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Sandoval breaks with Trump over immigration, claims of voter fraud

Megan Messerly
Megan Messerly
ImmigrationState Government
Sandoval State of the State

Gov. Brian Sandoval presented a starkly different vision of immigration in Nevada this morning to the one that President Donald Trump will enact today via executive order.

Sandoval re-emphasized his support for a program deferring deportation for immigrants brought without authorization as children to the U.S. and noted that Trump’s plan to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border was not on his list of priorities. Sandoval’s remarks came during a panel discussion following a State of the States address he co-delivered this morning in Washington, D.C. as vice chair of the National Governors Association.

Sandoval said that the United States has a “good immigration policy” but that Congress and the president should continue to improve on it. However, he said that there are “other things we need to focus our time and energy on” rather than building a wall.

“I’ve always believed in gates versus fences and having a good immigration policy,” Sandoval said.

The White House announced this morning that Trump will begin reshaping immigration policy via two executive orders by calling for the construction of a border wall, boosting deportations and stripping federal grant funding from so-called “sanctuary cities,” where local authorities have refused to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

By contrast, Sandoval highlighted Nevada policies supportive of immigrants enacted during his tenure, including supporting driver authorization cards for immigrants, allocating millions of dollars to English Language Learner programs and allowing certain undocumented immigrants to receive teaching licenses.

Sandoval also said today that it is his understanding that UNLV and UNR will be sanctuary sites. Students at UNLV and UNR have sought sanctuary campus status from university leadership to shield undocumented students from deportation.

The governor also pushed back on Trump’s claim that three to five million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election saying that he is not aware of anyone who voted illegally in the state of Nevada.

“To me, it’s over,” Sandoval said. “Let’s move on and let’s get to the job of governing this country.”

Sandoval said he has not had a chance to meet with Trump yet but that he is “absolutely optimistic” about the opportunity to work with him and his administration on issues such as economic development, health care and education.

He added generally that he hopes that decisions the Trump administration makes “aren’t made in a vacuum and that there is a reach out to the governors.” Sandoval pointed to the Republicans’ proposal to turn Medicaid funding into block grants, which would give the states more flexibility but also could stymie the state from providing services should a larger number of people suddenly become eligible for Medicaid. Sandoval is one of 16 Republican governors whose states expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act.

He also noted how vulnerable the state is should those federal Medicaid dollars dry up under a Trump administration.

“There are a lot of lives at stake with regard to decisions that are made here,” Sandoval said. “I hope that decisions aren’t made in a vacuum and that there is a reach out to the governors.”

Sandoval declined to comment in detail on Trump’s executive order yesterday withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement Sandoval supported.

“He’s the president, and he’s made his decision. He’s signed his executive order,” Sandoval said. “Hopefully we will have a voice in all of this as part of these trade missions.”

In his address, Sandoval pointed to three specific areas — infrastructure, health care and tax reform — where he hopes that governors will be able to collaborate with the Trump administration. He asked the administration specifically to stabilize funding for road, water and wastewater infrastructure needs, provide access to low-cost, high-quality health care and preserve public financing mechanisms for state and local governments.

He also asked the administration to include the nation’s governors in developing energy and environmental policy, to add incentives to workforce development at the state level and to return education oversight to the states.


Sandoval’s State of the States address, as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Governor McAuliffe, for those remarks and for your leadership thus far at NGA.

It is an honor to serve as vice chair of the bipartisan association of the nation’s governors. And it is my privilege to delve deeper into some of the issues Governor McAuliffe mentioned, outlining our collective priorities as governors for the new President and Congress.

NGA has been building a transition blueprint for President Trump and Congress, one that details issue by issue those most important to governors and states. We ask the federal government to partner with us to address those issues.

President Trump has outlined three priorities for his first 100 days in office: infrastructure, health care and tax reform.

To echo Governor McAuliffe, governors stand ready to engage with the new Administration to produce a positive outcome on these and other issues for all Americans.

