RENO — Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval is throwing down a challenge to lawmakers from his own party who oppose his proposed budget: come up with a better plan to help the state and its struggling education system.
Sandoval’s challenge follows remarks by Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, that she has 12 of 15 votes needed to block his proposal in the chamber over concerns about tax increases.
The governor said his budget, which includes $1.1 billion in new and extended taxes, is needed to prepare for many high-tech jobs heading to Nevada with the advent of drone technology, the Tesla gigafactory and other new industries.
It’s a bold agenda for a state that has consistently rejected moves to add money to its education system, has the lowest high school graduation rate in the nation besides the District of Columbia and ranks near the bottom in per-pupil funding.
“I am going to fight for this, not because I want to raise everybody’s taxes but because I believe in my heart and soul that this is what we need to move Nevada forward, to get to this new Nevada that you all see happening right before your eyes,” Sandoval said.
“And for those who don’t want to do that (specify budget priorities), then they need to do the same thing. They need to say, ‘This is where I am going to cut.’ Because right now, they get to say, ‘I have 12 votes not to raise your taxes.’ But there are consequences with that,” he added.
Fiore told the Republican Men’s Club of Northern Nevada in Reno on Tuesday that Sandoval’s budget needs to be flushed “right down the drain” because it includes about $440 million in new taxes and $580 million in “sunset” taxes that were originally supposed to expire in 2011.
In response to Sandoval’s challenge, she said she would cut his pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten proposals because studies have shown they have been ineffective. The governor is seeking a $75 million increase for full-day kindergarten and $10.4 million for early childhood education.
Fiore said she has not had time to completely study the governor’s budget and has a five-person staff combing through it in an effort to find other cost-saving suggestions.
Sandoval defended the tax increase, saying it’s needed to help Nevada’s education system keep up with the demand of the “new Nevada.” Job opportunities will abound for Nevada’s youth if schools prepare them for the new work force, he said.
“We are bringing some great companies to this state,” he said. “These are highly technical, highly skilled jobs with Tesla and everything that is coming. That’s why I am trying to get ahead of this, so we have the curriculum and the student population to be able to have that work force.”
Fiore, who was previously entangled in a leadership struggle in the Assembly, said she’s working to get three more votes in the chamber to stop Sandoval’s tax plan. Any tax increase needs a two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature.