Las Vegas Sun

July 26, 2017

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Sandoval wants $60M for school vouchers, 10 percent pot tax

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Gov. Brian Sandoval delivers his State of the State speech, Jan. 29, 2015.

CARSON CITY — The Latest on Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval's State of the State address and two-year budget proposal (all times local PST):

6:45 p.m.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is proposing a 10 percent excise tax on the retail sale of recreational marijuana in Nevada to help finance about a 10 percent increase in the state budget over the next two years.

The excise tax is the only new tax in the $8.1 billion budget the second-term Republican presented to state lawmakers Tuesday night ahead of the 2017 legislative session.

It would come on top of a 15 percent wholesale tax that already was included in the ballot initiative voters approved in November legalizing recreational pot in Nevada.

Sandoval says that while he opposed the ballot measure, he respects the will of the voters who supported it. He says he will ask regulators to limit the sale of marijuana products and ban packaging that could appeal to children or could be mistaken for candy.

All told, Sandoval projects the taxes and fees on the sale of recreational and medicinal pot combined would bring in about $100 million over two years devoted exclusively to education.

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6:35 p.m.

Gov. Brian Sandoval says his new two-year budget blueprint makes good on a promise to fund the state's school voucher program after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled the current funding formula was illegal.

Sandoval is proposing that $60 million be spent over the next two years on the Education Savings Account the Republican-controlled Legislature approved and he signed into law in 2015.

The program allows parents to claim up to $5,000 in state money to send their children to private or other alternative schools.

The Supreme Court upheld the program's mission, but said it must be financed outside of the account dedicated to public schools.

That part of his State of the State speech Tuesday night brought mixed reaction in the Legislature, which is now controlled by Democrats who opposed the idea.

Sandoval said, "I knew it would be a split house on that one."

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6:25 p.m.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is proposing $115 million in new spending on higher education over the next two years.

His two-year budget blueprint unveiled Tuesday night also calls for a 4 percent raise for all state workers.

Sandoval says new money for education will address growing enrollment at UNLV and the University of Nevada, Reno, as well as cover half the costs of building a new $83 million engineering building at the Reno campus.

Funding for UNLV's School of Medicine set to open next fall also will continue at requested levels.

In addition to the 4 percent cost-of-living increase for state workers, Sandoval is proposing an additional 5 percent on top of that for correctional workers and information technology specialists. He says additional money also would be made available to cover increased costs in state workers' health insurance

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6:15 p.m.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is praising the state's economic and educational accomplishments over the past six years as he prepares to outline his $8.1 billion budget blueprint for his last two years in office — about a 10 percent increase over the past two years.

The second-term Republican governor told a joint session of the Democrat-controlled Legislature in Carson City on Tuesday night that he's glad to report the state of the state "has dramatically improved" and is "growing stronger every day."

Sandoval said Nevada has created 198,000 new jobs since 2011 for an all-time high of 1.3 million jobs with 72 consecutive months of job growth. Since 2010, Nevada's unemployment rate has fallen from 14 percent to 5.1 percent last month.

High school graduation rates have improved from 62 percent in 2010 to 74 percent in 2016, and state spending per pupil in the K-12 system has increased 10 percent during roughly the same period.

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1 p.m.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is prepping for his final State of the State address before he's term-limited out of office at the end of 2018.

The second-term Republican is scheduled to present his two-year budget blueprint in a speech to a joint session of the Legislature at 5:30 p.m. in Carson City.

Sandoval will be working off a $7.9 billion spending plan based on general fund tax revenues projected the next two years by the independent Economic Forum beginning July 1.

That's about $541 million — or 7 percent — more than the existing $7.3 billion budget. However, it's $300 million to $600 million less than would be needed to meet all funding requests from state agencies totaling about $8.2 billion.

Among other things, he's expected to address potential Medicaid shortfalls and funding for private school vouchers.

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