Nevada treasurer drafts 'unprecedented' alternative to budget proposed by GOP governor

Government And Institutions Associated Press

A week after Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt broke rank with GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval in joining an immigration lawsuit aimed at the federal government, more of the state's top Republicans are turning away from the governor.

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State Treasurer Dan Schwartz and Controller Ron Knecht released a three-page document Wednesday outlining an alternative spending plan after calling Sandoval's proposed $7.3 billion budget an overreach that unduly increases taxes and focuses too much on education.

Although there's nothing in Nevada law giving the treasurer the ability to create a budget, Schwartz said he and Knecht were approached to create an alternative by a group of Assembly and Senate Republicans upset with the governor's proposed $1.1 billion in tax increases and extensions.

Schwartz said he felt it was appropriate because he's the state's top fiscal officer.

"We're the two elected officials who have some financial responsibility in the state," he said. "There was a belief or feeling that we were in the best position to do that."

Former Treasurer Kate Marshall said she wasn't aware of any previous alternative budgets being proposed outside of the governor's office and the office historically has been mostly neutral in tax policy.

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"I think you undermine what the treasurer does when you begin to participate in a kind of partisan role in respect to the numbers," she said.

The alternative $6.8 billion budget proposal calls for tax increases on airline passengers and gambling, and would cut $20 million from various state agencies.

Schwartz said he and Knecht will meet Monday with a group of Republican lawmakers, including a member of Assembly leadership, to discuss putting the budget proposal into bill drafts.

Schwartz criticized Sandoval's budget proposal, calling the governor's plan to increase funding to programs like autism therapy and anti-bullying measures wasteful.

"What education needs is teachers, not social workers," he said.

Calls to the governor's office Wednesday were not immediately returned.

Sandoval proposed an ambitious $7.3 billion two-year budget that would inject millions of dollars into K-12 education, including programs for English Language Learners, children in poverty, gifted students and children with disabilities.

The popular Republican governor proposed a number of tax increases to pay for the expanded funding, including restructuring the business license fee to bring in $437 million over two years.