News - August 18, 2017 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar
Nevada Newsmakers

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said this week on Nevada Newsmakers that she is doing her "due diligence" as she ponders running for governor as a Democrat in 2018.

Of course, if she runs, it will mean a primary-election battle with fellow Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who has already officially announced he will run.

"If that what it comes down to, I'm fine with that," she said.

"I know that the base of Democratic politics have very different primary voters than your general election voters and I feel very confident," she added. "I'd have to work hard. I don't have the same war chest."

Sisolak has said he has already amassed a campaign fund of $3.8 million.

Yet money is not everything, Giunchigliani added.

"I think people in this country and this state are tired of people trying to buy politics," Giunchigliani said. "You should not be running for something just because you have a war chest. You should be running for the opportunity to do something, so I think that would differentiate me (from Sisolak)."

Giunchigliani siad she may not get the same support from major donors in Las Vegas and The Strip that Sisolak may enjoy. Sisolak has two years left on his Clark Commission post. Giunchiglani is termed out after this year and loses leverage in gaining donations.

"I would be termed out, so I don't have the same threat -- sort of speak -- that my colleague would because he has another two years after this election," she said. "So it is a different dynamic."

She noted that she pushed for a law while she was in the Legislature that would force people to resign from one office before running for another.

Yet it did not pass in Carson City.

"A few years ago, me and Marcia de Braga tried to put in statute that you had to resign to run for a different office because it put people in an uncomfortable position, can create conflict and should not be used to be perceived as arm wrestling people (to donate) because they know you are still going to be there (in your old office if you lose)," she said. "But unfortunately, Nevada has not chosen to do that at this point."

For now, she is concentrating on gaining grass-roots support.

"I have been doing some listening tours in the north to re-acquaint myself with some folks and I'll be making some decisions in the next couple of months," Giunchigliani said.

So far, she said, the support is growing for her gubernatorial run.

"My constituents have reached out to me along with Democratic, Republican and Libertarian voters. It has been kind of wonderful."

If Giunchigliani runs for governor, better funding Nevada's public education would be a priority, she said.

"Here's what really needs to be done, regardless of where the tax base comes from: We need to fully fund the pre-k through 12 funding formula so it is equitable," Giunchigliani said.

"We have, not ever, finished funding that correctly and that means that Washoe (County) actually lost money this last time around (in the Legislature) just because of the victory schools, the star schools, peeling off all of those types of programs. Zoom, victory, knowledge-based -- all that doesn't fix the fundamental problem of the under-funding of the formula. So we have to fix the formula so that all counties get their fair share.'

Democrats have long criticized Nevada's public education funding. They can point to Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report from December of 2016 that ranks Nevada's k-12 public education system as 51st among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The 2017 Kids County Data Book ranks Nevada's education system as 49th in the nation.

"It is disingenuous for anybody to say our schools are adequately funded," Giunchigliani said. "They are not. It is time to end that conversation by doing something about it instead of talking about it."

In June, the head of the Nevada State Education Association, Ruben Murillo, said the state still needs about $1 billion more in public-education funding to meet the needs of a growing state.

Yet Giunchigliani would not place an new revenue amount on her proposal.

"I don't know," she said when asked how much money her plan would take. "I would have to talk to Ruben (Murillo) and see what their budget numbers are looking at. Are we under funded? I don't know what that dollar amount is at this time. We will have an analysis to make sure that if we are going to fund it, what do we actually need?"

State lawmakers approved the largest tax-hike ever -- $1.4 billion in new and extended taxes -- in the 2015 Legislature to initiate far-reaching reforms in Nevada's struggling K-12 education system.

State Controller Ron Knecht and former Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers, both Republicans, filed a petition to repeal a major part of that tax hike -- namely the Commerce Tax.

When asked if an appetite exists for another tax hike in the 2019 Legislature, Giunchigliani said:

"There is always an appetite if it is properly laid out. You've got to do your homework. You have to look at your financial standings. You look where you don't hurt people. All of that would have to be taken into consideration."

Giunchigliani, however, said, "It is a little bit premature for me to be saying what needs to be raised or not raised."