Policy Reports

Guinn Center Research

chartThe Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities is a nonprofit, independent policy research center focused on providing fact-based and well-reasoned analysis of critical policy issues that advance solutions toward a vibrant Nevada. Recognizing the time constraints of the decision makers in Nevada’s policy sphere, our analysis and information is accessible, timely, and relevant.

This page includes recent policy reports published within the 6-12 months.  Archived reports are included under the issues tab.

Governing Nevada

A Summary of State Programs to Use CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF)

In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was enacted into law in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At $2 trillion, it is one of the largest relief packages in U.S. history. Included in the act is an estimated $560 billion for individuals, $500 billion for large corporations, $377 billion for small businesses, $340 billion in support for State and Local Governments, and $154 billion for Public Health.  Specifically, Title V of the CARES Act established the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), which provides financial relief to states, tribes, and local governments for the increased costs associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency. Per Title V, Nevada received over $1.25 billion allocated in the following manner:  $836 million to the State of Nevada; $295 million to Clark County, and $119 million to the City of Las Vegas. Recently, Governor Sisolak announced the distribution of $148 million to northern Nevada and rural counties, leaving a total of $688 million that must be disbursed and expended by December 31, 2020. This brief summarizes some of the programs other states have launched using CRF funds. 

COVID-19 and Eviction Risk in Nevada

In response to the economic impacts of COVID-19, Governor Sisolak issued an evictions moratorium, which is scheduled to expire August 31, 2020. The Guinn Center partnered with the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project (CEDP) to project the potential increase in evictions following the expiration of the current state moratorium.

Nevada Property Taxes 101

This two page brief summarizes property taxes in Nevada and compares Nevada’s property tax rates to other states.

How Dependent Is Nevada on Sales and Use Taxes?

This policy brief summarizes the contribution of sales tax to Nevada’s overall revenue collections. 

COVID-19 and the Impact of Recession on the Economy and Housing in Nevada

This policy brief examines the impact of recessions on the economy, broadly speaking, and on housing more specifically. By looking at metrics for Nevada following 9/11 and the 2007-2009 recession, or the Great Recession, we hope to provide insight into the potential effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. 

An Analysis of the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program Loan Information

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 has offered significant assistance to small businesses and nonprofits. Included in the federal aid package was $349 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was earmarked for loans to small businesses to cover costs associated with maintaining their workforce. As of April 16, 2020, the funds set aside to support small businesses through the PPP were exhausted. In this policy brief, the Guinn Center team reviews the PPP Loan data and compares Nevada to other states. 

Following the conclusion of Round 2 of PPP funding, the Guinn Center summarized Round 1 and Round 2 of funding in this policy brief. See here: Guinn Center PPP Loan Analysis R2 May 2020

The Proposed Budget Reserves Process for State Funding in Nevada

In response to the economic impact of COVID-19 on Nevada’s budget, Governor Steve Sisolak sent a memo in April 2020 to State agencies noting that actual state revenue will not meet previous projected revenue projections and that he is examining the necessity of recommending budget reserves. In practice, these budget reserves are recommended budget cuts to General Fund appropriations for departments. Departments must meet certain targets, though these are subject to change as the economy recovers. The budget reserves that each department must meet are up to four percent for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 and from six percent to fourteen percent for FY 2021. The Governor’s Finance Office prepared a spreadsheet that itemizes, by agency, division, and/or budget account (e.g., programs, salaries), General Fund appropriations for each fiscal year and budget cut amounts at each potential budget cut point. Using data contained in the spreadsheet, we evaluate the budget reserve targets and the implications for State funding in the current biennium (FY 2020-FY 2021).

What the CARES Act Means for Nevada’s Families and Businesses

In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was enacted into law in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At $2 trillion, it is one of the largest relief packages in U.S. history. It aims to shore up the economy and provide relief to families facing economic hardship due to the downturn caused by the pandemic. Included in the act is an estimated $560 billion for individuals, $500 billion for large corporations, $377 billion for small businesses, $340 billion in support for State and Local Governments, and $154 billion for Public Health. In this policy brief, we provide a summary of the key provisions of the CARES Act for individuals, families, and businesses. 

See here for document in Spanish. Guinn Center CARES ACT Summary April 2020 (Spanish)

COVID-19 and Small Businesses in Nevada

This policy brief examines the impact of previous economic downturns on small businesses in Nevada, using the Great Recession as a case study for what impact the COVID-19 pandemic might have on the Silver State’s economy and overall employment trends. Experience suggests that while Nevada’s economy is resilient, Nevada’s small businesses in certain sectors may suffer from short-term job losses.

