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April 19, 2014

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Leslie says Millennium Scholarship is on the chopping block

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said today the Guinn Millennium Scholarship likely won’t survive the next round of budget cuts lawmakers will be forced to make in the 2011 legislative session.

Lawmakers are expected to face a budget shortfall as large as $3 billion when they convene in February.

“What else are you going to cut?” a frustrated Leslie lamented, saying the popular scholarship that has funded a college education for thousands of Nevada students is on the list.

Leslie, barred from running for re-election because of term limits, is running for state Senate in Reno.

The six-term assemblywoman, who has long advocated a corporate business tax to help stabilize Nevada’s revenue structure, is frustrated that neither gubernatorial candidate appears to be taking the looming budget shortfall seriously.

Both candidates have vowed not to raise taxes and neither has presented a plan for how they would cut nearly half of the state’s general fund spending. Only Republican candidate Brian Sandoval has hinted at where he would find savings, saying he would propose salary cuts for state workers and teachers.

Democrat Rory Reid is promising to release a budget proposal in coming months.

But Leslie is irate the candidates aren't talking more the budget problem and finds their claims that the budget can be fixed without raising taxes disingenuous. She said at the very least the next governor will have to lift the sunset on the tax increases passed in the 2009 session.

Leslie’s claim that the Millennium Scholarship will have to go fits into a strategy by some Democrats to find cuts that a broader swath of the public will feel. Cuts to social services depended upon solely by the poor sometimes go unnoticed, making it more difficult to argue for more taxes, they say.

Last session, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, called for closing state parks and other cuts that would directly affect a majority of the public.

Leslie acknowledged losing the Millennium Scholarship would “shock” the public. But she said she doesn’t believe voters fully appreciate how dire the state’s revenue crisis is.

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