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May 30, 2015

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Governor might seek clarification on Supreme Court ruling

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Brian Sandoval

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CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval is considering asking the Nevada Supreme Court for a clarification of a Thursday ruling, and whether it means a $62 million or a $656 million hole in the state's budget.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, made the comment after emerging today from a caucus of Republican senators who were talking about the next step in the process.

Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Elko, said staff members are analyzing the magnitude of the problem “and then we are going to punt.”

Sandoval could ask the Supreme Court to clarify its ruling that the state in 2010 wrongfully took $62 million from the Clean Water Coalition in Clark County to balance the state budget.

The ruling opens the door on whether other actions by the Legislature involving local fund grabs were also invalid. That could mean the $62 million is only the tip of the iceberg.

Roberson, a Las Vegas lawyer, said the ruling “appears very broad.” He added, “I have not heard anybody say they can cut $650 million.” Asked if that means backtracking on the GOP pledge not to raise taxes, Roberson said “I’m for a balanced budget.”

Taxes imposed by the 2010 Legislature are due to expire on June 30. They total about $700 million.

Democrats have been pushing a bill to extend those taxes, but have faced opposition from the governor and Republican lawmakers.

Big business, including gaming, utilities and mining, testified earlier this week in favor of extending the taxes for two years. The Assembly Ways and Means Committee, on a party-line vote, approved the bill to let the taxes go forward.

If the Supreme Court ruling is broadened to affect other local money grabs, then the state must find $225 million from a room tax increase set aside for education and $247 million from the debt reserve funds of school districts. There is also $83.4 million in property tax diversions from Clark and Washoe counties.

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