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December 20, 2014

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Sandoval threatens veto of Democratic tax plans, proposes more education spending

Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he opposes and would veto two Democratic tax plans that would hike payroll taxes and implement new taxes on consumers for entertainment and admissions to movies, gyms, and other businesses.

The Democratic plans would raise money to pay for education programs. Sandoval said he’s heard their concerns and has brought forward $120 million to expand or implement new education programs. That’s part of nearly half a billion dollars in increased spending that the governor has proposed above current spending levels.

“We have put a monumental marker down to show that education is a huge priority for this state,” Sandoval said.

While he delivered the nuances of his spending plan in a 20-minute press conference, the Republican governor summed up his approach via Twitter with a five-word slogan: “Better schools. No new taxes.”

As the 120-day legislative session nears its close and as Sandoval has revised his initial budget, the governor delivered his final education spending proposals in a rare press conference specifically addressing education.

While he didn’t say he’d oppose any other tax plan Democrats could put forward, the promise of a veto makes it very difficult for Democrats to pass the payroll tax hike and the entertainment and admissions tax.

Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, just introduced the payroll tax plan this morning, and Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, introduced her entertainment and admissions tax last week.

“I do want to compliment the Democratic leadership,” Sandoval said. “I’ve been meeting with them every week of this legislative session, and I’ve been asking them for some specific proposals in regards to what their tax plan would be, and now we’re getting those with 20 days left in the session. We’ll see what that conversation is as we shut this down.”

Sandoval's budget now includes $50 million in new spending for English Language Learner programs, which he notes is a historic first for an administration to dedicate state spending to ensuring children can proficiently read, write, and understand the English language.

Sandoval has also said he’d like to reduce all-day kindergarten class sizes from an average of 26 students to 21 students. That costs about $40 million.

He has also recommended spending $30 million to pay for all-day kindergarten programs at 199 elementary schools in Nevada. That’s above and beyond the 124 schools that already provide such programs.

Given this level of spending, Sandoval said he hopes that Democratic leadership in the Assembly and Senate can work with him to approve his budget so that the Legislature can adjourn on schedule.

“I’m going to be meeting leadership tomorrow and we’re going to start having these conversations that there’s very little time left,” he said.

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