion was spent on election campaigns in 2012, affecting all levels of government. Much of it came from billionaires like the Koch brothers and casino-magnate Sheldon Adelson —seeking fewer regulations, lower taxes, and weaker trade unions.
They didn’t entirely succeed but the billionaires established a beachhead for the midterm elections of 2014 and beyond.
Yet where is the morality brigade when it comes to these moves to take over our democracy?
Among the worst violators of public morality have been executives and traders on Wall Street.
Last week, JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank, was found to have misled its shareholders and the public about its $6 billion “London Whale” losses in 2012.
This is the same JPMorgan that’s lead the charge against the Dodd-Frank Act, designed to protect the public from another Wall Street meltdown and taxpayer-funded bailout.
Lobbyists for the giant banks have been systematically taking the teeth out of Dodd-Frank, leaving nothing but the gums.
The so-called “Volcker Rule,” intended to prevent the banks from making risky bets with federally-insured commercial deposits – itself a watered-down version of the old Glass-Steagall Act – still hasn’t seen the light of day.
Last week, Republicans and Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee passed bills to weaken Dodd-Frank – expanding exemptions and allowing banks that do their derivative trading in other countries (i.e., JPMorgan) to avoid the new rules altogether.
Meanwhile, House Republicans voted to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act in its entirety, as part of their budget plan.
And still no major Wall Street executives have been held accountable for the wild betting that led to the near meltdown in 2008. Attorney General Eric Holder says the big banks are too big to prosecute.
Why doesn’t the morality brigade complain about the rampant greed on the Street that’s already brought the economy to its knees, wiping out the savings of millions of Americans and subjecting countless others to joblessness and insecurity — and seems set on doing it again?
What people do in their bedrooms shouldn’t be the public’s business. Women should have rights over their own bodies. Same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.
But what powerful people do in their boardrooms is the public’s business. Our democracy needs to be protected from the depredations of big money. Our economy needs to be guarded against the excesses of too-big-to-fail banks.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License
Robert Reich, one of the nation’s leading experts on work and the economy, is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. Time Magazine has named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including his latest best-seller,Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future; The Work of Nations; Locked in the Cabinet; Supercapitalism; and his newest, Beyond Outrage. His syndicated columns, television appearances, and public radio commentaries reach millions of people each week. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and Chairman of the citizen’s group Common Cause. His widely-read blog can be found at http://www.robertreich.org.
Veena Trehan, Op-Ed: Fifty years ago, Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique” explained how wives were not fulfilled by homemaking and childbearing. Woman couldn’t get credit, were fired when their pregnancy showed and held mostly assistant or teaching positions in the 1960s. We’ve come a long way. Today, women comprise 58 percent of college students, 33 percent more college graduates than men, and a strong presence in most industries. Yet, they make up only 20 percent of Congress, 4 percent of Fortune 500 companies’ CEOs, and 15 percent of senior executives.
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: In case you’re not familiar, the Monsanto Protection Act is the name given to what’s known as a legislative rider that was inserted into the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill. Using the deceptive title of Farmer Assurance Provision, Sec. 735 of this bill actually grants Monsanto the immunity from federal courts pending the review of any GM crop that is thought to be dangerous. Under the section, courts would be helpless to stop Monsanto from continuing to plant GM crops that are thought even by the US government to be a danger to health or the environment.
William Astore, Op-Ed: Today’s unmanned aerial vehicles, most famously Predator and Reaper drones, have been celebrated as the culmination of the longtime dreams of airpower enthusiasts, offering the possibility of victory through quick, clean and selective destruction. Those drones, so the (very old) story goes, assure the U.S. military of command of the high ground and so provide the royal road to a speedy and decisive triumph over helpless enemies below. Fantasies about the certain success of air power in transforming, even ending, war as we know it arose with the plane itself.
Nina Rogozen, News Report: Millions of Americans lack adequate health care, using emergency rooms as a costly alternative or getting no care at all. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), often called “Obamacare,” opened the door for an affordable option. The December 31, 2012 deal between Congress and the administration that avoided the so-called “fiscal cliff” has, at least for the moment, closed that door for 26 states. The ACA funds private, nonprofit health insurers called Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans—CO-OPs. It originally set aside $3.4 billion for low-interest loans—seed money for at least one health cooperative in each state, plus Washington, D.C.
Amy Goodman, Video Interview: As Washington lawmakers pushes new austerity measures, economist Richard Wolff calls for a radical restructuring of the U.S. economic and financial systems. We talk about the $85 billion budget cuts as part of the sequester, banks too big to fail, Congress’ failure to learn the lessons of the 2008 economic collapse and his new book, “Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.” Wolff also gives FOX news host Bill O’Reilly a lesson in economics 101.
Paul Buchheit, Op-Ed: The first step is to learn the facts, and then to get angry and to ask ourselves as progressives and caring human beings, what we can do about the relentless transfer of wealth to a small group of well-positioned Americans. End the capital gains giveaway, which benefits the wealthy almost exclusively. Institute a Financial Speculation Tax; both to raise needed funds from a currently untaxed subsidy on stock purchases and to reduce the risk of the irresponsible trading that nearly brought down the economy.
