Giving an off-year state of the state address is a sure sign that Gov. Steve Sisolak thinks he’s facing a tough re-election campaign.
On Wednesday, Mr. Sisolak will deliver a speech outlining his thoughts on the year ahead and touting his plans for spending federal money. Nevada’s constitution directs the governor to deliver a message to the legislature before its biennial session. This speech, held in odd-numbered years, is the official State of the State speech.
The last time a governor gave an even-year version of this speech was in 2010. Jim Gibbons was in the midst of an economic crisis. The state budget was in shambles and Mr. Gibbons did not benefit from a bailout from the federal government. He would go on to lose his bid for re-election – in the primary.
Mr. Sisolak should go to the legislative elections, but his chances of obtaining a second mandate are far from assured. Presumably, he sees this speech as a way to make his point.
First and foremost, Nevadans will want to hear his pandemic-related plans. Last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that his state would take an “endemic” approach to fighting the virus. Since Mr. Sisolak likes to stay in Mr. Newsom’s shadow, he could take a similar approach.
For fully vaccinated people, the serious risk posed by the coronavirus is fortunately low. This was true even though the more infectious omicron variant caused an increase in cases. It’s time to scale back coronavirus efforts, adjusting to the reality that COVID won’t go away completely.
Mr. Sisolak should end his remaining emergency directives or provide a roadmap to do so. Nevadans should know that the governor recognizes the need to scale back the extraordinary authority he has wielded over the past two years.
In a broader sense, people want to know if things are back to normal. Mr Sisolak is due to speak at Allegiant Stadium without an in-person audience except the media. Talking in a large empty room can give unpleasant flashbacks. Hopefully Mr. Sisolak can rhetorically demonstrate how Las Vegas is open for business and ready for tourists.
Mr. Sisolak would present an outline of his budget that he would submit if re-elected. The last two governors to be re-elected, both Republicans, successfully lobbied for massive tax hikes the following session. Mr. Sisolak is expected to tell Nevada residents if he plans to go down a similar path. With all the federal money Nevada has received, it should make it clear that it is not necessary to do so.
Although the political motive of the speech is obvious, there are some topics worth discussing.