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December 22, 2014

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Governor might seek clarification on Supreme Court ruling

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Brian Sandoval

Sun Coverage

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval is considering asking the Nevada Supreme Court for a clarification of a Thursday ruling, and whether it means a $62 million or a $656 million hole in the state's budget.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, made the comment after emerging today from a caucus of Republican senators who were talking about the next step in the process.

Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Elko, said staff members are analyzing the magnitude of the problem “and then we are going to punt.”

Sandoval could ask the Supreme Court to clarify its ruling that the state in 2010 wrongfully took $62 million from the Clean Water Coalition in Clark County to balance the state budget.

The ruling opens the door on whether other actions by the Legislature involving local fund grabs were also invalid. That could mean the $62 million is only the tip of the iceberg.

Roberson, a Las Vegas lawyer, said the ruling “appears very broad.” He added, “I have not heard anybody say they can cut $650 million.” Asked if that means backtracking on the GOP pledge not to raise taxes, Roberson said “I’m for a balanced budget.”

Taxes imposed by the 2010 Legislature are due to expire on June 30. They total about $700 million.

Democrats have been pushing a bill to extend those taxes, but have faced opposition from the governor and Republican lawmakers.

Big business, including gaming, utilities and mining, testified earlier this week in favor of extending the taxes for two years. The Assembly Ways and Means Committee, on a party-line vote, approved the bill to let the taxes go forward.

If the Supreme Court ruling is broadened to affect other local money grabs, then the state must find $225 million from a room tax increase set aside for education and $247 million from the debt reserve funds of school districts. There is also $83.4 million in property tax diversions from Clark and Washoe counties.

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  1. Thats why he's asking tannker. The rulling right now aplies to the 62mill but it might set a precident for the earlier funds which would be the near 700mill.

    The only thing they rulled on is the 62.

  2. "Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Elko, said staff members are analyzing the magnitude of the problem "and then we are going to punt."

    GOP leadership, at it's finest.

    azbycx0918 is right: Governor Sandoval has given everyone the impression that extending the sunsetting taxes would harm the economy. But now, he claims he has to extend them because the state can't spend any LESS than his budget.

    Poor, clueless NPRI must be red with rage right now.

  3. "$500 million of the local money is from/for K-12 so leave it there and DECREASE STATE FUNDING BY $500 MILLION."

    Seriously, the ignorance on display here is staggering.

    Sandoval was grabbing cash primarily from Washoe and Clark counties in order to fund the general fund. Maybe you don't know what that means, rose, but it means Washoe and Clark were subsidizing rural spending even more than they ever had before.

    Property tax dollars collected in Clark County would have gone to the general fund and spent in White Pine county. But White Pine county? Their property tax revenue stayed local.

    All those loony libertarians out in the boonies scream and rage against income redistribution... until the income is redistributed to them.

  4. Part 1 of 2:

    This new Nevada Supreme Court opinion Clean Water Coalition v. The M Resort, decided on May 26, 2011, has some VERY interesting language in it referring to the rather obscure "equal protection" clause in the Nevada Constitution. Equal protection clause discussion is more commonly focused on the Federal equal protection clause, which says, in essence, that every citizen has the right to be treated equally by his/her government. In this new Clean Water Coalition v. The M Resort opinion, the Nevada Supreme Court says "Article 4, Section 21, [of the Nevada Constitution] requires laws to be "general and of uniform operation throughout the State" in all cases "where a general law can be made applicable."

    "Laws", as referred to in that section, apparently include the state's budget, based on what the Nevada Supreme Court has just said in its new opinion in Clean Water Coalition v. The M Resort.

    That phrase in the new Nevada Supreme Court decision reminded me of an important California school funding case which was decided under the "equal protection" clause of that state's constitution.

    In 1971, the California Supreme Court ruled education a fundamental constitutional right in Serrano v. Priest, 487 P.2d 1241, and returned the case for trial, in what is generally regarded as the first of the modern-era education finance litigation decisions. In 1976, in Serrano v. Priest (Serrano II ), 557 P.2d 929, the same court affirmed the trial court's finding that the wealth-related disparities in per-pupil spending generated by the state's education finance system violated the equal protection clause of the California constitution.

    The ultimate result of the Serrano v. Priest litigation was that by and large school funding came from the state, not from local real estate taxes. More important as an "equal protection" constitutional principle, for a long time, by law each California school district would receive the same "per head" funding for each student, with no extra funds for any school district for any reason.

    When those Serrano related changes were challenged in 1986, 93% of California students were in school districts whose per-pupil spending was within $100 of each other. California's intermediate appelate court (which Nevada doesn't have) held, in Serrano v. Priest, 226 Cal. Rptr. 584 (Court of Appeal, 2d District 1986), that this level of disparity satisfied California's equal protection requirements.

  5. Part 2:

    That basic Serrano v. Priest principle, of equalized "per head" funding of Nevada's school districts, has been in my thoughts, for quite a while, with respect to the Legislature's funding of Clark County School District.

    Both Las Vegas newspapers have reported that the "rural" school districts in Nevada receive far more state money, on a "per head basis", than the school districts in Clark and Washoe Counties. If I were young, energetic, and a member of the Nevada Bar, I probably would sue the State of Nevada on behalf of my grand children, under the equal protection language in this new Clean Water Coalition v. The M Resort Nevada Supreme Court case. My hypothetical lawsuit would demand an equalization of "per head" elementary and secondary school funding, either by the cutting of the rural counties' school funding or an increase in the two urban counties school funding. To me, the school children of Nevada are entitled to "equal protection of the law" regardless of where they live.

    And while I was at it, I might be tempted to attack the disparity between the "per head" or "per credit hour" funding of UNLV versus CSN. I frankly cannot understand how, under Nevada's equal protection clause, each student at UNLV is entitled to a bigger state subsidy than each student CSN.

    I wish there were some young and feisty "public interest lawyers" in Las Vegas who would do what education activists in other states do.

  6. The bottom line is that the current budget that was submitted to the legislature by the governor is not balanced as of yesterday. The governor has not submitted a revised budget in time for the legislature to make changed and override his possible veto. That does not mean that the legislature loses their constitutional right to override his veto-it means that a possible court fight over that right is possible if the governor decides not to extend the session long enough to give them that time.

    Call your legislator at 1-800-978-2878 and tell them to end the tax breaks for foreign mining corporations and spend that tax money gathered from Nevada's working families ON Nevada's working families.