COVID-19 Affects Housing Security in Nevada

In our latest policy brief, we note that COVID-19 has forced businesses and nonprofits to lay-off employees. Now, with reduced income – or no income at all – housing may become unaffordable for many Nevadans, placing them at an increased risk of eviction. Many federal, state, and local decision-makers have discussed the implications of COVID-19 on housing stability, resulting in a patchwork response to this problem across the country. 

Dedicated Funding Streams to K-12 Education: The State Education Fund

The Nevada Plan, the Silver State’s mechanism for funding education since 1967, was replaced during the 80th (2019) Legislative Session by Senate Bill (SB) 543 with the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan. It will be implemented beginning with the 2021-2023 biennium. While one purpose of the new funding plan is to differentiate per-pupil funding based on the needs of individual students, another purpose is to make the amount of funding dedicated to K-12 education more transparent. This report addresses the second purpose of the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan – specifically the State/local taxes and fees that will be dedicated to public elementary and secondary education.

Analysis of 2019 Legislative Proposal to Raise Revenues

The Guinn Center analyzes a current legislative proposal that would allow counties to raise revenue locally to address some of the greatest challenges facing the Silver State.

Nevada Budget Overview 2019-2021

This policy brief explains Nevada’s budget process—such as the role of the Economic Forum—and provides both a broad-based overview of budgetary sources and spending and a detailed account of revenues and proposed expenditures. It closes with a discussion of some of the uncertainties confronting the State Legislature as they make budgetary decisions, particularly the status of the Medicaid expansion and that of marijuana legalization.

Infographics on Nevada’s budget can be accessed below: 

Guinn Center Nevada Budget 2019-2021 Infographics

Property Taxes and K-12 Financing in Nevada

Property tax is one of the most significant sources of K-12 education financing within states. With resource adequacy a question before Nevada lawmakers in the 80th (2019) Legislative Session, this policy brief evaluates the relationship between property taxes and K-12 financing in the State.

Property Taxes in Nevada: An Overview

The Guinn Center, in conjunction with researchers from the Department of Economics in the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Business, has published a policy report that provides an overview of property taxes in Nevada. This report addresses a set of questions that highlight the structural dimensions of the Silver State’s property tax system, examine statewide variation, and analyze possibilities for reform. (May 2017)


Property Taxes Executive Overview

Infographics (in English and Spanish) on Nevada’s property taxes can be found here.

Nevada Budget Overview 2019-2021

This policy brief explains Nevada’s budget process—such as the role of the Economic Forum—and provides both a broad-based overview of budgetary sources and spending and a detailed account of revenues and proposed expenditures. It closes with a discussion of some of the uncertainties confronting the State Legislature as they make budgetary decisions, particularly the status of the Medicaid expansion and that of marijuana legalization.

Educating Nevada

Nevada's Digital Divide

In order to continue educating Nevada’s approximately 500,000 students amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, Nevada’s K-12 public schools have shifted to virtual education. However, Clark County School District noted that approximately 27 percent of CCSD 2019-2020 student enrollment, or 120,000 students, would be unable to access virtual instruction once schools temporarily closed because they lack access to a computer and/or the Internet. Similarly, Washoe County School District noted that many of their students would not be able to retrieve their assignments electronically during the school closures. Many stakeholders have raised concerns that the “digital divide” could further widen achievement gaps. To better understand how significant the digital divide is for Nevada’s K-12 students, the Guinn Center analyzed data from the 2014-2018 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS).  This data provides useful information about the digital divide, and the geographic areas where the digital divide is more prevalent.

See here for infographic: https://bit.ly/2XgOtle

Nevada K-12 Education Finance

Nevada’s system for funding K-12 education is complex and has not been substantially revised since it was created in 1967. It has been criticized for not providing sufficient funding to adequately educate students and for not fully recognizing the additional investment needed to educate special populations such as low-income students, English Language Learners, and special education students. This policy report updates the Guinn Center’s 2015 K-12 Finance Policy Brief and identifies several issues the Nevada State Legislature should consider in the 2019 Legislative Session as they seek to revise the current funding structure.

See below for summaries of the Nevada 2019-2020 K-12 budget: 

Guinn Center 2019-20 Budget Highlights  

Guinn Center 2019-2020 Per Pupil Report

Guinn Center 2019-2010 Budget Snapshots

Nevada’s Virtual Charter Schools

Charter schools are public schools that may offer instruction remotely (virtual), in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting, or some combination of the two (hybrid or blended). This policy brief reviews the performance of virtual charter schools in Nevada and compares it to state and district averages. The document provides a set of recommendations that local policy makers may want to take under advisement to address outcomes at virtual charter schools.