Ian Millhiser, News Report: Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear the first of two cases which could end discrimination against same-sex couples and ensure that all Americans can marry the person they love. Whatever happens in those two cases, one thing is all but certain: Justice Antonin Scalia will vote to maintain marriage discrimination and he will spend much of this week’s oral arguments making insulting comments about LGBT Americans. After the offensive things Scalia compared homosexuality to in his past opinions, Scalia concludes his Lawrence dissent with a plea that he is not in the least bit anti-gay. “Let me be clear,” Scalia writes, “that I have nothing against homosexuals.”
Yuriko Koike, Op-Ed: When the consequences of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq ten years ago are fully assessed, the importance of the subsequent rise of political Islam there—and throughout the wider Middle East—may well pale in comparison to that of a geostrategic shift that no one foresaw at the time. That shift, however, has now come into view. With America approaching energy self-sufficiency, a U.S. strategic disengagement from the region may become a reality. China’s dependence on Middle East energy imports means that it is almost certain to seek to fill any regional security vacuum.
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: Thanks to corporate loopholes and profit-driven manufacturers, it’s harder than ever to really know what you are putting into your body — or perhaps even more importantly the mouths of your children. That said, it is possible to make sure you’re getting what is not just labeled organic and shipped from a contaminated facility in China, but actually high quality. The fact of the matter is that the decision to switch to organic food is one that signifies a serious change in lifestyle across the board, leading to a wealth of information and serious optimizations for your health.
News Report: One month after the largest climate rally in U.S. history urging President Obama to deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline’s northern segment, protesters in dozens of cities throughout the U.S. are confronting Keystone XL’s corporate backers directly. Thirty-seven have been arrested over the last 10 days for disrupting business as usual at TransCanada and their investors’ offices, with more actions planned over the next couple of days.
Robert J. Shiller, Op-Ed: With much of the global economy apparently trapped in a long and painful austerity-induced slump, it is time to admit that the trap is entirely of our own making. We have constructed it from unfortunate habits of thought about how to handle spiraling public debt. People developed these habits on the basis of the experiences of their families and friends: when in debt trouble, one must cut spending and pass through a period of austerity until the burden (debt relative to income) is reduced.
Igor Volsky, News Report: During a roundtable discussion on Friday, Fox News’ Lou Dobbs agreed with a network contributor who argued that Americans need to access military-style assault weapons to protect themselves from an Iranian invasion. “What scares the hell out of me we have a president, as we were discussing during break, that wants to take away our guns, but yet he wants to attack Iran and Syria. So if they come and attack us here, we don’t have the right to bear arms under this Obama administration,” Angela McGlowan, a former lobbyist for News Corp., said in the midst of a conversation about violence in Syria.
Jim Lobe, News Report: Defense establishments around the world increasingly see climate change as posing potentially serious threats to national and international security, according to a review of high-level statements by the world’s governments released here Thursday. The review, “The Global Security Defense Index on Climate Change: Preliminary Results,” found that nearly three out of four governments for which relevant information is available view the possible effects of climate change as a serious national security issue.
Michael Beckel, News Analysis: Natural gas executive James Willard Kinzer of Kentucky is one of more than 100 small business owners listed online as supporting Curtis Bostic, the former Charleston County council member who appears to have advanced to a runoff against former Gov. Mark Sanford following Tuesday’s 16-way GOP primary in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. But he’s much more than that. Not only did Kinzer donate the legal maximum to Bostic’s underdog campaign, he pumped $30,000 into a pro-Bostic super PAC called the “Coastal Conservative Fund.”
Amy Goodman, Video Feature: A shocking new report has been released by The Guardian newspaper and BBC Arabic detailing how the United States armed and trained Iraqi police commando units that ran torture centers and death squads. It’s a story that stretches from the U.S.-backed involvement in Latin America to the imprisoned Army whistleblower Bradley Manning. Amy Goodman is joined by Chief Reporter Maggie O’Kane
Dave Johnson, Op-Ed: The executives who run the giant multinationals want to be let off the hook for paying taxes on profits they make outside our borders. As an Apple executive said to The New York Times, giant multinationals “don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems.” And to prove it, American corporations are holding $1.7 trillion in profits outside the country—just sitting there—rather than bringing that money home, paying the taxes due and then paying it out to shareholders or using it to “create jobs” with new factories, research facilities and equipment.
Bill Moyers, Video Interview: Sheila Bair, the longtime Republican who served as chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) during the fiscal meltdown five years ago, joins to talk about American banks’ continuing risky and manipulative practices, their seeming immunity from prosecution and growing anger from Congress and the public. Also, Richard Wolff, whose smart, blunt talk about the crisis of capitalism the first time around now answers questions sent in by viewers, diving further into economic inequality, the limitations of industry regulation and the widening gap between a booming stock market and a population that increasingly lives in poverty.
Carl Gibson, Op-Ed: Kentuckians live by the phrase, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” It’s emblazoned on our flag, and shows two men, a frontiersman (Daniel Boone) and a statesman (Henry Clay) standing together. They may be standing on opposite sides of the seal, but their embrace symbolizes a spirit of cooperation and caring for your fellow man even though you may sometimes disagree with him. Yet, as Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell proudly announced that his chief goal as the top Republican member was not to create jobs or help schools or look out for struggling middle class, but to deny President Obama a second term.
