Text of Gov. Sandoval's State of the State

The Nevada Independent Staff
The Nevada Independent Staff
LegislatureYucca Mountain

2017 State of the state

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Distinguished Members of the Legislature, Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court, Constitutional Officers, Congressman mark Amodei, honored guests, my fellow Nevadans:

This occasion marks my fourth and final state of the state address, and I stand before you with a sense of deep humility and great pride. in all sincerity, I’m just as overwhelmed by this responsibility as I was six years ago, when, for the first time as Governor, I addressed a joint session of the Nevada Legislature.

Please allow me to take a moment to recognize Nevada’s First Lady, Kathleen Sandoval, my children, Maddy, Marisa and James, my parents, Ron and Teri Sandoval, my sister, Lauri, and my brother, Ron.

Kathleen has been my wife of 26 years, an amazing mother, my best friend, and my partner through it all.

And, as First Lady, she has been as fierce an advocate for children as this state has ever seen.

For my children, I know it hasn’t always been easy for you, but you’ve always been there for me, and i thank you for that.

I am the proudest father you can imagine.

22 years ago, I was a freshman assemblyman seated right over there, listening with anticipation to Governor Miller’s message.

Tonight, we welcome 17 incoming freshmen legislators, and I wonder 20 years from now, which one of you freshmen might be standing here?

It could happen, and I hope it does.

I also want to welcome back the five legislators who have served in previous sessions.

Would the freshmen and returning members please stand?

I would like to draw your attention to a first in our state’s extraordinary history, I am honored to recognize the first African-American Speaker of the Nevada State Assembly, Jason Frierson.

Words cannot express how full of pride I am for Jason, his family, his colleagues, and for our state.

I consider myself blessed to witness this historical moment.

Speaker Frierson… we salute you.

In another noteworthy Nevada first, Senator Aaron Ford and Speaker Frierson will be the first African-Americans to concurrently lead both majorities in both houses.

I congratulate you. and look forward to working with you.

Likewise, I look forward to my continued relationship with Assemblyman Paul Anderson and Senator Michael Roberson, and trust that the four caucus leaders will work together, and with me, in the spirit of bi-partisanship to make the right choices for our state.

Sadly, since we last gathered, six former legislators have departed, including the recent loss of my friend and colleague, John Carpenter, a champion of rural Nevada.

I want to also take a moment to invoke the memory of our good friend Senator Debbie Smith.

Her example of dedication to the people of Nevada is all around us…. we should all aspire to be as honest and hard working as she was.

And, I would like to recognize the absence of two special Nevadans….we will miss the warmth and humanity of former first Lady Bonnie Bryan, as well as the sage guidance of former congressman, state senator and supreme court justice, Cliff Young.

Please join me for a moment of silence in all of their honor.

One of the great privileges of being Governor is serving as Commander-in-Chief of the Nevada National Guard.

Having attended every deployment and de-mobilization ceremony since taking office, I have personally witnessed hundreds of brave Nevadans leave their homes, families and jobs to protect and defend our great country.

Their courage is an inspiration, and I try to live up to their example every day.

last month, I visited our Nevada troops serving on the frontlines in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and the United Arab Emirates.

Tonight, Mr. Speaker, in honor of the heroes who have answered the call to duty, I’m proud to present you with this gift from the 485th Military Police Company stationed in Kuwait.  “the law dawgs”

During Operation Spartan Shield, Nevada guardsmen and women flew our flag over five Middle Eastern countries in honor of all Nevadans.

I offer it to your House as a steady reminder of the more than 600 members of the Guard currently serving in harm’s way.

It’s my hope that it inspires this Legislature with the same pride and optimism I found in the hearts and minds of our warriors abroad.

In January of 1963, the year I was born, President john f. Kennedy said in his State of the Union speech....“ I congratulate you --- on your selected role in history.  For you and I are privileged to serve in what could be the most decisive decade in our history. The choices we make, for good or ill, will shape future generations.”

my fellow Nevadans, the spirit of President Kennedy’s foretelling words still echo today.

We know the 60’s were, as he correctly predicted, a decisive decade.

Now, you and I are the ones he spoke of as “privileged to serve,” in what I’m confident historians will proclaim as the most transformational decade in Nevada history.

