Las Vegas Sun

November 26, 2015

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Democrats pass education budget $700 million over governor’s plan

Sen. Mike Schneider

Sen. Mike Schneider

Sen. Michael Roberson

Sen. Michael Roberson

Democrats in the Legislature passed a K-12 education budget with $700 million more in funding than Gov. Brian Sandoval recommended, sending it to an almost certain death by veto.

The passage continued to increase tensions between Democrats, who have proposed a $1.2 billion tax increase, and Republicans, who have stuck so far with Sandoval’s promise not to raise taxes.

The strain became apparent during discussion of the education funding bill, Assembly Bill 568, as the dialogue in the state Senate devolved.

Freshman Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, accused Democrats of being “beholden to public sector unions.”

Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, in turn, protested the “rookie from Green Valley.”

There are usually meltdowns at the Legislature. But rarely do they come so early and in so public a forum.

It highlights the distance between the two sides over the budget.

Democrats don’t have the two-thirds votes necessary to pass a tax increase. Republicans, who are in the minority in both the Assembly and the Senate, don’t have the votes to pass Sandoval’s budget.

The increased funding for the K-12 budget passed on party lines in both houses.

Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness said he had no notice that the bills would be pushed today.

Sandoval senior adviser Dale Erquiaga said the bill was introduced and passed under emergency procedures in a matter of hours.

“We believe the legislative budget process should be open and transparent, yet today’s action is contrary to those goals,” he said in a statement. “Because of this, the Governor will not comment until we’ve had a chance to review this legislation in full.”

It was high drama on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon after Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas gave an impassioned plea to fund K-12 education.

“Our children don’t have belts to tighten,” he said. “Schools are cutting back on pencils.”

Roberson accused Horsford of “lecturing” Republicans about the budget. He said real reforms to things like education couldn’t pass because of Democrats’ alliance with public sector unions.

“I’m not going to vote to tax the people of Nevada — yet again — to put more money into a system we all know is broken,” he said. “That does not mean we’re anti-education, anti-teacher or anti-children.”

After Roberson’s speech, Schneider stood up.

“He just got here,” Schneider said, referring to the freshman Roberson.

Schneider criticized Roberson for signing a pledge not to raise taxes, before Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, president of the Senate and in charge of procedures, told him not to make his comments personal.

Roberson went on to call Schneider an “old-timer” and repeated that “the majority party is beholden to public sector unions.”

Horsford said, “I have never had a member question the integrity of the members of this body. Ever.”

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