Nevada governor wants to cut business taxes, suspend gas tax
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo told a joint session of the Democrat-controlled Legislature Monday night he wants to permanently cut taxes on Nevada businesses and suspend the state’s gasoline tax for 12 months.
The former Clark County sheriff who unseated Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in November said in his first State of the State address that Nevada’s economy is “growing stronger every day.”
He said he’s determined to work cooperatively with majority Democrats and minority Republicans alike to accomplish an ambitious agenda that he says would make the state even stronger while spending within its means.
“As governor, I am filled with hope and optimism of what we can accomplish if we simply summon the will to work together,” Lombardo said in his speech in the Assembly chambers in Carson City.
“The pandemic laid bare just how vulnerable our economy is, and in an unexpected twist of fate, the pandemic also created for the first time in many years, an unprecedented budget surplus,” he said. “On the one hand, we have exciting opportunities within our grasp but, on the other, we must not allow ourselves to give way to the temptation to overspend.”
“Not a penny of the state’s one-time surplus will be used to fund any recurring programs,” he said.
Lombardo was the only Republican in the nation to defeat a sitting Democratic governor in November — a significant win in a western battleground state where a predicted wave of GOP victories didn’t otherwise materialize.
He said the executive budget he will present to lawmakers when they return in two weeks to the small capital of Carson City for the biennial legislative session will lower the tax burden on working families and businesses while also reserving “more than $1 dollar in savings for every new dollar in general fund spending.”
“I’m proud to announce my executive budget suspends the state motor vehicle fuel tax for the next 12 months, immediately reducing the price of gasoline and saving consumers and businesses approximately $250 million dollars. In terms of a family of four, that translates to hundreds of dollars a year in savings,” he said Monday night.
“My budget also saves taxpayers over $260 million dollars in interest payments on bonds, enabling us to, among other things, create more construction jobs in future years. In simple economic terms, we’re buying with cash instead of credit,” he said.
Lombardo also expanded on plans he discussed during the campaign to walk back criminal justice reforms passed under Sisolak that he has called “soft on crime.”
In a nod to bipartisanship, his opening remarks included a moment of silence to remember a host of Nevada leaders, including Democrat Harry Reid, who died last year.
“And special remembrance of a Nevadan who served in the Assembly 54 years ago — albeit for only one term — but a man who, whether you agreed with him or not, never stopped fighting for Nevada all the way to the top: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,” he said.
In his first three weeks in office, Lombardo already has enacted four executive orders, including one that tasks the Department of Administration to address an approximate 24% vacancy rate among state employees. The order also directed state agencies to return to pre-pandemic operations, including normal in-person hours by July 1.
Another executive order requires all executive branch agencies, departments and others to review all existing regulations to recommend which should be eliminated, as well as explaining why new regulations qualify for exceptions.
Meanwhile, Democratic legislators have teased legislation that, if passed, would test how Lombardo uses his veto power.
Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro told the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week that she will introduce a bill to codify into law an executive order from Sisolak that blocks state agencies from assisting out-of-state litigation against abortion patients who travel to Nevada. The measure also would ensure boards and commissions that oversee medical licenses do not discipline or disqualify doctors who provide abortions.
Lombardo had waffled on the order during the campaign, originally saying he would repeal it, then saying he would evaluate it “from the lens of being a pro-life governor” before saying he would uphold the order just over a month before the election. Kieckhefer told reporters earlier this month the administration had no immediate plans to repeal the order.
Another state senator told The Nevada Independent he plans to introduce a bill that would criminalize so-called “fake elector” schemes. In December 2020, six Nevada GOP members signed certificates falsely stating that former President Donald Trump won Nevada and sent them to Congress and the National Archives, where they were ultimately ignored.
Lombardo has pushed back on false stolen election claims despite earning Trump’s endorsement. Several Nevada GOP members acted as fake electors, including chairman Michael McDonald, who Lombardo had campaigned with.
Associated Press writer Scott Sonner contributed to this report from Reno. Gabe Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Follow him on Twitter: @gabestern326.