Anthony Gucciardi, News Report: Whether or not the FDA chooses to approve genetically modified salmon for sale in the marketplace, supermarkets themselves have decided to take a stand in the form of a mass boycott. One that would serve to crush the profits of the unlabeled seafood abomination. In a move that signifies the growing opposition to genetically modified creations from a grassroots level all the way to corporate understanding of consumer demand, chains like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and others are now all reporting that they will refuse the sale of AquaBounty Technology’s modified salmon.
William Boardman, News Report: The F-35 is a case study of government failure at all levels—civilian and military, federal, state, local, even airport authority. Not one critical government agency is meeting its obligation to protect the people it presumably represents. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who wrote the F-35 critique above, is hardly unique as an illustration of how government fails, but he sees no alternative to failure. The F-35 is a nuclear-capable weapon of mass destruction that was supposed to be the “fighter of the future” when it was undertaken in 2001.
Washington should do more than the minimum on minimum wage.
— by Jim Hightower
“In the wealthiest nation on Earth,” President Barack Obama declared in his State of the Union speech, “no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.”
Right! Not only does his call to raise America’s minimum wage put some real pop in populism, but it could finally start putting some ethics back in our country’s much-celebrated, (but rarely honored) “work ethic.”
Kudos to Obama for putting good economics and good morals together — and for putting this long overdue increase on the front burner.
But then came the number: $9 an hour. Excuse me, Mr. President, but that means a person who “works full-time” would nonetheless “have to live in poverty.” Yes, nine bucks is a buck-seventy-five better than the current pay, but it’s still a poverty wage. It doesn’t even elevate the buying power of our wage floor back to where it was in 1968.
This isn’t merely about extending a badly needed helping hand to people struggling to work their way out of poverty, but about letting them give a jolt of new energy to our economy, which it desperately needs.
Ironically, the rich save and the poor spend. While super-rich corporations are hoarding trillions of dollars in offshore accounts and refusing to invest in America, minimum-wage workers invest every extra dollar they get in America — spending it right where they live on clothing, food, health care, and other basic needs.
A 2011 Federal Reserve study found that a one-dollar hike in the minimum wage produces an additional $2,800 a year in spending by each of those households. This is no time to shortchange these workers.
Yes, I know that GOP lawmakers and corporate lobbyists oppose even a $9 wage. But a poll last June found that seven out of 10 Americans (including a majority of Republicans), support raising the wage above $10 an hour. This is a time, Mr. President, to think big and listen to the grassroots.
Hello, I am Sen. Mo Denis, majority leader of the Nevada State Senate.
I appreciate the opportunity to give the response to Gov. Sandoval’s State of the State speech.
On behalf of Speaker (Marilyn) Kirkpatrick and myself, I wish to welcome the new members of the Nevada Legislature. This upcoming session will include one of the biggest changes to our Legislature in the history of our state.
We thank the new members for committing their skills and time to our citizen Legislature.
Additionally, we wish to thank Gov. Sandoval for his open-door policy as Speaker Kirkpatrick and I transition as the new leaders of the Nevada Legislature.
We agree with the governor on many issues, and we share his deep concern for the well-being of Nevada’s citizens. We are thankful for his integrity and commitment to working together to solve our problems.
This year we lost two stalwarts from our Legislature. Assemblywoman Gene Segerblom passed away recently, and earlier this year we lost Sen. Bill Raggio. I am humbled and honored to serve in his footsteps, and will work hard to continue Sen. Raggio’s legacy of fighting for Nevadans. We will miss Gene and Bill terribly.
I also want to take a moment to thank the many brave members of our Armed Services. I’m proud Nevada is home to so many world-class military institutions like Nellis Air Force Base and Fallon Naval Air Station. I also wish to thank the members of our Legislature who have served in our Armed Forces.
As Nevadans, we share a common desire to make our lives better for ourselves and for our families and neighbors. We have struggled together; yet continue to help one another, as we strive to achieve the American dream.
Like many of my fellow citizen legislators, I never planned on becoming a public servant. In fact, I am the son of Cuban immigrants who came to this great land of opportunity to better provide for their family.
My parents instilled in me a great love for this great country but also for this wonderful state. I serve because I feel a debt for all the marvelous blessings that have been given to my family and me.
As a father, I became involved in my community after my first child was born. My early involvement included working with the PTA, where I first met Speaker Kirkpatrick, who was also involved in the PTA.
We both had the opportunity to meet with parents, teachers and business leaders who wanted to make things better for our children; we wanted to help transform our education system. The biggest concern amongst parents then, as it is now, is the education of our children.
During the 2011 session, Gov. Sandoval proposed significant amounts of cuts to our schools. This year he is promising the world, but his policies won’t change our schools soon enough.
His plan fails at providing immediate relief to our middle-class families.
A quality education and paying their fair share are two of the biggest issues facing our middle class, and yet our schools are not providing the tools our children need to succeed and the middle class are asked to pay more than their fair share to support our state’s budget.
