Steve Sisolak is the chairman of the Clark County Commission and is running to become Nevada's next governor.
Sisolak is a Democrat who will face a tough primary in June.
He has a long record of government service in Southern Nevada and believes his approach is what's needed to propel the state forward.
Sisolak told KNPR's State of Nevada that his top priority is education. He believes part of the problem with our state's education system is money.
He agreed with Gov. Brian Sandoval's 2015 tax hike to fund education, but he said the money went to specialty schools and programs.
“Enough dollars did not get down into the classroom to help the students and help the teachers,” he said.
He wants to increase pay for teachers and make sure education dollars aren't diverted to other projects. He wants to institute a requirement that two-thirds of the Legislature is needed to cut education funding.
He also wants the state to start emphasizing trade schools.
Sisolak said as a regent at the Nevada System of Higher Education he was frustrated that high school students weren't encouraged to go to trade school, gain a skill and start making more money without the high debt load from traditional universities and colleges.
While education is his top priority, Sisolak defended his support for the $750 million in public money going to the Raiders stadium. Many people, including his opponent in the Democratic primary Chris Giunchigliani, question why public money was funneled to the stadium and not for education.
Sisolak said the room tax that is feeding the $750 million in public funds is being paid by tourists and the stadium will help boost tourism.
“What it’s going to do is help fill up those 150,000 rooms that are on Las Vegas Boulevard. It could never have gone for education because the Nevada Resort Association, they are the ones collecting it, would never have supported it,” he said.
He also said the stadium will create thousands of construction jobs and permanent jobs. In addition, millions of dollars in sales taxes from the operation of the stadium will go to education.
While he supported the public funding of the stadium, Sisolak believes the tax abatements given to large corporations like the ones for Tesla to bring the gigafactory to Northern Nevada need a second look.
He wants small businesses to get tax incentives as well.
“I would propose that the governor have a governor’s office of small business, not just economic development, which are the big ones GOED (Governor’s Office of Economic Development) but there should be something to attract small businesses,” he said.
He said jobs in small companies are just as important as jobs in large corporations, especially for the people who have the job.
Besides education and the economy, Sisolak wants to tackle the issue of the state's ailing mental health care system.
“We clearly do not have enough mental health beds in Nevada,” he said, “We have to decide what kind of community we want to be. What kind of services we want to offer.”
He said if elected he'll bring lawmakers together to talk about solutions for mental health without overburdening businesses with taxes.
As far as the other issues facing Nevada, Sisolak says he would fight any federal intrusion into the state's growing marijuana industry and he believes in better background checks for guns and would push for a ban on automatic weapons.
Sisolak says he'll bring his experience from the Clark County Commission to Carson City - if elected.
“I think one of my best attributes that I have learned on the county commission is building a consensus and making people come together,” he said.
Sisolak says he has the ability to get people into a room to work out differences and come up with common sense solutions to problems.
Steve Sisolak is running for governor as a Democrat. KNPR News sent out a questionnaire. Here are his answers:
Question: Education in Nevada is ranked dead last or close to it. What does it need to improve?
Our schools have ranked at the bottom for too long. As governor, improving our state’s education system will be my top priority.
Our 50-year old funding formula is out-of-date and needs to be updated to keep up with the needs of our schools. I will bring together stakeholders from across the state to modernize the formula to addresses these issues.
We must give our educators the support they deserve to attract and retain the best. I will create a dedicated funding source within the budget to be allocated to school districts to make salaries more competitive. Modernizing the DSA formula will help financially support smaller class sizes as well so that educators can give students the attention they need.
We need to increase and protect our education funding. The voters approved recreational marijuana in an effort to generate additional education funding. Unfortunately, the money has largely supplanted the state's required portion of funding instead of providing new money for education. I will put an end to this and ensure that promised revenue actually increases funding for education. I also believe that public education funding should go to public schools, not to private institutions.
Currently, there are no incentives for schools that find budget efficiencies. We should be applauding those efforts, not penalizing with less funding in the next budget cycle. It also shouldn’t be easier to cut funding than to increase it. If a supermajority is required to increase funding, the same should be required to cut it.
Finally, getting our education system on the right track will take the input of the whole community. I will explore how schools can partner with businesses and service organizations for an “Adopt a School” program. I will also encourage efforts to restructure school boards to increase professional input along with locally-elected officials and locally-appointed leaders. For me, the only option not on the table is not doing anything at all.
Question: Mental health is becoming a growing problem in the state. To fix it would require a lot of money. Where would that money come from?
The lack of access to mental health resources is a crisis. Too few doctors can afford to take insurance and, too often, our jails become the only place we house the severely mentally ill. I will work with the legislature and all stakeholders to make sure we prioritize critical funding.
Question: Housing costs are going up in Reno and Las Vegas, and both metropolitan areas are having a difficult time providing affordable homes or apartments to the growing numbers of people moving there. How do you propose increasing investment in affordable housing?
I think there are opportunities for localities, the state, the federal government and private entities to partner to increase our affordable housing capacity. Currently, Nevada can partner with a developer to build out affordable housing projects but more can be done at a state and local level. I will look at adjusting the maximum incentives Nevada offers developers of affordable housing. In addition, as governor, I will assemble an affordable housing task force whose primary focus will be to investigate every avenue possible to solve our affordable housing crisis.
Right now, incentives encourage over-the-top new home construction. It’s important that developers have an economic incentive for building starter homes that are affordable for teachers, first responders and working families. As governor, I will look into inclusionary incentive programs like density bonuses, fee reductions and expediting the permitting process to motivate developers to develop projects that are truly affordable
Question: Was it a good idea for Las Vegas to invest $750 million in room taxes to build a stadium for a professional football team? If not, why not? If so, how do you think it will benefit Nevada?
Nearly 32,500 people will be put to work building the Stadium and Convention Center and there will be 13,800 permanent, good jobs when they are completed. The additional tax revenue generated from its economic activity comes out in Nevada’s favor, including $13 million a year earmarked for education. It is also important to remember that the County - not the Raiders - owns the stadium. UNLV will be able to play there, which helps attract alumni support for the school. Because it is a hotel tax, everything is funded by a tax on tourists, not Nevadans.
Question: Does Nevada need to enact any laws related to background checks to obtain a weapon in the state?
The voters made it clear in 2016: Nevada should enforce background checks and it is incumbent on elected leadership implement them. There are no excuses for not getting it done. Nevadans deserve a governor committed to enforcing the will of the voters and who can work with the key stakeholders to do so.
Steve Sisolak, democratic candidate for governor
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.