State workers to Sisolak: ‘Cut corporate subsidies, not services’

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Gov. Steve Sisolak delivering remarks to state employees via video in June.
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Gov. Steve Sisolak delivering remarks to state employees via video in June.

While Nevada education and health officials were talking about budget cuts with legislators Wednesday, another group of state employees called for cutting something else: state tax breaks and subsidies to corporations, and generous industry tax deductions.

Several times during the pandemic, Sisolak has praised the work of state employees. Earlier this week, in a document outlining proposed cuts to the state budget, the governor’s office called state employees “critical to the successful operation of state government and the services provided to Nevadans” and people who “have been on the front line and dedicated long hours to serve and protect the health of our state throughout this public health emergency.”

That document then explained that under the budget cutting plan, state employees would take 12 unpaid furlough days in the upcoming fiscal year, merit pay would be frozen, and 700 vacant positions would be left unfilled.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees had already filed an Unfair Labor Practices complaint in June against the state for announcing furloughs and salary freezes without negotiating with employees. 

In a statement Wednesday, AFSCME said it finally met with representatives of the governor’s office earlier this week. And it didn’t go well, the union said.

Failing to leave with an agreement, the union is proceeding with its Unfair Labor Practices complaint.

“We presented solutions that would generate savings for the state and also ideas to increase revenue,” Harry Schiffman, president of AFSCME Local 4041, said in the statement.

“Corporations receive subsidies, loopholes and deductions (particularly in mining) that, even if reduced by a fraction, could generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue for the state. The revenue is there,” Schiffman said.

The union noted that last year Sisolak vetoed a bill that would have more closely monitored state tax breaks and other financial incentives provided to private companies. That bill also would have given legislators more influence over the program of bestowing tax breaks, a program which is currently administered by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development now run by a former executive for the largest mining corporation in the state.

The union is seeking a restoration of merit pay, but also “a voluntary salary savings leave program and, if needed, a progressive salary savings leave plan as a last resort.”

And the union called on the governor and lawmakers to “cut corporate subsidies – not services.”

“We know that times are tough, and sacrifices will have to be made,” Schiffman said. “After years of cuts to state public services, we are reaching a breaking point where the quality of services and staff are at risk if the governor’s only solution is to make more cuts. I don’t know how we help our communities recover from this pandemic if we aren’t there to provide the services Nevadans need.”

Sisolak’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.