What’s worse, with very little new revenue, we don’t know how the governor plans to pay for these expenditures while cutting taxes. Let me be clear, the governor is proposing to cut taxes on 2,700 businesses in the state while raising the sales tax on middle-class families.
We disagree with this approach. It places more of the burden on middle-class families while giving businesses even more generous tax breaks.
Tonight, we also heard from the governor about the graduating class of 2023.
What about the graduating class of 2015?
Middle-class families need immediate relief, not long-term promises. The governor’s budget isn’t going to help kids like my son, who’s forced to sit in a crowded classroom, where his teacher is dividing her attention between 35 students.
Also, our schools need to be fully funded before we start subsidizing private schools.
While we agree with the governor that it is irresponsible to just throw money at our schools and hope for the best, we must make a bigger investment in our children’s futures by implementing educational policies and programs that have proven to improve students’ proficiency and graduation rates today and not just kick the can down the road for two more years.
Since 1990, our graduation rates have dropped 20.7 percent. Our students rank below the national average for proficiency in reading and math and below regional states.
We have seen tremendous gains in proficiencies over the last few years but we have a long way to go. Some students in Clark County high schools are sitting on the floor because of excessive class sizes.
Gov. Sandoval’s proposed “modest” increase in education spending from last year is not sufficient to make up the hundreds of millions of cuts that have been made over the last four years. This is unacceptable, not just to our current students but to the future of our state.
Democrats in the Assembly and Senate are proposing a series of policies that have proven to effectively improve our educational system. We are proposing the following:
1. Implement a pre-K system for all at-risk students.
2. Fund a full-day kindergarten in all public schools.
3. Smaller class sizes.
4. End social promotion before the third grade.
5. Change the K-12 funding formula.
These proposals are common-sense solutions that need to be implemented now and not phased in over several years. Our students, our families and our businesses have waited long enough.
We are committed to continuing to work with the governor and our colleagues in both houses and parties to build a better Nevada. It is the fair thing to do for our students and for our middle-class families.
Improving our schools is key to creating new jobs right in Nevada. All Nevadans win when our kids succeed. Schools are the incubators that will help bring the high-tech and biotech jobs of the future.
In 2011, the governor stated that he doesn’t believe it is government’s responsibility to create jobs. We agree, it is government’s responsibility to create an environment in which jobs and businesses flourish.
We are told that taxes are too high and thus, stifle job growth. I agree, taxes are too high on the middle-class and poor. Yet, other states in the Western United States have higher tax rates and have seen larger job growth.
Last year, Nevada created less than 20,000 new jobs.
By comparison, Utah created 41,000 jobs, California created almost 400,000, Arizona nearly 53,000 and almost 54,000 new jobs were created in Colorado.
Again, it goes back to education. Job creators see the quality of the schools in those states and have chosen to relocate there. To maintain our status quo and only invest a modest amount more in education is troubling, given what other states are doing.
Nevada will continue to fail its residents if we don’t compete in our investment in education and economic development. Too many Nevadans are still unemployed and too many homes are still being foreclosed upon.
Democrats and Republicans must move beyond political rhetoric aimed at winning the next election and instead think outside of the box in order to create more jobs and growth here in Nevada. We must work together to find solutions.
Better schools grow and bring better jobs. There is no getting around this fact. High-tech, engineering, computer science and biotech industries are the good-paying jobs of the future that require a world-class education, and there is no reason we should shrink from that challenge.
I join my colleagues in the Assembly in saying we must create short-term solutions and create a long-term vision for economic development in Nevada.
Our colleagues in the Assembly Democratic caucus released their jobs plan, “Nevada Jobs First,” and I will be working with them to pass these common-sense proposals, aimed at providing immediate relief to our working families.
• They have proposed giving contractor-bidding preferences as long as their materials and workers come from Nevada.
• We can also work to team up business with the state’s higher education system and invest in programs that train the types of workers our Economic Development office has determined we need.
While Nevada remains one of the great tourist destinations in the world, we can no longer expect to sustain a vibrant future by asking resorts to provide all the jobs and revenue for our state. It is irresponsible to do so.
A strong health care system also creates a good environment for job growth, and we applaud the governor’s decision to expand Medicaid in Nevada, under President (Barack) Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
The Silver State Exchange will help improve the lives of the disadvantaged, and we commend the governor on his leadership in moving this forward.
We also need to ensure we have a dedicated public workforce — and while we applaud the governor’s proposed reductions in furloughs, it restores less than one-fourth of their pay and benefits. We can’t continue to ask our employees to do more with less, or else we risk our ability to recruit and retain our valuable public employees.
One of our greatest responsibilities as a society is to protect our most vulnerable.
Yet, the governor’s policies have been devastating to families with children with autism or mental and physical disabilities. Senior citizens have seen their services cut as well.
We cannot provide the services necessary for our vulnerable populations if we do not adequately fund social services.
Again, middle-class families were hurt by these cuts and will continue to suffer. Middle-class families rely on these social services to help their special-needs children, to help their parents as they age and to assist our veterans as they transition to civilian life.
