Sandoval explains tax plan, ed reforms, says SOS falsely claimed his backing for voter ID, and much more from gov

In an exclusive one-hour sitdown the morning after his State of the State, Gov. Brian Sandoval explained why he proposed the largest tax increase in history to pay for the broadest education reform agenda in history, suggested he has only a passing interest in other GOP plans for collective bargaining and construction defect reform and said Secreatry of State Barbara Cegavske falsely claimed his backing for her voter ID bill.

I have already revealed some of that interview in my Gazette-Journal column. But he talked about a lot more than his plan -- and there's only so much space in a column -- so here is some more of that interview. (I will post a transcript of the entire conversation, with Chief of Staff Mike Willden and communications boss Mari St. Martin looking on, for premium subscribers later this afternoon.)

I was able to view the actual Business License Fee spreadsheet, which showed the 30 categories and breakdown of tiers from $400 to $4.2 million. They are still tweaking it, but the calculation of the tax is quite simple, even if the politics are not.

I figured out another reason the administration doesn't want us to call it a tax -- BLF is innocuous; BLT sounds like a bland sandwich.

One note about the State of the State I gleaned from my chat with the governor: He abandoned the TelePrompTer, which is why his delivery was so much more relaxed. Many noticed how much more at ease he was. He does not like the Prompter; those of us who have used one know why.

Sandoval explained how he had arrived at the tax increase plan after elminating other ideas and after the economy had rebounded faster than even he had hoped. "We’ve actually done better than I thought we were going to do," the governor told me.

Sandoval, as I pointed out in my column, did not exactly make a Shermanesque statement about running for the U.S. Senate, but it was pretty close and he said more, including an assertion that he gave up a lifetime appointment to do more than spare the state another Jim Gibbons term:

Last night was why I left the bench.  That’s why.  I guess, not the reason.  I left the bench to get Nevada back on its feet and now, to take Nevada to the next level – to help build this new Nevada.  So I am absolutely hyper-focused on this job.  I’m not thinking about any of those other things.  I honestly don’t know what I’m going to be doing in three years, 11 months, in 14 days from now.  I have no idea.  But I do know what I’m doing now and I’m focused on now getting done what I proposed last night.

Here's more of what he said, including his shot at Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske for claiming the governor's support of her voter ID bill (that even she cannot describe yet). 

The new tax:

It wasn’t just broadening for the sake of broadening though.  It was very strategic in terms of the education initiatives that I talked about last night.  I mean, that part of the problem is we, as the State of Nevada, have not been very good at recognizing the change in the demographics in the school districts in Las Vegas and Reno.  And these kids that get started never catch up, and so that’s why you see me putting such a heavy duty marker down on pre-K, and kindergarten, and the Read by Three.  So anyway, I don’t think you were going there, but it just wasn’t, let’s throw a bunch of stuff out there.....And to broaden the tax base in a way that everybody…you know that…it had to be brought.  It has to have everybody pitching in, and so those were some of the policy issues.  Then there were some practical issues about what can we implement right away to fund the programs.  So, this business license fee was already there.  You don’t have to have 200 employees at the Department of Taxation that are going to be auditing whether you shouldn’t have taken these deductions and such, so…

But is it fair?

Yes….It is fair.  Don’t forget that it is fair….BLF…..B-L-F.  Business License Fee.  Broadest, Least complicated, Fair…Fairest….You don’t have to hire an accountant.  I mean, with gross receipts that’s what you’d have to do.  With the margins tax that’s what you would have had to be done, so again, there’s no perfect solution, but we really tried to balance all of the different issues with the few possibilities that there were.  We tried to be as thoughtful as we could.  

He had to know he would take heat from business types and conservatives?

I have to do what in my heart that I felt was in the best interest of the state of Nevada to get us to where we needed to go and if there was an easier way that would be great, but there’s not, and that’s where that line in the speech came from last night.  You know, I’m know I’m asking for a lot, but for us to get to where we need to go, this is what we need to do.  I mean it – as you saw in that speech I wanted to put things in perspective.  Our budget is the same as it was 10 years ago, yet we have 300,000 more people in the state.  We have 50,000 more students. We have twice as many people on social services, yet we have the small – yet this line wasn’t in there, we just took it out, but we have the smallest proportion of state employees in the country.  So, we’ve already done that; we’ve reduced, you know, found efficiencies, we’ve consolidated.  All that work has been done, so we’re at this place again where I felt like, you know, somebody’s got to take this on.  And, as governor, who else is going to do it.

Why not double the payroll tax?

Because it’s not as broad-based.  It punishes – I mean it – it punishes the large employers – the construction companies, the gaming companies – we need in order for this to work, we have to have the broadest base possible and going back to it being fair.

To those who oppose the new taxes?

What are you going to cut?  Are you going to take the money?  I mean not only would you remove all of the programming that I talked about last night, you’d cut into the base budget.  And, I guess backing up, and another conscious decision that I’ve made is were not moving backwards anymore.  I’m not going to do it.  

School choice:

That’s going to give the true choice.  The public school system will have these resources now to provide a good education for our kids.  But in the meantime, if I’m a parent and my child or my son and daughter is in an overcrowded classroom and there’s a chance to go to a charter school or a private school, why shouldn’t they have the ability to do that?

Collective bargaining reform (he said he won't propose anything and bill will come from Assembly GOP):

Well, I want to see it, because I can’t go too far.  I’m not saying we’re going to eliminate collective bargaining.Well, for instance, the number of bargained items is very long.  So we’re going to talk about what is the list of those things that can be collective bargained.

Construction defects reform (no bill from him):

Not specifically.  Again, those are bills that are going, I just wanted to let the people know that I’m going to be supportive of that.  The construction defect has been every session, and it gets killed every session.  So this session it’s going to be different.  There’s going to be a conversation.  But it can’t go too far.  And that’s the point I was trying to make last night that if, obviously, not obviously, but I’m receptive to it and going to have those conversations.  I was there in ’95 and ’97 (as an assemblyman) when it was first adopted.

Voter ID:

It depends what it looks like.  And I think that the Secretary of State unfairly said, I don’t know why she said I would support her bill.  I never told her that I was going to support her bill.

What about his bragging about lowered uninsured rates and less dependence on state funds after the ACA's Medicaid expansion? Here's the actual exchange:

I was opposed to requiring people to have to purchase insurance, to the mandate.

But it’s worked, hasn’t it?  The Affordable Care Act has worked.  That part of it, at least, has worked for Nevada, has it not? It’s helped.

The part that has worked is we have been able to, with the funding piece of it.  We’ve gotten, what is it, $1.3 billion for a $100 million investment in federal funds and you heard me talking about it last night.  We’re the fourth most-improved state in the country and it sounds like Mike’s already taken you through not only has it saved us money on the health side but we’ve been able to cover more people with that.