Sisolak’s new plans target housing, roads, internet, kids

February 24, 2022 GMT
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak arrives with his wife Kathy to deliver the State of the State address at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. In the background are the governor's daughters Ashley Sisolak, left, and Carley Sisolak. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak arrives with his wife Kathy to deliver the State of the State address at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. In the background are the governor's daughters Ashley Sisolak, left, and Carley Sisolak. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak arrives with his wife Kathy to deliver the State of the State address at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. In the background are the governor's daughters Ashley Sisolak, left, and Carley Sisolak. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak arrives with his wife Kathy to deliver the State of the State address at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. In the background are the governor's daughters Ashley Sisolak, left, and Carley Sisolak. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak arrives with his wife Kathy to deliver the State of the State address at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. In the background are the governor's daughters Ashley Sisolak, left, and Carley Sisolak. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak outlined his latest plans Wednesday for spending billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief and other funds with an emphasis on reducing housing costs, upgrading infrastructure and expanding broadband internet access.

In an off-year version of his state of the state speech, Sisolak emphasized he won’t propose any new tax increases. He said the $500 million he is proposing in an initiative he dubbed “Home Means Nevada” would be the single largest housing investment in state history.

Other new initiatives are intended to lower child-care costs, provide free lunches for all school children the next two years, hire more health care workers, raise salaries for state law officers and combat climate change, he said.

The Democratic governor is seeking re-election against a crowded field of Republicans who’ve criticized his handling of the pandemic, especially a statewide mask mandate he lifted two weeks ago.

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“While we still have a lot more work to do, we refused to let the pandemic stop our progress,” Sisolak said in the speech to invited guests and media at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas that was broadcast on YouTube.

“The state of our state is resilient and getting stronger day by day,” he said. “Nevada is on the move.”

Sisolak closed casinos and many businesses when COVID-19 first arrived in Nevada in March 2020 until early June 2020 to prevent people from gathering and spreading the virus.

Unemployment skyrocketed, topping 30% — the highest in the nation. Hotel bookings stopped. The effects on the state economy are still being felt.

The Nevada Republican Party said in a statement Wednesday that most Nevadans are worse off now than they were when Sisolak took office in 2018. It said “regular Nevadans” have been put at “the back of the line and and only the politically connected donor class has prospered.”

Sisolak “wants you to forget about that,” the state GOP said.

“When you fill up at the gas pump and gas is over $4 per gallon, and every grocery trip costs more, he would like Nevadans to forget. He hopes you forget the small businesses he forced to close through his direct actions. He hopes you forget that all of this was avoidable,” it said.

Most of the money in plans Sisolak laid out Wednesday would come from federal relief the state received last year under the American Rescue Plan, or expects to receive under a national infrastructure program approved by Congress.

Nevada’s governor is required to give a state of the state address every other year before Nevada’s part-time legislature convenes ahead of his formal budget presentation.

“This year, there is no session, but with the pandemic receding I thought it was important to talk to you about our path forward,” Sisolak said. “Today, our economy is one of the fastest growing in the country. Tourism is up; unemployment is down.”

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He said all Nevadans deserve credit for the virus-related sacrifices they made to get the state on the road to recovery “despite the noise we hear from some in politics, despite the partisanship that can distract and divide.”

The last time a Nevada governor gave an off-year address on the state’s condition was during the recession before a special session in 2010, when Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons subsequently became the first incumbent governor to lose his party’s primary.

Gibbons lost that year to Republican Brian Sandoval, a former federal judge who went on to serve two terms as governor and now is president of the University of Nevada, Reno.

Sisolak said he plans to use $4 billion in federal infrastructure funds to upgrade roads, bridges and water systems, and more than $500 million for new broadband infrastructure “to make sure every Nevadans has access to high-speed internet.”

He said his housing initiative will boost construction and home ownership opportunities and help seniors retrofit their homes. Sisolak said he’s also developing a new partnership with the AFL-CIO through the state’s infrastructure bank to help fund new housing developments.

Other initiatives are intended to assist small businesses and find ways to make community colleges and other worker training programs free for more Nevadans. He also plans a bipartisan task force charged with reducing “red-tape” in occupational licensing for a host of professions, from barbers to private investigators.

Sisolak said Nevadans also would benefit from the state’s plans to join Oregon and Washington in a Northwest Prescription Drug Consortium to jointly negotiate lower costs.

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Sonner reported from Reno, Nevada