Additionally, we must make a greater effort increasing our standard of ethics for political candidates and elected officials. We will work together with Republicans to create solutions and restore citizens’ trust in their government.
Tonight you have heard many ideas about what we would like to see done differently here in Nevada. Throughout the legislative session, Speaker Kirkpatrick and I will be introducing a series of proposals designed to “Build a Better Nevada.”
Our goal is to introduce common-sense solutions to our many problems. We hope the governor and our Republican colleagues can join us in supporting our policies of investing in education, economic development, funding of social services and ethics reform.
But we cannot implement these plans on the backs of the middle class.
Nor can we ask tourists and our resort industry to pay more for these investments.
We cannot ask our small businesses to stretch resources any further.
Tough choices will have to be made over the next several months and we hope our colleagues will forgo political rhetoric and support policies that move Nevada forward.
The Assembly and state Senate received a mandate this year from the public. The public is tired of the policies and politics of the past and want to see increased investment in our schools and new policies that promote economic development.
My family moved to Nevada when I was young because this was the land of opportunity. Anyone could move here and find a good job to provide for their family. Nevada became home to immigrants from other countries and also, from other parts of our great nation. Nevada became home to hundreds of thousands who wanted a new life.
We must continue to work toward making Nevada the state of opportunity. In the last decade, thousands flocked here in hopes of a better life and it is incumbent upon us to provide their families with the ability to achieve their dreams.
We must begin today toward building a better Nevada, so that our families and children can once again view this great state as a land of opportunity.
Thank you for your time and may God continue to bless the great state of Nevada.
Madam Speaker, Mr. President, distinguished members of the Legislature, honorable justices of the Supreme Court, constitutional officers, Sen. (Dean) Heller, honored guests …
My fellow Nevadans: For nearly 150 years, governors before me have stood in front of this body and delivered their State of the State address. The personal delivery of a biennial message has become one of our most honored traditions. I’m proud to be here tonight to continue this tradition, along with the first lady, Kathleen, and my children: James, Maddy and Marisa. Thank you for your love and support.
I want to take a moment and pause to remember two extraordinary Nevadans, both of whom I had the honor of serving with in the Nevada Legislature. First, Gene Segerblom, who devoted her entire life to the service of this state as a mother, schoolteacher and state legislator. Her son, Sen. Tick Segerblom, is with us tonight. Tick, Nevada will not soon forget your mother or her service.
Our friend Sen. William J. Raggio lived a legendary Nevada life and served in this building with honor and distinction for over four decades. His legacy is a stirring reminder for those of us in public service … there are no barriers to what can be accomplished if we summon the will to work together. I am particularly pleased that Bill’s wife Dale could be with us tonight.
Two years ago, we gathered in a different time, under different circumstances.
As I stood before you on that evening, our state was reeling from the ravages of the Great Recession.
Nevada led the nation in unemployment, housing foreclosures and personal bankruptcies. State revenue projections had dropped dramatically, and we faced budget cuts in every category.
That evening, I asked the Nevada family to embrace a fundamental course correction — to leave behind the limits of the past and consider the case of our state’s future anew. The challenges of the moment were too complex to resort to tired partisanship. Rather, they demanded that we resolve to work together to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
And we rose to the occasion.
In the final days of the 76th legislative session, we were able to work together to craft a bipartisan compromise that led to a balanced budget, important education reforms and a transformed economic development effort. These elements created the foundation of the progress of the last two years — progress that every Nevadan can be proud of. And while my last appearance before you was preceded by a period of decline, my appearance before you tonight has been preceded by a period of growth — yes, growth.
We are emerging from the worst economic crisis of our generation. And though it remains unacceptably high, our unemployment rate is lower than it has been in over three years, and it is falling faster than almost every other state in the nation.
And state revenues are growing again — because our economy is growing again. In the last 24 months, Nevada businesses have created almost 30,000 new jobs.
Yes, the last two years have been a success story, not fully realized, but undeniably on track.
Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I can confidently report to the people of Nevada that the state of our state grows stronger every day.
Now we stand at the threshold of another legislative session, another 120 days of decisions that will shape the future of our great state.
We must make some immediate decisions: a budget … and pressing issues of the day. But that is only part of the task before us.
Our greater challenge is helping a Nevada that is still on the horizon. It awaits us in the future.
Not too far off, but far enough that we must consider what we can be.
I want us tonight to contemplate a journey that takes us to that other Nevada. And I want us to agree that what we find there must be the best that it can be. And traveling with us on that journey will be the children whose faces you see on the screens behind me.
These children are all members of the graduating class of 2023. They’re second-graders today.
It is my hope that the faces of these children will inspire us as we consider both the short- and long-term realities of our state.
Two years ago, we began laying the foundation for improved education in Nevada — to win a critical victory for Nevada’s children. And we did.
We passed laws requiring performance-based evaluations for teachers, ending teacher tenure as we know it, and reinvigorating the state Board of Education. These historic reforms were essential changes necessary to ensure success for our children.
But structural reforms alone will not fix our problems. Responsibility for Nevada’s students does not rest with one single group. It is borne by each and every one of us — parents, educators, school board members, legislators and governors.
