If you’re scratching your head about why the treasurer is designing the state’s budget, you’re not the only
one. In an unprecedented move, Nevada State Treasurer Dan Schwartz, a Republican, came forward with a plan that’s about half a billion dollars lower than Governor Brian Sandoval’s. It also eliminates the governor’s proposed taxes on business to fund education.
Speaking in front of the Senate Finance Committee, Schwartz put it this way:
“We cannot ask hard-working small businesses to pay large sums simply to open the doors in the morning. We cannot ask Nevadans to pay taxes that they overwhelmingly rejected three months ago.”
Schwartz didn’t single out which education programs in the governor’s budget he would cut, but posed these questions:
“Do we need 78 million dollars for full-day kindergarten? Do we have the space? Should we spend 36 million to combat bullying? Aren’t we talking about a cultural not an academic problem? Do we need to spend 36.2 million on social workers in schools?”
The resounding answer in the chamber was yes. Not a single person spoke in favor of Schwartz’s budget, which lacked detail and even had some errors. Sandoval’s Chief of Staff, Mike Willden, listed at least half a dozen and then concluded:
“Again, a misunderstanding of the budget process. I’m offended, appalled at the lack of research.”
Willden says the treasurer’s budget would eliminate any enhancements for education in the state. In contrast, Sandoval has proposed almost a billion dollars in new and extended taxes for education. And Schwartz fared no better with lawmakers on the committee. Many are allies of the governor and view Schwartz’s move as not only an affront, but also just the latest example of rebellion from far-right conservatives that’s caused a schism within the party.
This was on full display when Republican Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson questioned whether Schwartz had the constitutional authority to present a budget in place of the governor:
Roberson: “[You’re] hijacking the process and bringing forth a three page budget for political purposes.”
Schwartz: “Senator Roberson, I believe your charges are political.”
Roberson: “I’m in shock and dismay that you would be here proposing this.”
And so it went on with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle hammering Schwartz and raising questions about his plan to bring in revenue by taxing gaming and tourism related activities.
The most powerful testimony came from parents whose children benefit, or could benefit, from autism programs and bullying prevention. One of those was Jason Lamberth, the father of a 13-year-old student who killed herself after being bullied.
“Reducing bullying and making children safe is part of what that 36 million dollars would be used for. To think, Treasurer Schwartz doesn’t see value in it.”
Given this widespread opposition, it’s unlikely the treasurer’s budget will go anywhere; however, whether Schwartz has support in the assembly—among conservatives who don’t like Sandoval’s budget—remains to be seen.