2020 was an incredibly challenging year on many levels. We were all impacted by the effects of COVID-19 in our homes, workplaces, and community. This Pandemic changed the way we interact, socialize and how we celebrated the holidays. COVID cases continue to be on the rise and we have lost far too many loved ones. The corporate landscape changes with people working from home and homes becoming our children’s classrooms. Our state has one of the smallest budgets with one of the largest state worker-to-resident ratios in the country. Over the summer the Legislature was called into a special session to make some heartbreaking decisions. Given the state’s economic circumstances we were tasked with making a 30% cut to our budget ($1.2 billion from our $4 billion annual budget) just to make it through the rest of the fiscal year. The November job report showed what many already knew; Nevada has been hit hard having the second highest unemployment rate in the nation. Simply stated, COVID has exposed many of the cracks in our system and many of those cracks have been hurting black and brown families disproportionately.
Amid all the negativity, 2020 brought our community together to support one another in true Vegas style, neighbors helping neighbors. We are a citizen legislature made up of everyday folks, parents, teachers, union members, civil servants, your neighbors who have stepped up to lead, we understand the frustration felt and we have been weathering this pandemic together with our constituents. We have delivered food and needed supplies to our seniors, created food delivery programs for COVID positive families, canvassed neighborhoods getting students connected to Wi-Fi, assisted families and small businesses in receiving information for rental assistance and held virtual townhalls to address medical and behavioral health matters. Our priorities are focused on economic recovery, getting our economy back on track along with families, workers, and small businesses back on their feet, funding a stronger health care system, and getting our kids and teachers back in the classroom.
As a Democratic lead legislature, we understand that it is critical that we weigh every budget decision carefully and that it will require meaningful collaboration with every stakeholder at the table stepping up to do what works, what is right and what will help our communities in the long run. We will leave no stone unturned. It is not our intention to raise revenue on the backs of hardworking Nevadans and those who are hurting the most because of this pandemic, but we must have a revenue conversation.
Nevada is a service/tourism-based economy; therefore, we will be one of the last states to recover. This is not a sustainable way to build our future and to create a state budget that reflects our priorities. We continue to work closely with our federal delegation, in hopes of another COVID relief bill before session starts so we can gain clarity as to what resources we may have to help our state weather the storm in the short term. The pathway to our recovery will require our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to be a part of the conversation and ultimately part of the solution because no raising of revenue can happen without a bi-partisan solution and bi-partisan commitment. We must address big corporations paying their fair share, especially those who have not been adversely impacted by the economic downturn like mining. As well as doubling down on opportunities to diversify our economy through clean, renewable energy. It means working with the business community, specifically small business owners, to hear directly from them and assess what their needs are to help create policies that will aid in their recovery. Together, we must decide, do we prioritize tax loopholes for multi-billion-dollar corporations or do we prioritize our state’s healthcare system, our local schools, and essential services.
The 2020 census results are vital to our recovery and pathway to our new normal. The census data not only directly affects the redistricting in our state; it also reflects the amount of federal funding and federal grant opportunities our state receives. Nevada’s population is one of the most diverse in the country, with a diverse legislature, it is important that redistricting prioritizes and reflects that diversity so that Nevada families not only have the representation they deserve but the federal funding they have earned.
The pathway to our new normal will not be easy and it will require all of us working together to help Nevada recover and rebuild.
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