Inside the 3-year strategic plan guiding Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo’s administration
“The Nevada Way.”
It may just sound like a street name — and in fact, it became one last year — but the novel idiom favored by Gov. Joe Lombardo has become symbolic of the Republican governor’s efforts to reroute the course of the Silver State in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and past Democratic control of state government.
The phrase is scattered throughout his administration’s “3-year plan” and “policy matrix,” a strategic plan shared internally in the Lombardo administration and obtained by The Nevada Independent.
Broken into six broad categories, it provides a high-level overview of Lombardo’s ongoing efforts to increase accountability in K-12 education, reduce business regulations and attract new workers to the state.
The nearly 100 items listed across six pages also underscore the political fights he will likely continue to wage against a Democrat-controlled state Legislature, including efforts to expand school choice and repeal criminal justice reforms.
The report also arrives in a politically fraught election year, as Lombardo endeavors to prevent veto-proof Democratic supermajorities in the Legislature through backing select Republican candidates for key competitive legislative seats.
For a governor who last year vetoed a single legislative session-record 75 bills, the report highlights his stringency in sticking to the listed goals.
“Within each of the priorities, departments and agencies should create measurable indicators of progress towards the priority,” a section of the report states. “Any bill draft requests, budget enhancements, or regulations should fit within and be directly linked to one or more of the priorities.”
Outside of policy goals, the report — which appears to be roughly modeled after a 2016 “strategic planning framework” from Republican former Gov. Brian Sandoval — also includes Lombardo’s vision and mission in office, such as delivering “solution-oriented customer service” to Nevadans and visitors.
Read below to explore what’s included in each major section of Lombardo’s three-year plan or click one of the links to jump to a specific section.
- Education and workforce
- Economic growth and business development
- Health and wellness
- Public safety and infrastructure
- Government support services
- Rural and natural resources
Education and workforce
Lombardo’s goals include “preparing students for college and career paths,” boosting accountability, expanding availability for “alternative education opportunities” and coordinating work training programs with local businesses.
The preparation for college policy goals are part of Lombardo’s bid to resuscitate the state’s Read by Grade 3 program. The document also calls for “setting high expectations for students and educators,” and establishing pathways from education to workforce — a goal buoyed in 2023 by new funding for both teacher and nursing education pipelines.
Lombardo’s plan also notes his administration’s “acing accountability” matrix, a program introduced last September that aims to track school districts progress more holistically. More broadly, Lombardo has pledged to tie a record $2 billion increase in public K-12 funding to increased metrics.
His plan under the “alternative education opportunities” section includes a call to restructure or reform “underperforming school districts.” In 2023, an effort to create school boards of mixed-elected and appointed trustees was repeatedly watered down.
The plan also calls for the expansion of “public school choice” through charter schools and open zoning policies, as well as a call to “perfect and expand private school choice programs.”
Charter schools became a key compromise policy in 2023 between Lombardo and Democrats, with top lawmakers approving concessions that created new funding for charter school transportation and axing efforts to create open zoning. A separate push by Lombardo to dramatically increase the scope of the Opportunity Scholarship school choice program was never considered by legislative Democrats, and the number of available tax credits funding Opportunity Scholarships shrank last year.
Economic growth and business development
As in the five-year strategic plan from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the governor’s strategic plan emphasizes building a low-burden business environment and attracting new businesses to the state.
Two goals in this category focus on streamlining and eliminating regulations and simplifying the licensing process — efforts he has already undertaken through executive orders.
In January last year, he ordered a temporary freeze on most new state regulations and called on state agencies to each find at least 10 unnecessary regulations to eliminate. His other executive order, since delayed, pushed state occupational licensing boards to streamline licensing requirements. His administration last year also secured legislative approval to create a new boards and commissions office.
Another focus of Lombardo’s plans for economic growth — recruiting new industries and encouraging small business growth — has been underway since his earliest days in office, highlighted by his support for a major Tesla Gigafactory expansion and the Oakland A’s planned relocation to Las Vegas, which aligns with his goal to maintain Nevada’s world-class designation for tourism and gaming.
