Sandoval says no more education cuts
(AP) – Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said Tuesday he won’t cut education or other vital state services in his upcoming budget proposal and he will extend sunsetting taxes to balance the books.
“I’m not going to cut K-12 or higher education,” the first-term Republican told reporters after a Board of Examiners meeting.
Sandoval campaigned on a no-tax stance and took heat from conservative members of his party when he agreed late in the 2011 legislative session to keep about $620 million in temporary taxes that were set to expire.
His acquiescence came after the Nevada Supreme Court raised doubts about the legality of taking tax dollars from local governments to fund state government, as Sandoval had proposed in his original budget last year.
Lawmakers eventually passed a $6.2 billion general fund spending plan. On Tuesday, the governor said he will propose a “flat budget” for the biennium that begins July 1, 2013.
His remarks to reporters came two days before his budget director, Jeff Mohlenkamp, is to meet with Cabinet officials Thursday to lay out the governor’s spending preferences.
“We’re going into this cards up,” Sandoval said as the budget planning begins.
Though the governor said he will extend once again the temporary tax increases first passed in 2009, he will proposal retaining a tax break for about 115,000 small businesses that make less than $250,000 a year.
“I believe at this point in time it is the responsible thing to do for the state of Nevada,” Sandoval said of his decision to continue the temporary taxes.
Sandoval said education, health and human services, and public safety account for 90 percent of the state’s general fund. He said Nevada’s Medicaid rolls are projected to grow as federal health reforms take effect, and any gains in sales and other tax revenues likely will be eaten up by those services.
Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, the minority caucus leader in the lower house, said he agreed with Sandoval’s position that the state cannot afford any more cuts to education. The state-funded portion of K-12 spending was cut about 9 percent during the last session, and state support for universities and community colleges was reduced 15 percent.
“Nevada’s recovery is still fragile and is certainly gradual,” he said when reached for comment. “I agree with the governor that education, especially in lieu of reforms that were adopted and cuts that have been made in recent cycles, cannot warrant another hit.”
Hickey added that the budget process for next year’s legislative session is just beginning, and lawmakers will look at all the tax and spending proposals contained in the governor’s budget at that time, suggesting lawmakers would not give premature blanket approval to extending taxes.
“The Legislature has the duty to dig into those budgets and see what is justified and where other savings can still be found,” he said.