Sandoval hitting all the right notes on the state budget

Victor Joecks

Newspapers around the state reported yesterday that governor-elect Brian Sandoval is “very optimistic” about balancing the budget without raising taxes.

“The numbers look very good in terms of our being able to cut. It is not going to be a one-size-fits-all (cut). This is going to be a thoughtful discussion, a thoughtful approach in balancing the budget,” Sandoval said.

While I have a trust-but-verify attitude when it comes to policymakers, this isn’t the only thing Sandoval’s said so far that is very encouraging. Last week Sandoval was interview by Anjeanette Damon on her show “To the Point.” On the show, Sandoval not only gave a spirited defense of a no-new-taxes budget, but he also articulated why Nevada doesn’t have a $3 billion deficit. (Discussion starts at the 2:20 mark.)

Update: I’m having problems with the embedded video. Go here for the video or read the transcript below.

Damon quoting John Oceguera: “When the governor talks to the budget office, the fiscal guys, it’ll take 20 minutes to realize what the problem is. When you take $3 billion out, even hard-core Republicans cannot stomach what those cuts are.”

Damon: So are you going to be able to stomach the cuts you’re going to have to make?

Sandoval: I have a lot of respect for the speaker and we’re going to work together on this. And that’s his figure. That $3 billion figure is built on roll-ups from the last budget and that’s not the way we can budget. We have to budget from the amount of money we have to spend, not the amount of money we’d like to spend.

Damon: But you still think the state will be able to function going back to 2007 spending levels?

Sandoval: Absolutely. It’s been clear – our state population has actually decreased. Enrollment has remained very steady and is actually decreasing, so I’m very confident we can do it.

What’s important here is that Sandoval didn’t just answer her question. He redefined the question to remove a false premise – that Nevada has a $3 billion hole. As Sandoval notes (and NPRI and many of the state’s top political reporters have noted), the $3 billion figure is based on a spending increase of $2 billion, and Nevada’s budget deficit is only about $1 billion.

By removing the false premise from Oceguera’s statement, Sandoval is not only able to accurately describe the budgetary reality, he is able to make the reasonable case that Nevada needs to live within its means: “We have to budget from the amount of money we have to spend, not the amount of money we’d like to spend.”

Why is it so important that Sandoval is doing this? Because, despite the delusions of grandeur I have about this blog, only a high-profile elected official, like Sandoval, is going to be able to continually set the record straight about Nevada’s budget situation and explain to the general public how Nevada needs to trim its budget by about 20 percent and not increase spending by $2 billion.

And this is going to have to be done again and again once the Left starts claiming that believers in limited government don’t care about education or want to hurt disabled people.

As Chris Christie has shown in New Jersey, a charismatic governor has the ability to appeal directly to the people and explain things like how a baseline budget and roll-up costs work. This kind of appeal and leadership can thwart the typical lies of the Left and the soon-to-be-forthcoming cries of “Draconian” budget cuts.

Can I guarantee that Brian Sandoval is going to hold the line on taxes? No.

But if he intends to, he’s off to a great start.