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Lawmakers Approve $1.1 Billion In Tax Hikes For Education

Alexa Ard

Governor Brian Sandoval's plan to raise taxes by more than a billion dollars for K-12 education has cleared both legislative houses. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports on Monday's vote for the state's largest tax increase ever. 

The state senate broke into loud applause after the final vote count on SB483 was announced as 18-3. Democratic Senator Aaron Ford called the decision "historic."

"It's historic for those who weren't sure if putting more money towards an education system would actually fix the problem we face," he said. "And now we understand that, in fact, it is the only way."

Democratic Senator Debbie Smith also spoke while sporting a bright purple wig to celebrate the occasion. The lawmaker missed part of this legislative session while recovering from brain surgery.

"This means so much," she said, "the fact the we are finally, finally funding education in this state." 

The plan will extend several sunset taxes and combine multiple business taxes with an increased cigarette tax. That extra cash will pay for initiatives targeting special populations like pre-K students, kids in poverty, and English language learners. 

One of the few dissenters, Republican Senator Don Gustavson said that while more money is needed for education, he doesn't agree with how those initiatives will be funded or executed.

"Where is that accountability to show what's been done?" Gustavson asked. "With as many programs as we've instituted, and some of those work and some of them don't, but here we are throwing more money at those programs that have still not proven to be beneficial to our students and teachers."

Others in opposition have said that the plan's commerce tax on the gross revenue of certain businesses is too similar to the margin tax that voters overwhelmingly refused last year. 

Sandoval needed a two-thirds vote in favor of the bill in both Republican-controlled chambers. The Assembly voted 30-10 to pass the measure. 


Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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