Las Vegas Sun

March 4, 2024

AG refuses Sandoval’s request to file petition with court

Updated Saturday, May 28, 2011 | 7:32 p.m.

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Catherine Cortez Masto

CARSON CITY — The Legislature has sided with Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto in refusing a request by Gov. Brian Sandoval to petition the Nevada Supreme Court to clarify a ruling that impacts the state budget.

The court ruled the state could not appropriate $62 million from the Clark County Clean Water Coalition to help fill a hole in the state budget. Sandoval wants the court to clarify if the ruling also applies to another $594 million from local sources that are part of his budget plan.

When asked if the Legislature would file a petition with the court, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said, “Our focus is on the current budget problems.”

The Legislature is a defendant in the case and would have standing to file a petition with the Supreme Court.

Dale Erquiaga, senior advisor to the governor, said Sandoval was disappointed with the position of the attorney general and has lost confidence in her office.

Cortez Masto said there is no procedural mechanism to seek a clarification and that she would not file a request for another hearing.

In a press release, Cortez Masto, a Democrat, said she was sorry the Republican governor “has chosen to politicize the legal advice my office provided to him in this matter.”

She said she understood the pressure the governor is under to balance the budget. “That’s why I am surprised the governor chooses to create dissension between our offices rather than face the crisis at hand,” she said.

Cortez Masto said she hopes they can talk about Sandoval’s “concerns with my office in a calm and reasonable manner.”

Erquiaga said, “As a former attorney general himself, the governor respects both the office and the attorney-client relationship, but he disagrees and is profoundly disappointed in the attorney general’s decision.”

Budget officials for the governor and the Legislature, meanwhile, cannot agree on how far apart they are in dealing with the shortfall.

Erquiaga said the governor is sticking to his initial two-year budget of $6.2 billion.

He said the Legislature added expenditures to the budget hundreds of millions of dollars over the governor’s budget.

Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said fiscal analysts for the Legislature and the budget officials for the governor are meeting to iron out their differences.

What they finally agree upon will determine what part of the so-called sunset taxes — taxes set to expire June 30 — need to be extended.

In an easing of their positions, McGinness said Republicans may go for extending some of those taxes and emphasized that they are not new taxes. Sandoval had pledged not to raise taxes.

Erquiaga said the governor is considering extending some of the taxes set to expire, but “there is no intent of using all of those dollars.”

Horsford said extending the sunset taxes would yield $679 million. He said there is a meeting Saturday night with the governor to determine how large the deficit is and what to do about it.

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