This is not Lt. Gov.-elect Kate Marshall’s first rodeo.
From 2007 to 2015, Marshall, a Democrat, served as the state’s treasurer under two Republican governors. As Marshall transitions to her new role as lieutenant governor, many of her goals continue to focus on money and the economy. These goals align with the duties of the lieutenant governor, who sits on the state’s tourism, transportation and economic development boards.
In an interview last week with The Nevada Independent, Marshall said she plans to push legislation next year that would designate a small business advocate and a state-backed retirement savings program for private sector workers, about 57 percent of whom aren’t offered a plan by their employers.
“I’m very, very excited for what’s coming and I’m very, very excited for where Nevada is,” Marshall said during the interview in Reno. “When I was treasurer, I used to ask kids all the time, ‘What’s the post-high school plan?’ And so with Nevada, [state officials] recognized they needed a post-recession plan and they’re moving forward. They’re not stuck and that’s very exciting.”
Can you tell me a little bit about, broadly speaking, what your goals are?
In my mind, one of the things that we are not doing as well as we could do in Nevada is constituent services for small businesses. We talk a lot about small businesses and if you look at the statistics, over 99 percent of the businesses in Nevada are small businesses, right?
What you’re seeing is a lot of small businesses open, but we need them to thrive and one of the difficulties they have is they don’t have a human resources department. They’re not in the business of dealing with government agencies or government regulations, and yet that’s an important part of running a business… So one of the things I want for the lieutenant governor’s office is to be responsive to the small business community.
Is that something you’ll work with local and municipal governments on?
Absolutely… Breaking down silos is important no matter what you do, and I have a bill to create a small business advocate. Other states do this. And basically what that person does is you call, you say, ‘I can’t get my license; I can’t get my certification; I don’t understand what health and human services is telling me to do.’ And the majority of cases are handled in three days on the phone. And then in some cases, you literally open a case file and navigate through the issue with that small business. This is a way to be responsive to them and then at the end of the year, you look at the issues you dealt with and you write a report saying, ‘I’m seeing these patterns.’
I ran into you at an outdoor recreation event last week and I know there’s been a big push for a state recreation office. Is that something that you’ll be involved in?
I’m certainly very supportive, although I think that we have a structure. Look, the power map of Nevada begins with tourism and within that power map you’re going to have your outdoor recreation tourism. And the fact of the matter is that it allows us to have tourists or visitors to Nevada stay longer and spend more and have a wider, more diverse experience. So they can, for example, come to Vegas and then go to Elko. They can see gaming and then see Red Rock. They can come into Reno and then visit the outdoors that we have around here.
Have you talked at all to incoming Gov. Steve Sisolak about your goals?
Of course, of course.
And have you talked to outgoing Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison?
Yeah, of course. Hutchison and his staff have been very, very helpful in making a smooth transition, and I am absolutely grateful to them for that. The current governor’s staff has been very, very helpful and responsive and that’s just been really smooth. And having been through more than one, this will be my [fourth] transition, and I can say that this is going really well.
What opportunity do you see with a Democratic cabinet and a Democratic Legislature?
Well, I think then the governor should be able to execute on his priorities.
Another duty of the lieutenant governor has been serving on the board for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. I’m wondering if you support changes in the criteria for tax abatements and tax incentives?
Well, currently, those are done on a case-by-case basis. So in a hypothetical world, it’s hard for me to say, ‘Oh, if I have this business in front of me with this tax incentive structure then maybe we can talk about whether we like that or not.’ Certainly, for Nevada to play on the state map of this country, and entice businesses here, there are times when we need to offer incentives and that’s just the reality of it. In my mind, those incentives should be directly tied back toward constituents. And who is that? That’s our workforce.
What about connecting local governments? Because a bit of criticism that I’ve heard, especially from leaders in Reno, is that what happens is the state goes ahead and approves all these tax incentives, and it’s great, and people come, but then you have those challenges with housing and infrastructure and things like that.
Right, so again, you have to look back at your constituents. I am the kind of person, who when I host a convening, [brings] in people who may agree with me, may disagree with me and may be an interested stakeholder in some other fashion because unless you get all the voices at the table, you’re not going to come up with the best solution. You’re not going to consider things that they might have considered that you wouldn’t have thought about.
Do you feel like the effort to market tourism in rural Nevada has been successful?
Okay, so think about this. If you’re thinking about tourism, what you want to do is you want to make sure that your visitors get a larger experience and that they stay longer and that they’re going to return, and part of that is a varied experience, so then if you want to include an experience in Vegas and an experience in rural Nevada, just connecting those things brings them together more. Think about this. There’s a tour group from China. They land in San Francisco and then they go to Elko for a rural, for what they term… a cowboy experience.
Is that actually something that happens?
Yes, to the tune of 6,000 beds annually in Elko.
Pivoting to next year, what priorities do you have for the legislative session?
I have the small business advocate, and then I think you previously wrote on my auto-IRA bill, right? My other agenda item for the legislative session is to maintain the decorum and professionalism within the Senate chamber. It’s very, very important that I manage or execute on the duties as president of the Senate in the most professional and respectful way possible.
This isn’t directly related to your job, but it’s kind of some neat history that Nevada made recently with having the first female-majority Legislature in the country.
Yeah. First off, I’m proud of our state. But also notice how often Nevada kind of peeks out and says, hey, we’re number one. And that’s great.
In terms of transportation, since the lieutenant governor typically serves on the Transportation Board, what would you say are some of the priorities there?
One of the issues that we have here is that traditionally there has been a partnership with the federal government in terms of transportation. So to the extent that the federal government is not coming to the table as they did, as a full partner, financially full partner, that means that states have to think out of the box.
We also have, at the same time, we have the fact that transportation has become a disruptive industry right now. It’s very dynamic. It’s moving very fast. That makes it more challenging to identify long term solutions, but also more exciting and there’s more opportunity there.
In terms of funding, the Legislature is going to have to address funding at some point because the fuel revenues that come in [from gasoline taxes] are not going to be sufficient as people begin to use more energy efficient green cars.
Is there anything you want to add?
I’m very, very excited for what’s coming and I’m very, very excited for where Nevada is. We are a bright light and are showing our ability to be more innovative and to grow more and to look more towards the future. When I was treasurer, I used to ask kids all the time, ‘What’s the post-high school plan?’ And so with Nevada, [state officials] recognized they needed a post-recession plan and they’re moving forward. They’re not stuck and that’s very exciting.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.