Senate votes to redirect part of Sandoval budget |

Senate votes to redirect part of Sandoval budget

In its first party-line vote of the session, the Senate narrowly approved a bill that conflicts with Gov. Brian Sandoval’s plan to feed property tax money to the university system.

Senate Bill 192 would take two cents of the property tax Sandoval plans to ship to the university system and authorize redevelopment agencies to use it for construction projects in Clark and Washoe counties. It expands the places the money could be spent on to include any repair, renovation or construction of sewers and water mains and other utilities.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said the purpose for moving the bill now is job creation.

“Until we get our economy growing and put people back to work, we won’t have the money to pay for anything,” he said.

That 2 cents is part of 9 cents in property tax money swept into the current university system budget. Sandoval’s plan makes that 9 cents – an estimated $121 million – a permanent part of the system budget.

Moving the 2 cents would cut what the university system gets in property taxes under Sandoval’s budget, opening a $27 million hole in the budget.

Because of that, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said he can’t support the bill. He said he likes other parts of the measure, including that it pumps money into the private sector to create jobs. He added that taking the money from the university budget also would cost some jobs.

Kieckhefer was joined by Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon and Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno.

“At this time, with the budget situation the way it is, diverting more funds away from education is not the answer,” said Brower.

All three suggested holding the bill to try work out a compromise that would save the parts of it they like. But Horsford and sponsor Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, said the bill has been available for two weeks and none of the opponents have even suggested an amendment to cure their objections.

“We gave everybody enough time to present their amendments and ideas,” said Kihuen. “I’m a bit surprised it came down to a party line vote.”

The 11-10 vote was the first time there has been a single “No” vote on any of the 20 measures approved by the Senate so far in the session.

SB192 is the second legislative measure approved this session that redirects money already spoken for in Sandoval’s budget to a different purpose. The other, Assembly Bill 183 by Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, frees up bond reserve funding in 10 different counties for repair, renovation and other school projects. Sandoval’s budget counted on a similar law change to let him move $425 million from bond reserves to operating accounts. He said with the state on hard times financially and the school population not growing, that money is better spent in the classroom than on construction projects.

Dale Erquiaga, senior policy adviser to Sandoval, said the plan would leave a hole in the budget.

“The governor has said any bill that creates a hole in the budget would be vetoed if it reaches his desk,” he said.

The vote on that measure last week was the Assembly’s first party-line vote this session.