To advance the cause of students, we must now turn our eye to the classroom. I continue to believe that literacy is the key to long-term success. And so tonight, I again ask you to take the necessary steps to ensure that every Nevada child can read by grade three.
If children cannot read by third grade, their chances of graduating from high school become remote.
For pre-three students, I will propose increased funding for early education in the state’s most at-risk schools. And I will ask the Legislature to act quickly because Nevada’s students cannot wait another two years.
My budget therefore includes an aggressive expansion of all-day kindergarten among the state’s most at-risk schools.
$20 million is allocated over the biennium for this purpose. This means that by 2015, almost half of our elementary schools would have an all-day kindergarten option.
If we expect children to read by three, we cannot continue to ignore all of the data that tells us all-day kindergarten is a critical foundation for a child’s success.
My budget matches this focus on young learners with two initiatives targeting older students.
We all want the graduation rate to improve.
And we want students to have skills for work or college after they graduate.
One of the most successful programs in the country today is Teach for America — a unique corps of brilliant young leaders from America’s top universities, who give their time and talent as teachers in schools that need them most.
These teachers help spur innovation and creativity in instruction that makes the entire system better.
Teach for America has helped make a difference in the lives of hundreds of Nevada’s students.
But we can do more.
I am proposing a new investment in Teach for America to help recruit, train, develop and place top teacher and leadership talent in Nevada.
I am also asking that Nevada make a firm commitment to another national program with proven results. In the last year, I used available funding to pilot the Jobs for America’s Graduates initiative in seven Nevada schools.
JAG helps prevent dropouts by putting a specialist in the school to work with the most at-risk students.
The work continues even after the students graduate and transitions students from high school to college or a career.
It works in over 30 states, and it has worked here.
With me tonight in the hall is Dayton High School JAG student Joey Doyle and his JAG advisor, Nancy Gardner. Joey grew up in challenging circumstances that most of us can only imagine.
Despite these challenges, Joey made a conscious decision to turn his life around, and with the help of good friends, mentors and the JAG program, he is now a senior at Dayton High School on track to graduate. Joey is proud to be a member of the Dayton High school JAG Program, and Joey, we are proud of you.
My budget includes sufficient resources to fund the JAG program to include up to 50 additional high schools by 2014 and to serve nearly 2,000 additional high school students.
To all our current JAG students and specialists, thank you for setting an example across the state.
As we make these investments, we must also recognize how Nevada has changed: Our schools are more diverse. More than 15 percent of Nevada’s students are English language learners.
The Clark County School District alone is responsible for more than 50,000 English language learners, representing more than 150 languages. The challenges these students confront are wholly different from those faced by their peers, yet our obligation to them is no less important.
Reality dictates that we acknowledge that reading levels, graduation rates and college readiness will not improve until we appropriately focus on these students.
To lay the first plank in building a stronger foundation for these students, my budget proposes $14 million for an English language learners initiative.
I will continue to fight for more school choice. Many students attend schools that are not meeting their needs. We owe them and their parents additional choice as well as individualized instruction.
I will introduce an opportunity scholarship bill giving businesses a tax credit for making contributions to a scholarship fund. These dollars will be distributed, on a means-tested basis, to students at low-performing schools for use in attending the school of their choice.
All in, the proposed budget includes $135 million in new investment in Nevada’s schoolchildren.
As parents and taxpayers, we have a right to expect a return on that investment.
While Nevada’s teachers will be supported through the most effective professional development, elevated student performance requires an outstanding teacher in every classroom and an outstanding principal in every building. Nevada is on the cusp of implementing a system that will transform the way we evaluate our state’s teachers and administrators.
But we need to take the next step.
My budget includes an appropriation for a data system that links student performance to teacher effectiveness. This system is a long-term investment in what will be the backbone of our approach to teacher evaluation.
It will ensure that parents and students have the teachers they deserve and that teachers are evaluated fairly. I believe the future of Nevada’s students is bright.
We’ve already seen progress — not just in passing reforms, but in improving outcomes for students.
Last year, graduation rates in Clark County rose, third-graders in Washoe County posted their highest reading scores ever, and high school math and science performance across the state increased.
These are small steps, but they’re steps to build on — and we will. What we can never do, though, is fall backwards. My pledge to parents, students and educators is to always move ahead.
Of course, our efforts to improve education cannot focus only on the very young.
The Nevada System of Higher Education has been an important part of our state’s success since its founding. And it has become an even more important player in our economic development efforts.
I am pleased to have the chancellor both as a member of my Cabinet and as an active member of the State Economic Development Board. With the chancellor’s support, we are creating new courses of study at UNR and UNLV focused specifically on the sectors we are targeting for economic growth.
UNLV is working with my office of Economic Development to establish UNLV as the global intellectual hub for gaming, hospitality and entertainment. I am also proud to announce that funding is included in my proposed budget to begin the planning and construction of a new Hotel Administration School at UNLV and a student achievement center at UNR.
Our community colleges are also meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow. We are pairing the community colleges more closely with our workforce needs so that they can deliver students into jobs that will be waiting for them in the new economy.
