LAS VEGAS — Nevada’s Republican-controlled Legislature needs to pass a more broadly based tax, and its members need to stop saying money won’t cure the woes at the state’s low-performing schools, former Assemblyman Jason Frierson said Tuesday.
The Democrat’s remarks at a Las Vegas union hall were part of the Progressive State of the State, a speech designed to give a left-leaning counterpoint to the official State of the State address that Gov. Brian Sandoval is scheduled to deliver Thursday evening. The speech focused on increasing funding for education, but it touched on other liberal policy priorities, such as blocking voter identification laws and raising the minimum wage.
“Overwhelmingly low voter turnout of our base, however, has made it more difficult to ensure that this will get addressed in 2015,” Frierson, a two-term legislator who recently lost his seat by 40 votes to a little-known Republican candidate, said in prepared remarks. “We can do it if we don’t stand silently by while a vocal minority would implement their extreme priorities for our state.”
Frierson argued that the state is “teetering on a two-legged stool of gaming and sales taxes” and needs to rework the tax structure to ensure that large corporations pay their fair share. More money needs to go to the state’s “inadequate public education system,” he said, because the quality is deterring businesses from moving to Nevada.
The speech, which was also delivered in Spanish by Las Vegas immigration activist Astrid Silva, took shots at two Republican priorities: School choice measures, which promote alternatives to traditional public schools, and an effort to bring federally managed lands within the state’s borders under state control.
Frierson said the term “school choice” was a misnomer for policies that demand more from parents with limited resources.
He said efforts to reclaim land from the federal government, which conservatives say would allow the state to reap the benefits of economic development there, would actually force taxpayers to pay for management services the federal government already provides.
“Our public lands are the crown jewels we should pass down to our children, not sell to the highest bidder,” he said.
Sandoval is expected to give his speech Thursday, after releasing a proposed two-year state budget. Lawmakers will convene Feb. 2 to begin debating and amending the proposal.