The choices JFK spoke of then, are our choices now.

We must realize, here in front of us, are anchored the hopes, dreams, and the fundamental trust of the people of Nevada.

We must not fail them. We cannot fail them.

As a cornerstone of this evening’s message, I stand before you, beneath a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, a man who resisted the calls for a house divided, and ask you, Republicans and Democrats, members of the Senate and Assembly, to join me in rejecting the counterproductive divisiveness of partisan politics.

And instead, to embrace the tradition of bridging our differences in honorable Nevada fashion, so we can make the wise choices, and deliver the sound decisions needed to secure a more prosperous Nevada for generations to come.

The choices we make this session, “for good or ill”, are ours alone.

President Lincoln said, “We cannot escape history”.

Indeed, we cannot.

What we can do, however, is accept, that this is our time to write it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to report that the state of our state has dramatically improved … and we are growing stronger every day.

Six years ago, many will recall, the situation was quite different.

The unemployment rate was a staggering 14 percent, and a record number of Nevadans were out of work.

Fortunately, Nevadans dared to hope, and most of the bad news was swept away by extreme sacrifice, combined with the sheer force of our tenacity…

By December of 2016, Nevada’s economy experienced an unprecedented rebound.

The unemployment rate has fallen to 5.1 percent, with Nevada’s economy adding more than 198,000 jobs between 2011 and 2016.

We have closed the books on six straight years of job growth in Nevada.

We have seen job growth every single month since January 2011, bringing the total number to an all-time high of 1.31 million jobs.

Wages are up, home values have risen, and more people have health insurance than ever before.

Nevada is enjoying record visitor volume, higher hotel occupancy rates, and casinos ACROSS THE STATE reported a COMBINED positive net income for the first time since 2008.

Our diverse economy has helped us add jobs across the board, with many industries either exceeding or nearing pre-recession levels.

advanced manufacturing facilities and technology companies have been catalysts for new growth in higher-wage industries.

However, without a more skilled workforce, which I will discuss in a moment, new companies will struggle to find qualified workers.

I am submitting to you a biennial budget of $8.1 billion, that does not call for any new revenue, other than an excise tax I will discuss later.

This two-year budget is 10 percent larger than the last budget, due primarily to needed investment in workforce development, education, infrastructure, and Medicaid caseload growth, but is considerably below the statutory spending cap formula established in 1979.

At the beginning of 2008, Nevada had $267 million in the Rainy Day Fund.

During the great recession, we made difficult choices to balance the budget.

By the end of 2015, we withdrew money six different times and drained every single penny from the Fund.

Tonight, I am pleased to report that my budget will return $200 million to the Rainy Day Fund.

We owe it to the people of Nevada to have substantial savings for the next rainy day.

Similarly, six years ago, we owed the federal government $900 million for money borrowed to pay unemployment benefits.

Today, we have a positive balance of $700 million in the fund.

By the end of this year, the loan will be paid in full.

From 2010 through 2015, state employees endured furloughs, pay cuts, benefit reductions and loss of merit and longevity pay.

For some, these reductions have been the equivalent of a 30 percent loss of wages and benefits.

tonight, I want to recognize the enormous contributions our state employees have made to help get the state back on track and acknowledge the dedicated work they have performed for the people of Nevada during this demanding economic period.

Last session we were able to eliminate furloughs, restore merit pay, and provide a modest cost of living adjustment.

This session, my budget includes a four percent cost of living adjustment and increased funding for health benefits to recognize the shared sacrifice and dedication of our state employees.

While our economy is unquestionably growing stronger, we must focus our attention on making certain all Nevadans have access to high quality employment.

The bottom line is that an unprepared workforce inhibits our economic growth, and prevents too many of our citizens from obtaining the jobs they deserve.

By 2025, roughly 60 percent of all jobs in Nevada will require some form of post-secondary degree or other credential.

Today, only 30 percent of Nevadans between the ages of 25 and 34 have completed some level of post-secondary education.

My vision for our state is to put all Nevadans, regardless of age or circumstance, on a career pathway toward success.

We can make that vision a reality by investing in higher education, closing the college attainment gap, expanding dual enrollment and growing career opportunities.