And, perhaps most importantly for the lives of thousands of current Nevada high school students, my budget again contains an appropriation to support and extend the Kenny C. Guinn Millennium Scholarship through 2017.
I would like to take a moment to introduce former first lady Dema Guinn, who is with us tonight. Dema, I give you my solemn promise that as long as I am governor, there will always be the Millennium Scholarship.
A quality education is the foundation of economic growth — the key to improving quality of life in our state. However, the modern economy requires more than investment in education to broaden economic opportunity.
Economic development — getting Nevadans working again — has been my greatest priority. Over the last two years, we’ve completely overhauled the way Nevada approaches economic development.
We have worked as one — Democrat, Republican, independent; north and south; urban and rural — to improve the economic conditions facing Nevada families.
Two years ago, I promised that with a renewed focus and with your help, Nevada businesses would create 50,000 new jobs across Nevada in four years’ time. As I stated earlier, we are more than halfway there. Nevada’s employers have created nearly 30,000 new jobs in the last two years. And in October-November of 2012, Nevada’s job growth was the second strongest in the nation.
In addition to companies like Zappos, we are now seeing dozens of other companies coming to Nevada, like Apple, Urban Outfitters, Now Foods, Xtreme Green, Romotive and Ameriprise Financial. They bring with them capital investment and good-paying jobs with benefits.
Many other businesses are in the pipeline to start up or expand in Nevada thanks to the work of our state and regional economic development teams and the business environment we have created right here in our state.
We have made great progress — but our task is far from over. While we aggressively pursue new businesses outside our borders, we cannot forget the businesses that are right here in Nevada. We all know Nevada employers continue to struggle with the aftermath of the Great Recession. To assist their recovery, my budget provides $25 million in further tax relief from the modified business tax for an additional 2,700 businesses. That means that since 2011, we will have eliminated the burden of this tax on almost three-quarters of Nevada’s small businesses.
Let me be clear: Nevada’s employers cannot afford higher taxes, and I will not support them.
You and I know that we must continue to address the unemployment in our state, and we must deal with the economic realities thrust upon us. Too many of our friends and neighbors are still out of work, and at 10.8 percent, unemployment is still too high.
Against this backdrop, many programs have required modernization, and even the job description of governor has changed. I have led trade missions to China, Korea and Canada. And missions to Mexico and Israel are planned to expand Nevada’s global footprint. I am committed to leaving no stone unturned — no road not taken.
We must also invest in Nevada’s innovators and entrepreneurs. And tonight, I am proud to announce that we will commit $10 million to Nevada’s Knowledge Fund to do just that.
For rural Nevada, we have also placed an item in the budget to support the University Cooperative Extension program in rural Nevada, and we are moving forward on Nevada Grown, to provide Nevada farm products for Nevadans, and funds to market rural Nevada tourism are increased.
And we are moving forward with our sage-grouse management plan to show the federal government that we can manage our own lands and limit further federal intrusion into our lives.
We will also restructure the nearly $703 million Nevada owes to the federal government used to pay unemployment benefits to Nevadans who were out of work. This step will save employers $9 million, stabilize the rate paid by businesses and ensure that the entire amount is paid off by 2016.
We will also work on Project Neon, a major new highway project that will meet the most critical transportation needs of Southern Nevada. Project Neon is perhaps the largest public works project in Nevada since the construction of Hoover Dam. It will completely modernize the infrastructure of Southern Nevada’s transportation grid and ensure that our commute is safer and more efficient for decades to come.
Nevada must continue to lead in other ways, and no opportunity is as rich with promise as our primary industry, gaming. Nevada was the first state to legalize and regulate online gaming. In the absence of federal action on this issue, Nevada must continue to lead.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board will bring legislation to eliminate Nevada’s statutory barriers to interstate online poker and ask for authority to enter into interstate agreements. Nevada has always been the gold standard of both gaming regulation and operation, and I intend to see to it that our state will lead the world into this new frontier. Other states are moving quickly on this issue, and I ask you to pass a bill within 30 days.
The promise of these ideas is real. The chance to innovate is exciting.
But even as we work to modernize our economy and set a new course toward a brighter economic future, we must address the consequences of the prolonged economic downturn.
Last month, I announced that Nevada would comply with the provisions of the Affordable Care Act as they related to the expansion of Medicaid services. As a result, some 78,000 more Nevadans will now have coverage — without facing the new tax penalties imposed by the Affordable Care Act.
The federal law allows us to shift mental health and other state spending to Medicaid sources, saving the general fund nearly $25 million over the biennium. Over the next six years, this comprehensive approach will create up to 8,000 new health care jobs and inject over half a billion dollars into our state’s economy. And, as I’ve noted before, we must reduce taxes on businesses to help them bear the increased costs of the Affordable Care Act.
But, the issue of long-term health care costs remains. As such, I believe we must ask certain Medicaid patients to make a modest contribution toward the cost of their own care. And I will insist that Nevada be able to opt-out of the Medicaid expansion program in future years, should circumstances change.
Beyond Medicaid, my budget provides additional funding for our state’s most vulnerable citizens. It includes more support for autism and early intervention services, piloting 24/7 mental health care in Southern Nevada, and increased community-based services for Nevada’s disabled and senior citizens.