As a new era in Washington dawns, governors make the following recommendations for those three priorities:

  • First, infrastructure. Governors know world-class infrastructure is necessary for a strong economy. Every day we champion ways to fix, fund and finance infrastructure needs in our states. We also know states cannot fully realize this work alone. That is why we urge the new Administration to support our commitment to bring existing infrastructure into a state of good repair by committing to provide longterm and particularly stable funding for America’s infrastructure needs. Specifically, there is ongoing uncertainty over the funding stability of the Highway Trust Fund. That instability causes states to think twice before pursuing large-scale, multi-year projects needed to modernize the nation’s infrastructure. As we all know, infrastructure isn’t just about roads—it’s about water and energy, too. America’s drinking water and wastewater must be protected and treated properly. Governors will work with our federal partners on successful implementation of the Water Resources Development Act. We also want to work with Congress and the relevant federal agencies to strengthen our nation’s energy infrastructure, including expanding and improving the electric power grid and bringing broadband networks to underserved, and often remote, areas.
  • Second, health care reform. Health care often tops the list of issues the American public cares most about. As the managers of Medicaid for the people of our states, governors have a crucial role to play in the future of American health care. No one is better equipped to understand and respond to the unique and complex needs of our citizens than governors. That is why we are particularly enthusiastic about any proposed federal reforms that provide states with greater flexibility to develop innovative solutions that meet our residents’ needs. We also know that higher-quality care shouldn’t, and doesn’t have to, come at a higher cost. Therefore, governors must be an important role in discussions surrounding federal health care policy to help navigate the complex relationship between state and federal programs, and how legislative changes to that relationship could affect the people of our states. We ask the Administration and all members of Congress to let us be your trusted partner and resource as you develop the policies that will guide Americans’ health care.
  • Last, tax reform. Federal tax reform, though complex and multi-pronged, has a substantial impact on states. To truly succeed, tax reform needs to be an intergovernmental effort. It is important to preserve public financing mechanisms, specifically tax-exempt financing, which play a central role for state and local governments to raise capital for a variety of public projects, including infrastructure. Those projects help pave the way to grow jobs, strengthen the economy and maintain the United States’ position as a global competitor. The new Administration must also maintain the permanent status of federal deductibility for state and local income and sales taxes. To do otherwise would preempt states’ authority over budget and tax systems. And while we’re on the subject of tax reform, let me use this opportunity to bring up a common-sense tax issue with broad bipartisan support than has been on the congressional docket for decades— affirming states’ ability to collect sales tax from online purchases. The time has come to put this long overdue issue to rest and pass legislation that allows states to collect revenue already owed but currently uncollectable.

Beyond the President’s top three agenda items, governors have additional priorities they ask Congress and the Administration to keep in mind as they implement change.

First, education. Last year, Congress passed a new education law that restored states’ authority over K-12 education. Since then, states have looked to the classroom and local school boards to develop education systems that place students, not the federal government, at the center.

It is critical states continue to build on that progress to strengthen our nation’s education system. Governors must be consulted as the new law is implemented.

Next, energy and the environment. Governors ask to be consulted at the earliest stages of energy and environmental policy development to where state interests and obligations intersect with the federal government. Working cooperatively with our federal partners, states can continue to be successful in implementing environmental and energy policies that meet specific needs and goals, and the Administration should look to states to incorporate these methods into national policy.

Third, public safety and the National Guard. One of the most important roles of a governor is to ensure the public safety and security of citizens and their property. In order to accomplish this central duty, states need flexibility in federal funding for state public safety efforts.

The men and women of the armed forces—active duty, reserve and National Guard—make sacrifices every day to protect our country and preserve our way of life. The National Guard is the only military force a governor can call upon to respond to disasters and other emergencies.

The Guard remains a cost-effective solution for sustaining military capabilities at home and abroad. Therefore, it is important governors retain maximum flexibility to use National Guard resources to conduct the full range of domestic support missions.

Governor McAuliffe mentioned cybersecurity. The foundation of today’s economy, national security and the daily operations of government are increasingly dependent upon the security and reliability of communications technology and other digital infrastructure. In my own State of the State address last week, I announced the creation of Nevada’s first Cyber Defense center. Like Nevada, all states are moving quickly to stay ahead of threats to our digital security.

In order to be successful at thwarting threats, the federal government must view states as primary sources of intelligence, as well as priority recipients of intelligence from the federal government. States should be seen as full-fledged partners in gathering, analyzing and disseminating intelligence in the fight against cyber terrorism.

Finally, job creation, the backbone of every governor’s agenda. To remain a top competitor globally, the United States must continue to create and maintain a sustainable pipeline of talent.

Governors brought workforce development and work-based learning to the forefront of the federal agenda with proposals on apprenticeship and collaboration with Congress to create the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Now we ask the Administration not to stall that important work by preserving governors’ federal workforce reserve at 15 percent to ensure statewide workforce activities can serve all citizens. We also ask Congress to incentivize and reward employers and job-seekers who take advantage of work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities.

Together, a strong partnership between states and the federal government will foster the sense of unity our nation is longing for, and propel us forward.

This is our moment to come together to protect our union and promote the general welfare of the citizens of these United States.

To see the future of America, simply look to the states.


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