While many of these programs have been available for some, they are not yet accessible to all, due to financial barriers or other factors.

My workforce agenda proposes removing those barriers, so that every student, in every classroom, has every opportunity to succeed.

Our effort to prepare a modern workforce begins with our post-secondary institutions.

i will continue our commitment to Nevada’s students by keeping the promise of the milleNnium scholarship with a contribution of $20 million to this legacy program.

My budget includes an increase of $115 million in new investments for higher education.

Academic programs offered by our higher education institutions, particularly our Community Colleges, must be closely aligned with our economic development strategy.

This is why my budget includes $21 million to enhance Career and Technical Education programs at our four community colleges.

My budget adds $10 million in new funding for capacity building initiatives at each of Nevada’s seven post-secondary institutions and the Desert Research Institute.

This investment focuses on preparing students for careers in advanced manufacturing, nursing, autonomous systems, teaching, and others.

Our Universities continue to experience accelerated growth.

To accommodate these new students, my budget includes $58 million for new student enrollment at UNR and UNLV.

Last session, we approved $27 million for a new medical school at UNLV.

This fall, the inaugural class of 80 future medical professionals will begin instruction, and my budget includes $53 million to sustain this important addition to our higher education system.

By 2019, we will have invested $80 million to establish UNLV’s medical school.

Nevada has emerged as an international center for innovation in technology, transportation, and autonomous systems, and has attracted cutting-edge industries making incredible strides in science and engineering.

To build on these successes, I’m proposing the construction of a new College of Engineering at UNR, an $83 million project, half of which will be funded by the state.

This new school will develop the best and brightest in the engineering sciences and help to achieve Nevada’s objective to be a global leader in innovation.

My budget includes permanent funding for the Office of Workforce Innovation.

This commitment represents yet another important step forward in our effort to adapt workforce training programs to the specific needs and realities of the New Nevada economy.

My workforce development agenda incorporates proven strategies and targeted investments.

when implemented, we will meet or exceed the goal that 60 percent of Nevadans between the ages of 25 and 34 will have earned some form of post-secondary degree or credential by 2025.

It’s ambitious, yes, but we’ve never shied from making the bold choices.

When it comes to public education, my commitment is to always put Nevada’s children first.

Last session, we made historic investments in public education and enacted sweeping reforms that changed our top-down approach to education, and laid the foundation for improved learning with financial accountability.

In 2015, we doubled our investment in Zoom Schools and devoted $100 million to support our growing English Language Learner population.

We invested $50 million in Victory Schools to serve students living in the most impoverished areas in our state.

And, we created the Teach Nevada scholarship program for students who agree to teach in our state upon graduation.

Our work also ensures children are reading at grade level by the third grade, places technology in our student’s hands, and provides full day kindergarten for every child in Nevada.

we have a nationally recognized charter school system which now serves nearly 10 percent of our student population.

We also redesigned the way we approach funding our schools from an outdated system to a “student-first” model.

We must acknowledge that students come from diverse backgrounds and have different needs, whether they are at-risk, or gifted and talented.

No two students are alike, and no two children learn the same way.

That’s why tonight I am announcing my plan to continue to invest in a weighted student funding formula that works for every child.

My budget commits $107 million in additional funds to reach this goal, including:

*$42 million to expand successful Zoom School programs;

*$30 million to increase Victory School resources for students living in poverty;

*$30 million more in per-pupil funding for special education students, and;

*$5 million for gifted and talented programs.

I also understand that technology is a critical component of learning; accordingly, we must act to ensure our students have access to broadband at school.

That’s why I’m announcing the Nevada Connect Kids Initiative, an investment of $2 million of matching funds to ensure our schools have access to high speed broadband, particularly in rural areas.

And, as promised, my budget includes $60 million to fund Nevada Education Savings Accounts.

I’m asking you to work with Senator Scott Hammond and me to modernize our education system with the implementation of ESA’s.

We’ve heard from thousands of Nevada families about how crucial it is that we give them freedom of choice in the education of their children.

I look forward to building a bi-partisan solution to get this done.

It’s time to give Nevada families more choice.

From an economic development perspective, Nevada enters 2017 with momentum.