We have all been touched by the housing crisis over these last few years, and Nevadans continue to struggle with home foreclosures. Last year, thousands of Nevadans attended a free housing assistance event in Las Vegas, sponsored by our own Department of Business and Industry, called “Home Means Nevada.” At the comprehensive event, over 250 representatives from banks met with homeowners and provided help on the spot. While many Nevadans received assistance at the event, we must continue to do more.
Working with Attorney General (Catherine) Cortez Masto, my administration will use multistate settlement funds to assist Nevadans who have been hardest hit by the housing crisis. We are obligated as leaders to find ways to keep people in their homes and families together. And I will use every available means at my disposal to protect and help the people who fight every day to stay in their most important possession, their home.
The recession has hurt the entire Nevada family.
State employees have seen their pay cut and have been required to take unpaid furlough days. Tonight, I am announcing that we will be able to provide some relief to them as well. Merit pay will be restored for state employees beginning on July 1, 2014, and the number of required furlough days will be cut in half as of July 1 of this year.
There is another group that deserves our attention and respect — our veterans. The men and women who have served our nation in two wars are coming home. Tonight, I ask you to join me in remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and those who have not yet returned.
Over 300 Nevadans remain deployed with our Army and Air National Guard, and many more of Nevada’s finest are serving in uniform at home and abroad.
With us tonight is one Marine who recently returned home, a reminder of all those who remain deployed, Gunnery Sgt. Ben Stryffeler. I had the privilege of meeting Ben two years ago. Since then, we have twice chatted over breakfast about his life and military service. Ben graduated from Carson High School 17 years ago and immediately enlisted in the Marine Corps. Since then, he has served his country with dignity and honor, being deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan. Ben returned home from Afghanistan over a month ago, after serving alongside a weapons company that engaged in heavy combat. Gunnery Sgt. Stryffeler represents the best that we can be. Ben and all the men and women of the military deserve our heartfelt gratitude and respect.
Ben, if you would please stand and be recognized.
In honor of those who serve in the Armed Forces, my budget contains funding for additional veterans service officers. And it also includes money to begin the first phase to build a new, stand-alone veterans home in Northern Nevada, to complement the veterans home in Boulder City. These resources will help ensure that our service members receive the benefits they deserve. We owe the men and women who serve our country nothing less than total victory.
Ladies and gentlemen, by doing all of these things, we are laying the groundwork for the future of our children and their families. They are the foundation of my budget and will continue to be the primary focus of my administration.
My executive budget that will be transmitted to the Legislature tonight represents general fund spending of approximately $6.5 billions for the next two years — which is a modest increase over my last budget. Caseload growth in Health and Human Services drives much of this increase. My commitment to K-12 education has also increased spending for our schools. But we must only allow for growth that our fragile economic recovery can bear.
In this budget, we’ve reduced the tax burden on local businesses, we’ve addressed increasing caseloads and we’ve begun to diversify our economy. The social service net is stronger. Support for education is increased. And Nevadans will continue to benefit from the over-arching policy of this administration throughout this economic downturn — that is, we cannot cut our way out, we cannot tax our way out, we can only grow our way out.
And that is exactly what we are doing.
As Nevada prepares to celebrate 150 years of statehood, we must consider how far we have come and prepare for what lies ahead. 2014 is not just the anniversary of Nevada’s statehood. It also marks the centennial year of the approval of women’s suffrage in our state.
Nevada gave women the right to vote in 1914, five years before the rest of the nation adopted the 19th Amendment in 1919. It is my hope that the celebration of women’s suffrage and the commemoration of Nevada’s 150th birthday will provide a joint platform for examining who we are — and who we can be.
Nevadans are rightfully proud of their history. We are also cognizant of the world around us. And we are ever mindful of those students whose faces inspire us to plan big for a bright future.
Tonight, we can take pride in our progress.
The table has been set by economic improvements, and we can now see a light at the end of the tunnel. But problems persist, and they demand our attention.
Such is the current context in which I have come before you tonight to describe the budget and the policy agenda placed before the 77th session of the Legislature. It is a context of improvement, realism and yes, optimism. It is a context in which we are cast again in the role of problem-solvers. My plan represents the next phase of recovery and rebuilding.
Tonight, we prepare to embark on a legislative session that I hope will set an example of bipartisanship. Two years ago, we gathered in difficulty and confronted a time of triage. Then, we were consumed by the effort simply to stop the free fall. Tonight, we come together to further stabilize our state and lay a stronger foundation for its future.
From the vantage point of this new foundation, from the watershed moment of our 150th birthday, we can cast our gaze to the horizon — to the world we want for the graduating class of 2023: an educated and healthy citizenry, a vibrant and sustainable economy, safe and livable communities, and an efficient and responsive state government.
Each step we will take — indeed each of the many steps taken over the last two years — is coming together to reveal a map of promise and opportunity.
And I know in my heart it will guide us, not just where we want to go, but where we must.
I am proud to be your governor, and I am proud to call the state of Nevada my home. God bless you, God bless America and God bless the great state of Nevada.