(Andrew Doughman/Nevada News Bureau) – Gov. Brian Sandoval’s first veto has sparked a fight over who, exactly, has the support of the people.
Sandoval today vetoed a bill from Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, that would have allowed school districts to use debt reserves for school renovation.
Sandoval is counting on that same pot of money to fund school district operating costs.
Both the Republican governor and the Democratic Assemblywoman are pointing fingers accusing the other of being irresponsible.
Democrats argue that Sandoval’s veto represents a betrayal of the voters will. Smith contends that the governor is raiding a fund that voters approved for school construction.
“Not only are these children being disregarded, so are the voters who voted for these funds to be used for school rehabilitation and construction,” she said in a statement released following Sandoval’s veto.
Sandoval said that the Democrats would open up a hole in his budget that would result in teachers losing their jobs. His advisers said the voters understand times have changed, and the funds are required for operating costs.
“We think the voters understand that the circumstances have changed,” said Dale Erquiaga, the governor’s senior adviser.
Assembly Bill 183 will almost certainly die since Democrats in the Assembly and Senate do not have the two-thirds majority vote required to override Sandoval’s veto.
Assembly and Senate Republicans voted as a bloc against the bill before it arrived at the governor’s office, and nothing indicates that any of them will change their minds now.
So the real battle is over how Nevadans interpret the veto.
Voters in the school districts of both Clark and Washoe counties approved school construction bonds about a decade ago.
The school districts are required by law to save some of that money in a debt reserve account for repayment of the construction bonds.
Another way of viewing it is to say that voters approved buying a bottle of soda for school districts. The law allows districts to drink most of that soda, but they have to keep some of it in the bottle.
Both Sandoval and Smith want the districts to keep less. Sandoval would use the money to pay for operating costs, the basic expenditures that ensure schools open every day.
“In appropriating bond reserve money for construction, proponents of the bill have reduced the amount of funds available for classroom instruction by approximately $301million,” Sandoval said in a statement issued this morning. “Along the way, they have misleadingly cited those who voted for the issuance of school bonds in the past as supporting their cause today, unfairly attributing to them their narrow view.”
Smith said it was “shocking” that the governor would accuse her and her supports of misleading the public.
“When the voters voted for this, they didn’t vote for part of it to for construction and part of it to go to a reserve,” she said. “…If I’m a voter, I’m assuming anything in that fund is going to go for construction.”
Voters approved the bond money, and the Legislature required in law that some of that money be kept in a reserve account.
None of that money was slated for anything except debt service. Smith and Sandoval want to use some of that money for two different purposes.
The better use of that money is the fight Smith and Sandoval are trying to win.
You can read the bill here and decide for yourself.