Summary of report:  Guinn Center Nevada Virtual Charters Summary

Sustaining Nevada

Restructuring the Electricity Market in Nevada? Possibilities, Prospects, and Pitfalls

The subject of Question 3: The Energy Choice Initiative—namely the proposed restructuring of Nevada’s electricity markets—is complex. Supporters and opponents of Question 3: The Energy Choice Initiative are providing data and arguments that appear to conflict with each other. This policy report summarizes and evaluates the primary arguments for and against passage of Question 3. While the Guinn Center does not take a position on Question 3, we seek to inform the debate so that decision-makers, ratepayers, and voters better understand the issue. Given that the evidence we reviewed is comparative and historical, rather than predictive, we cannot demonstrate conclusively that energy choice (Question 3) is either “good” or “bad” for Nevada. That can be known only with the wisdom of hindsight. The Guinn Center notes, however, that the transition to a restructured (or “energy choice”) electricity market in other states was characterized by variability in rate behavior, implementation challenges, and, for residential ratepayers, increased uncertainty resulting from greater exposure to wholesale electric prices. 

See here for Executive Summary: Guinn Center Q3 Ex Summary

See here for the Executive Summary in Spanish: Guinn Center Q3 Resumen Ejecutivo Espanol

Growing Nevada

Federal Housing Assistance in Nevada

The objective of this policy brief is to determine how much federal housing assistance (loans, grants, and direct payments) Nevada receives. The data on loans and grants is available from USAspending.gov, the official source for spending data for the U.S. government. 

A Step Up: Economic and Financial Security for Nevada’s Families

The Great Recession of 2008 hit communities across the United States, but nowhere were the effects more acute than in Nevada. While Nevada’s economy still has not recovered to 2006 pre-recession levels, it is trending upward. Nevada is among the highest-ranked states in job and personal income growth, coupled with steadily increasing output. However, while economic expansion has yielded significant returns in the aggregate, those economic gains have not been distributed evenly across different segments of the population. As the population has grown, political leaders and agency officials have grappled with questions surrounding unmet needs and constrained resources. This policy brief examines recent data and identifies several economic trends facing Nevada’s families.

A Healthy Nevada

Capacity and Financing for Public Health Emergencies in Nevada

The scale of the novel coronavirus, and its associated disease, COVID-19, is yet unknown in Nevada as cases continue to arise. At the time of this writing, 55 people in Nevada have tested positive for COVID-19. School and office closures, cancellations of major events, and temporary disruptions to the supply chain have heightened the sense of anxiety around the Silver State. The unease has been compounded by the State’s limited health care capacity, about which we have written beforeIn this policy brief, we present a snapshot of the current health care system capacity and then more closely examine budgetary resources available to Nevada for public health emergencies. 

Paid Sick Leave in Nevada

In 2019, Nevada enacted Senate Bill (SB) 312, which went into effect on January 1, 2020. The legislation requires private employers with 50 or more employees to provide paid leave to all scheduled employees at a rate of at least 0.01923 hours of paid leave per hour of work performed. For a full-time worker, that amounts to approximately 40 hours per year or five 8-hour workdays. Temporary, seasonal, or on-call employees are exempt from the provisions of SB 312, as are those who receive paid leave under a contract, policy, collective bargaining agreement or other agreement. This policy brief examines the impact of paid sick leave legislation in Nevada. 

Nevada's Medicaid Population

Medicaid is a health coverage program for eligible low-income individuals that is administered by the states under federal requirements and jointly funded by the federal government and states. Nevada’s Medicaid Program provides medical assistance to more than half a million low-income adults and children in the state. This policy brief presents some selected characteristics of Nevada’s Medicaid beneficiaries.

Nevada's Uninsured Population

This report examines Nevada’s uninsured population. Its objective is to furnish a composite of Nevada’s uninsured population so that stakeholders have the requisite data to develop a set of policy prescriptions and enhance administrative capacity in service of health insurance coverage expansion, given the consequences of uninsurance. These consequences include: limited access to health care, adverse health outcomes, medical debt, economic losses, and burdens on governmental financial resources. 

The link above will direct the viewer to a zipped file. For an abridged version that does not include the appendix, please see here: 

Guinn Center NV Uninsured Population abridged

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits in Nevada

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federal program, provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of low-income families and individuals. The Federal government funds the program but shares the costs of operating the program with each state. Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed to change existing federal rules to tighten eligibility requirements for receipt of SNAP benefits, thereby either delaying or discontinuing the ability of low-income Nevadans to receive these benefits. Here we provide a brief summary of Nevadans who depend on SNAP benefits.