Health and wellness
Lombardo’s plan listed five health care goals that expand upon past calls to increase mental health capacity and offer funding for medical students.
To address health care workforce shortages, Lombardo’s strategic plan describes investing in and expanding graduate medical education and supporting competitive reimbursement rates.
Amid Nevada’s low national rankings for primary care doctors, general surgeons and registered nurses, lawmakers in 2023 allocated $20 million to increase the number of nursing faculty and graduates at seven state nursing programs.
To improve access to primary care and public health services, Lombardo wants to support mid-level providers through reimbursement and training as well as expanded loan forgiveness programs. He also wants to “identify dedicated funding streams for public health services.”
Related to that goal, lawmakers in 2023 adopted a measure establishing a loan repayment program for providers who have worked in underserved communities for five years. Under the law, eligible health care workers can receive up to $120,000 in loan forgiveness.
In January, the governor joined Northern Nevada HOPES to announce the development of a new clinic funded by outside philanthropists that would focus on primary care, mental health services and substance use treatment. It aligns with Lombardo’s goal to reduce dependency on social services by building out a “campus of hope consistent” supporting work transitions.
To ensure veterans have access to appropriate services, Lombardo’s seeks to expand services through the Department of Veterans Services, noting a need for monitored and improved management at state veterans’ homes.
To improve health care quality metrics and outcomes, the plan indicates a need to expand incentives offered to Medicaid providers who offer high-quality services, build out health care infrastructure and recognize health care development as a subset of economic development.
Public safety and infrastructure
Lombardo’s goals for improving infrastructure include the “buildout of new and alternative transportation modes” and targeting state highway funds toward “critical safety needs.”
Those goals conform with projects such as Brightline West, a proposed high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Southern California, and expanding access to broadband services, primarily through a federal program that gave Nevada more than $400 million to build broadband networks with a focus on rural areas.
But on preventing crime, Lombardo’s “tough-on-crime” approach remains at odds with the Democrats in the Legislature, who have routinely supported more progressive criminal justice reforms.
Last year, he focused on rolling back a 2019 reform bill that aimed to reduce a ballooning prison population and expand access to diversion programs for defendants to avoid prison time. Lombardo’s bill was reduced by Democratic lawmakers from 68 pages down to nine.
His policy plans also include reducing recidivism — referring to rearrest, reconviction or return to prison within three years of release — and to prepare people in prison for community reentry. That includes building out workforce training programs for people in prison.
Government support services
During the last legislative session, Lombardo and other state leaders often acknowledged the high vacancy rates across state agencies, averaging nearly 25 percent across all of state government, and generally lower pay for state workers compared with their local government and private sector counterparts.
The governor’s three-year plan calls for supporting state workers with “commensurate salaries and benefits,” and easing “hiring and promotion processes.” It comes after Lombardo and Democratic lawmakers approved the highest raises for state employees in decades and passed a bill that streamlined state hiring practices.
In this category, Lombardo’s plans also include providing “outstanding” customer service to residents using state services, including through better web services (a major focus of the state’s spending of federal COVID-19 relief funds).
Rural and natural resources
Lombardo’s plan calls for “leading production of raw materials” in tandem with renewables, coupling support for mining with calls to “grow the ‘lithium loop’” involved with electric vehicle battery production and building out renewable energy transmission systems.
The governor’s climate approach to date featured rollbacks of Sisolak-era carbon-reduction commitments, and moving away from the Democrat-backed “orderly transition” away from natural gas in favor of a “balanced approach.”
The strategic plan also calls for the protection and management of natural resources, in particular naming water conservation and reuse.
On public lands, the plan also calls for obtaining new federally owned land for the construction of “affordable housing and economic development.”
The plan also pledges to “fight federal efforts to restrict access to public lands,” a goal Lombardo’s office described as “ensuring appropriate access and most beneficial use of public lands.”
That comes after Lombardo railed against the Biden administration last March for the designation of the Avi Kwa Ame national monument covering 500,000 acres of Southern Nevada. At the time, Lombardo bristled that his administration had not been consulted, calling the monument a “federal confiscation” and “historic mistake.”