K-12 rainy day fund bill returns to 2017 Nevada Legislature
The legislation that would create a K-12 education rainy day fund returned to the Legislature on Tuesday.
Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Las Vegas, introduced Senate Bill 89 that would effectively fence off any money appropriated for public schools instead of returning any excess cash to the state General Fund at the end of each biennium.
She said putting it into an education stabilization account would build up cash that could help offset periodic downturns in the economy that have some times forced cuts in school budgets.
Analyst Jeremy Aguero testified since the 1979-81 biennium, a total of $736 million in excess funds have reverted back to the General Fund while supplemental appropriations to the schools when funding was short have totaled just $665 million.
“Historically, reversions were often used for one-time expenses,” Aguero said. “They were not used to shore up educational funding.”
Together, he said reversions to the General Fund and the recessions amount for a net loss of $253 million to the public schools over the 36 years.
He said Woodhouse’s bill is designed “to make sure the money is ultimately available at the point at which it is needed.” He said setting that cash aside instead of putting it back into the General Fund will make it available for schools during tough economic times.
Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, however, said when the money is in the General Fund, “it is available for whatever we want.”
“Maintaining that flexibility is somewhat important, I think, for this body,” Kieckhefer said.
Similar legislation has been introduced repeatedly in the Nevada Legislature, first by Speaker Barbara Buckley in the 2009 session and every Legislature since.
While no opponents testified directly on Tuesday, the objections to the plan are exactly to the point Kieckhefer raises: if excess revenues go back to the General Fund, lawmakers and the governor can decide where it’s most needed. If it goes into a special fund just for K-12 education, it isn’t available in situations where other governmental functions that might be in more desperate straits.
The committee took no action on the bill.