Allow me to quickly recap our economic development successes:

Since 2011, we have recruited 204 companies that have made $14.5 billion in capital investment and accounted for 15,000 initial jobs, growing to 38,000 jobs within 5 years.

We have added renewable energy projects worth $6.5 billion across the state, creating 4,500 new jobs.

We have added names like Apple, Tesla, EBay, and Hyperloop One to our roster of businesses, and others like Switch and Amazon have UNDERGONE significanT expanSIONS.

Ladies and gentlemen, the evidence is undeniable.

We’re on the right track, because we’ve made the right decisions.

In addition to companies expanding and relocating to Nevada, we’ve increased investment in our school buildings, roads, highways and bridges, positioning Nevada for a vibrant economy for years to come.

We have also taken an international leadership role in the development of unmanned aerial systems, autonomous vehicles, and water technology through our economic development efforts.

Tonight, I have more good economic news.

I’d like to introduce J.B. Straubel, chief technology officer of Tesla Motors, who is with us this evening.



In 2014, when announcing Nevada as the location of the factory, Elon Musk called Nevada the “Get It Done” state.





I want to thank J.b. and Tesla for the decision to double-down on the “Get It Done” state.

As our economy continues to grow and transform in new and unprecedented ways, it is imperative that we guard against new and unprecedented threats.

In our country, there are now five battlefields in our never-ending fight for safety and security – land, sea, air, space and cyberspace.

I have allocated $3.5 million for the creation of Nevada’s first CyberDEFENSE Center run by Nevada’s first CyberDEFENSE Coordinator.

The CyberDEFENSE Center will help Nevada detect, prevent, and respond to cyber-attacks and stand ready to partner with local governments and the private sector to minimize cyber risks.

We must remain vigilant and stay ahead of those who seek to steal our private information and endanger our resources.

With the dedicated leadership of the First Lady and former Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta, and after being the only state to receive a grant from the Council of State Governments, a group of legislators, judges and policy makers studied our Juvenile Justice System and concluded it is in need of reform.

They found that state and county agencies spent $95 million on the supervision of justice-involved youth, yet across our state there is no standardized method to track outcomes, or ensure that evidence-based practices are being utilized.

We know that some youth have multiple encounters with the courts, often leading to long-term supervision and incarceration.

We can do better.

That’s why I’m introducing the Juvenile Justice System Reform Act, which streamlines and standardizes criteria to match youth with the most effective services.

To that end, my budget includes $1.5 million to implement a statewide risk assessment program.

These changes should result in reduced recidivism rates and improved outcomes for youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

While there are many forms of public service, tonight I want to pay special attention to the servicemen and women who have devoted their strength, talent, and lives to defending our freedom.

Nevada is home to 300,000 veterans, and we are a state where their service is honored.

With us tonight is Staff Sergeant Phyllis Bendure, a 97 year old veteran of World War II.

Join me in thanking her and all veterans for their service to our country.

I am determined to make nevada the most veteran and military friendly state in the nation.

So, included in my budget is $43 million to build and open a veterans home in northern Nevada.

It’s time to stop talking and get this done in tribute to our nation’s heroes.

For Gold Star families in the United states, I have submitted legislation which permanently removes the out-of-state tuition fees that a Gold Star student IS REQUIRED TO pay to attend a Nevada university or community college.

And, for servicemen and women who answer the call to serve, I am requesting legislation that provides foreclosure protection while they are deployed, and for a period of time after they return.

Our servicemen and women have given us their all, and, we will do nothing less, for them.

An important piece of Nevada that holds a special place in our state’s and nation’s history is the Stewart Indian School in Carson City.

The campus, only a few miles away, was opened in 1890 and closed in 1980.

It was home and school to thousands of Native Americans from throughout the American southwest, and is a reminder of a different era.

The Nevada Indian Commission has applied to the National Park Service for the School to be designated a National Historic Landmark.

If designated, it will be one of only two Indian schools in America on the landmark list.

My budget includes $4.5 million to restore two buildings on the campus which will be used as Welcome and cultural Centers.

We will also invest $1.2 million to begin restoration of the "Old Gym", preserving it for cultural events.

