(Andrew Doughman/Nevada News Bureau) – Democrats grilled the governor’s budget director during a hearing following the release of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget yesterday.
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, accused the governor of stifling job creation by “robbing” $44 million out of the state’s highway fund.
The governor’s proposed budget would divert $44 million from the highway fund to two state operating funds.
Horsford said that the money the governor proposes to transfer could be bonded against, which could create infrastructure jobs.
Budget Director Andrew Clinger replied that the state’s highway fund had met its target fund base of $100 million at the end of this past year, and that it too had taken reductions along with other portions of the budget.
“[Those reductions] total $35 million. There was the dispatch center in Reno … as well as a new plane for the state for $7 million,” he said.
“Why someone would recommend doing a new plane in this state’s economy, whatever,” Horsford said.
“Right, so those were items that were …” Clinger said.
“On your part to not even bring that…” Horsford said.
“So those were items that were eliminated in their budget that offset some of this need,” Clinger said.
The confrontational tenor of the debate continued with Clinger on the defensive. He faced a committee of 21 legislators, flanked to his left by Heidi Gansert, the governor’s chief of staff.
As he delivered an electronic presentation of the intricacies of the budget, what he called “re-allocations” and “transfers” quickly became “shifting buckets” and “kicking the can” in the words of legislators.
Democrats did most of the questioning. They interrogated the budget director on the governor’s proposals to get money up-front from insurance premium tax collections. The state would have to pay this money back later, with interest.
Later, legislators asked Clinger why local property taxes from only Washoe and Clark counties should help support UNLV and UNR. What followed was a debate about whether and how much the universities had a statewide impact.
About an hour and a half into the hearing, Horsford again spoke up.
“We want to keep a nice cooperative tone so we’re not going to become argumentative,” he said. “We disagree on this particular revenue source … I don’t want to get into that dispute with you right now.”
“Thank you, mister chairman,” Clinger replied.