Las Vegas Sun

September 5, 2015

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THE GOVERNOR’S RACE:

Brian Sandoval: Let local officials raise taxes

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CATHLEEN ALLISON / SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval talks with Tim Wulf on Saturday at the Washoe County Republican Party headquarters in Reno.

Rory Reid

Rory Reid

Brian Sandoval has promised that if he is elected governor he won’t raise taxes. But that doesn’t mean he won’t let others do it.

The Republican candidate said Monday that he would support giving local governments the authority to raise taxes, if the state turns over responsibility for some services to cities and counties.

Sandoval has not released a plan for how he will balance the state budget. Experts say revenue for the biennium will come in about $3 billion below current spending levels.

On a tour of Galena High School in Reno on Monday, Sandoval was asked whether he saw waste or duplication as he has toured almost 80 schools statewide.

The candidate didn’t answer the question. But he said the budget problems are so large all sources of state funding are going to have to take a hit.

He said he hoped that teachers would take a salary cut. And he criticized his Democratic opponent, Rory Reid, for promising to spare K-12 and higher education, which make up 55 percent of the budget.

Pressed for details on how he will balance the budget, Sandoval pointed to giving “home rule,” which allows local governments to make more decisions without the Legislature’s approval.

Asked if that would include giving counties the ability to raise taxes, Sandoval said, “Yes. But it would come with responsibilities.”

Reid’s campaign said Sandoval’s position amounts to “passing the buck.”

“Brian Sandoval doesn’t want to make any decision,” spokesman Mike Trask said. “Brian Sandoval has promised for months to provide a budget plan for Nevada. He has refused to do so.”

Later, Sandoval’s campaign clarified his comments to say that home rule would not extend to school districts, which don’t have individual taxing authority. Funding levels for school districts throughout the state must be equal.

In explaining his support for more local government control, Sandoval said local elected leaders meet year-round, the Legislature meets every two years. “There’s a disconnect,” he said.

State Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, last week raised the possibility of the state shifting some of its responsibilities to local governments, such as parole and probation and community colleges.

Although local elected officials had a mix of reactions to the idea, they uniformly expressed concern that state officials were avoiding making a tough choice between cutting or raising taxes.

Sandoval told high school students that he could improve education by giving schools more control, creating competition among campuses by using vouchers and giving merit pay to teachers whose students perform well. He also said it wouldn’t require any more money.

But some improvements do require money.

At Galena High, Assistant Principal Silvia Marin told Sandoval about some of the struggles and improvements the school had made. Hispanic English-language learners don’t make up a proportionate number of the advanced placement students. She said early last year the school had no after-school bus, meaning students without other transportation had to leave at 2:30 p.m. They couldn’t stay for after-school tutoring, to use computers or participate in programs such as ROTC.

That changed when a new school superintendent came in and asked what the school needed. Marin said they got the extra late bus, at a cost of $9,000 per semester.

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