Time has taken its toll on this historic campus, and we must protect it for the sake of our tribes and the history of the American West.

With us tonight is Darlene Imus, a 1968 graduate of Stewart Indian School and member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute tribe.

tragically, We lose one Nevadan every day to opioid overdose -- a mother, father, son, daughter, grandparent or close friend.

This has been a growing problem for over a decade, and has now reached levels of epidemic proportion.

One of the major achievements of the last legislative session was the passage of the Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Act.

This legislation increased enrollment in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program from 16 percent to 81 percent, and has expanded access to lifesaving overdose-reversal medication.

While we have made progress, prescription drug abuse is tearing at the fabric of our families and communities.

For this reason, last summer I convened a Statewide Prescription Drug Summit with participation from 500 stakeholders, that included legislators, health care professionals, law enforcement, judges, and victims.

Based on recommendations from the Summit, I will introduce the Controlled Substance Abuse Prevention Act, which provides more training and reporting and heightened protocols for medical professionals.

Working with Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle, i look forward to ridding the state OF the scourge of opioid abuse.

With the overwhelming passage of Question 3 last year, it is likely Nevadans will have energy choice in the future.

Therefore, I will create by executive order, the Governor’s Committee on Energy choice.

This committee will help prepare us for the complicated changes that lay ahead if Nevadans approve energy choice.

This committee will include members of the Legislature, major customers, organized labor, renewable energy experts, senior citizens representatives, and others.

I will ask that they prepare a transition plan enabling us to enter the new markets by 2023.

Speaking of seniors, i want to say a few words about what we’re doing to aid our most valuable, and sometimes most vulnerable, citizens.



Last November, voters also approved Question 2, which legalized recreational use of marijuana.

While I did not support it, I respect the will of the voters who did.

As I mentioned earlier, my budget includes one new source of revenue, a 10 percent excise tax on all retail sales of recreational marijuana.

The proceeds of this tax will be invested exclusively in education.

This new tax is in addition to the existing 15 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana transactions.

I will also create by executive order The Task Force on the Implementation of Question 2.

it will include stakeholders committed to fulfilling the requirements of Question 2, without compromising Nevada’s commitment to public safety.

Additionally, I will ask regulators to limit the sale of marijuana products and packaging that appeal to children or may be mistaken for candy.

Let’s work together to make sure Nevada’s market for legal marijuana is restricted, responsible, and respected.

During the past year, I set out on a personal journey to visit every state park in Nevada.

I discovered pristine mountains, lakes and trails that moved me to share what i saw with the world.

There is nothing quite like watching a child catch her first fish, hiking an aspen filled grove, or taking in the solitude of Nevada’s vast plateaus.

That’s why I am bringing forward the Explore Your Nevada initiative, to enhance our outdoor experiences in Nevada.

The centerpiece of thE initiative is the addition to the state park system of three historic ranch properties -- located along the East Walker River in Lyon County.

Last year, a non-profit organization approached us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transfer these ranches — valued at $8 million -- to Nevada, for free.

this land, to be known as the Walker River Recreation Area, unlocks an unprecedented 12,000 acres OF ranchland and opens access to 28 miles of the East Walker River to all of us.

In my budget, there is funding to provide for the first phase of facilities at the park for camping, fishing, rafting, hiking and cabin rentals.

My desire to see improvements in the park system doesn’t end there.

I am also proposing the creation of the new Tule Springs State Park, located adjacent to the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, in North Las Vegas.

Our State Parks team has worked closely with UNLV to document mammoth and other ice age fossils.

Together we can develop Tule Springs State Park into a special destination for all ages to learn about Nevada’s unique prehistoric habitat.

Lake Tahoe also deserves our attention.

We must continue the effort to preserve WHAT MARK TWAIN CALLED “SURELY THE FAIREST PICTURE THE WHOLE WORLD AFFORDS”, and my budget includes funding to fight aquatic invasive species, reduce the threat of wildfire and improve storm water drainage.

I don’t have to remind anyone about THE duty we have to protect this awesome natural treasure and its world famous clarity.

Regarding nuclear waste, let me make my position clear – for the remainder of my term I will vigorously fight the storage of high-level nuclear waste in Nevada.

