Las Vegas Sun

October 10, 2015

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In response, Democrats say taxes might be part of budget solution

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John Oceguera

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Sun Coverage

CARSON CITY – Democratic leaders in the Legislature are suggesting Gov. Brian Sandoval is on the wrong path by cutting education, countering that higher taxes may be in store for businesses to avoid such cuts.

Assemblyman John Oceguera, the speaker-elect, said Democrats don’t like the governor's proposed shift of responsibility for some state programs to local governments without the money to pay for providing it.

In his State of the State, the governor proposed no tax increases in his $5.8 billion, two-year general fund budget. There would be a 5 percent reduction in state money to public schools and a 17 percent loss of funds from state and federal sources to the university system.

Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said Democrats agree with many of the proposals Sandoval outlined in his speech, but it has “a few, but critical, differences we have with the governor’s view.”

"We know it’s never a good time to raise taxes," Oceguera said. He added, "there is never a good time to fire employees."

The Democratic leader said “this is the right time to shoulder our responsibility and do the right thing for our state.”

“Business leaders, labor leaders, small business owners, employees and advocates for causes must be present during our deliberations and tell us what share of the sacrifice they will shoulder and what they need, not just to survive now, but to thrive in the future,” Oceguera said in his prepared remarks.

In referring to Sandoval’s call for changes in the public school system, Oceguera said most teachers and administrators are hard-working professionals and “we cannot make them the whipping boys of school reform.”

Sandoval has called for an end of teacher tenure, evaluating teachers and principals on the accomplishments of their students; requiring students to be able to read by the end of the third grade and setting aside $20 million to reward effective teachers.

Oceguera took issue with the 17.6 percent proposed reduction to higher education. “We must have a strong higher education system, and we can’t price the cost of a college education out of the reach of Nevada students and Nevada families.”

The governor has proposed giving the university Board of Regents more autonomy in raising tuition, which Sandoval says is among the lowest in the West. Sandoval said 15 percent of any increase must be set aside for needy students.

Oceguera said Nevada can’t stay at the bottom of funding and still “get to the top of education.”

Oceguera said, "We will keep business regulation reasonable, taxes affordable and change the culture of government service to actively help business, not impede it."

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