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Gov. Sandoval proposes economic plan to encourage private sector job growth


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Gov. Brian Sandoval today said he will embark on a multifaceted approach to rebuilding Nevada’s economy by assisting in private-sector job growth, including the creation of a $10 million “Catalyst Fund” to provide one-time incentives to businesses that want to relocate to the state.

Sandoval, who delivered his first State of the State address to a packed Assembly chambers, also wants to double the amount of state general funds invested in the Nevada Commission on Economic Development at a cost of $2.3 million a year.

Economic development was one of the main themes of his address, along with balancing the state budget and education reforms.

Noting that he developed his plan in cooperation with Assembly Speaker-elect John Oceguera and Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, both Democrats, Sandoval said: “I propose a complete overhaul of our state’s economic development program.”

“We propose to redesign the Commission on Economic Development and recommend a 50 percent increase in general fund dollars to run it,” Sandoval said. “A new entity, Nevada Jobs Unlimited, will be a public private partnership existing largely outside state government.

“With a private sector mentality, it will be more nimble,” he said. “And it will be a cabinet-level agency, with the governor joining the lieutenant governor, Senate majority leader, Assembly speaker, and representatives of higher education and other critical stakeholders on the board.”

The new entity will pursue strategies that grow jobs within existing Nevada businesses, as well as recruit companies from out-of-state, Sandoval said.

Another component of his economic development plan is a $10 million “Silver State Works” employment initiative aimed at veterans, unemployment benefit recipients, public assistance recipients and ex-offenders.

A primary goal is to promote a “Work First” culture through employer hiring incentives, on-the-job training and community service. The program is projected to help 10,000 unemployed workers using existing staff resources.

True to his word, Sandoval has proposed a $5.8 billion general fund budget for the next two years that does not raise taxes or fees. Along with the $5.3 billion in projected tax revenue estimated by the Nevada Economic Forum, Sandoval is proposing just over $500 million in additional “revenue reallocations” including $221 million in room taxes that had been proposed to go to teacher salaries but instead would remain in the general fund budget for the next two years.

His plan would also reallocate nine cents of the property tax from Clark and Washoe counties to fund the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the University of Nevada, Reno. This transfer would save the state general fund about $121 million.

A final component would transfer $425 million in school district bond repayment reserves to operating expenses for the districts to cover projected shortfalls in sales and property tax revenues, in effect another savings to the general fund.

“When all was said and done, the proposed general fund expenditures in my budget total just over $5.8 billion over the next two years – within 1 percent of general fund spending in 2007,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval has said repeatedly that fostering job creation and growth, not raising taxes on businesses or families, is what is needed to get the state out of the current fiscal crisis.

Sandoval noted in his speech that Nevada’s unemployment rate grew again in December, hitting 14.5 percent.

“In order for Nevada to fully recover, we must focus our energy on job creation,” he said.

To that end, Sandoval is proposing the Catalyst Fund, which will provide incentives to “close deals, finance infrastructure and spur the growth of new jobs.”

“Our future likes in business sectors like technology commercialization, bioscience, renewable energy asset development and defense sector expansion,” he said.

Sandoval cited the company Switch, which developed a two-million-square-foot technology ecosystem campus in Las Vegas, as an example of Nevada’s economic future. The company builds large, secure technology data centers with a telecommunications hub.

“Switch’s vision and innovation are attracting many Fortune 1000 companies to Las Vegas, and they are bringing jobs to Nevada,” he said.

Sandoval also called for improved transportation links between Las Vegas and Phoenix via Interstate 11 and to Southern California via high-speed rail.

His budget also includes $3 million to help residents of rural Nevada use broadband access to start and grow businesses and telecommute.

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