Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2015

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Clark County to go after money snatched by state

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Steve Sisolak

Sun Coverage

Clark County commissioners directed staff Tuesday to apply for a refund of money taken by the state, paving the way for a legal showdown between the governments.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak asked for the refund request, inspired by the recent Nevada Supreme Court ruling that declared the state’s seizure of Clean Water Coalition money unconstitutional.

The court ruled that the state’s $62 million grab was unconstitutional because it singled out the Clean Water Coalition and took money collected only from Clark County.

Using that logic, Sisolak said the state should not be able to take other money from the county.

In 2009, the Legislature approved numerous bills to take portions of the county’s property tax and other revenue totaling $197 million over two years. Lawmakers later approved an “excess government services tax” that reduced the losses to about $180 million.

Sisolak said state law sets a statute of limitations for requesting refunds from the state, so the county needs to apply by July 1 to preserve its ability to sue the state later, if necessary, to get the money.

Sisolak recognized the difficulty of the state’s budget situation. “I believe the Legislature was in a difficult position, but I also believe we have a fiduciary responsibility to our citizens,” he said.

And he said some people are upset about the refund request. “Some individual legislators are angry about this, are angry at me, but that’s their problem,” he said.

But Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani supported Sisolak. “We shouldn’t lose the opportunity to get some money back for our constituents,” she said.

And the county employees’ union also said it supports the action and may consider suing the state over the same money.

The Service Employees International Union has agreed to wage and other concessions to save the county money, only to have the state come and take money from the county, President Al Martinez said.

Sisolak argued that every individual taxpayer should have the right to sue the state over the money, since it was their taxes the state took.

The commissioners did not vote on the action, but directed staff to pursue the refund and look into legal options, which they will consider later.

“We need to preserve our rights by at least applying for the refund,” Sisolak said.

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