Any attempt to resurrect thE ill-conceived YUCCA MOUNTAIN project will be met with relentless opposition, and maximum resources.

Let’s face it, continuing down a path that seeks to force THIS unsafe and unwanted project on Nevada is a waste of time and money and only gets the country farther away from solving its nuclear waste problem.

All of us understand and appreciate that the strength of Nevada is tied to the health of our tourism economy and a strong mining industry.

With gaming legalized around the globe, we can never relinquish our position as the gaming and entertainment capital of the world.

Competition is tough, so we must always be open to new ideas and opportuniTies.

Since last session, the state embarked upon a number of changes to gaming regulations, including the development of skill based games.

The landscape of gaming is shifting, and a new generation is growing up in a rapidly changing technology environment.

As technology evolves, so must we.

Recently, the Gaming Policy Committee met and among other items visited the issue of eSports.

Through the efforts of the Policy Committee and gaming regulators, I am proud to report that Nevada is the first and only state to allow wagers on eSports.

we must ensure that the gaming industry is free to innovate and compete, while closely adhering to two ironclad rules; player protection and safeguarding Nevada’s reputation as the “gold standard” in gaming regulation.

If Nevada were a country, it would be the fourth largest gold producer in the world.

In addition to gold mining activity, there has been much attention on another mineral found in Nevada – lithium.

We are home to the only lithium mine in the U.S., and the 2nd largest lithium deposit in North America is located in Humboldt County.

We all know the significance of lithium to our emerging sectors in advanced manufacturing and renewable energy, and we know that mining is CRITICAL to the future of the New Nevada economy.

The key to growing our mining industry is the continued opposition to restrictive federal rules related to public lands.

Join me in urging the Trump Administration, and Congress, to allow Nevada to capitalize on our wealth of mineral deposits that are central to the success of our rural and state economies.

With Nevada’s rapid growth comes infrastructure needs.

we have begun construction of the first phase of I-11, the Boulder City Bypass, expected to be completed by 2018.

But it can’t stop there.

We are completing preliminary work that will CONTINUE THE I-11 PROJECT FROM las vegas to reno, and we must work with our federal delegation to pursue the funding necessary to complete this important infrastructure project.

In Washoe County, the Spaghetti Bowl is another interchange that is beyond capacity, resulting in too many accidents and extended commuter delays.

We are working with local and regional agencies to finalize a traffic study by the end of this year and, once finalized, we will commence plans to build an interchange that allows residents and visitors to move more efficiently through the Truckee Meadows.

Most of you know that one of my top infrastructure priorities has been Project NEON in Las Vegas, the largest public works venture in Nevada history.

It expands the state’s busiest stretch of highway and, once completed, Project NEON will IMPROVE the daily commute for our residents and ENHANCE the TRAVEL experience for THE millions of visitors who COME TO LAS VEGAS.

We’ve made great progress ON this PROjeCT and I look forward to working with our legislative and local leaders to complete it by 2019, on time and on budget.

My fellow Nevadans, in my first State of the State message, I said “if Nevada were a stock, I’d buy it now”.

I’m even more confident now than I was then.

There’s no disguising it, Nevada is once again on the move!

Our commitment to the New Nevada economy is fueled by the pioneering spirit of the men and women who established the Silver State in 1864.

153 years ago, our state constitution began with the following words:

“We the people of the State of Nevada, Grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessing, insure domestic tranquility, and form a more perfect Government, do establish this Constitution,”

Our founders’ words instill in us the fortitude to command our destiny, and the courage to accept THAT it is our time, to write our history.

With high hopes for the future, I am dedicated to the proposition that, together,  we will not fail.

In my final appearance before you, I would like to express to you that this job has been the honor of my life.

And that every day I am profoundly humbled to serve as your Governor.

As I close this address,  I ask for your indulgence, on a personal level I’d like to recite a few lines of a hymn summarizing how grateful my family and I are feeling tonight:

Whenever the sun at the close of day,

Colors all the western sky,

Oh my heart returns to the desert grey

And the mountains tow’ring high.

There is the land that I love the best,

Fairer than all I can see.

Right in the heart of the golden west

Home means Nevada to me.



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