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Sandoval raises questions about Laxalt's promise to add $500 million to education

Michelle Rindels
Michelle Rindels
Election 2018State Government
Former Nevada Governors Richard Brian, left, Robert List, moderator Tony Sanchez, former Gov. Bob Miller and current Governor Brian Sandoval during the Vintage Vegas Luncheon sponsored by the Latin Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Four governors spoke at the forum. (Jeff Scheid-Nevada Independent)

Gov. Brian Sandoval says money projected to come from a growing economy in the next two years is already spoken for, and gubernatorial candidates who are going to propose new spending will either have to raise taxes or “make some pretty massive cuts.”

The outgoing Republican governor made the comments Friday, after participating in a forum with three other past Nevada governors at the Latin Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Las Vegas. He raised questions when asked about Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt’s promise to add $500 million in new money to education if elected.

“I think you've just got to do simple math,” Sandoval said, pointing out that state agencies have requested about $9.1 billion in the forthcoming two-year budget, and revenues are expected to be between $8.5 and $9 billion, depending on the rate of economic growth that the Economic Forum projects at its December meeting. “There is going to be a gap between agency requests. So in terms of there being new money, it's spent.”

Laxalt recently conceded that he won’t be able to repeal Sandoval’s Commerce Tax, although Laxalt still says on his website that he wants to repeal it and added in an interview with Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Victor Joecks that "it's something we're gonna have to look at when we get into session."

But he hasn’t fully explained how he plans to find an additional $500 million. Sandoval said such a plan would require cuts in other areas or more tax revenue, pointing to projected inflation in education and Medicaid that will increase demands on the budget.

“There are all these things that roll up,” he said. “So we do have a half a billion dollars worth of growth which is the good news, but it's all accounted for. So there is not a half billion dollars of new money.”

Laxalt has also proposed freezing regulations upon taking office, saying he worries that while Nevada is investing more in education, businesses might be held back by onerous regulations. Sandoval did the same thing when he first took office.

“That was the first executive order I signed after taking the oath … We required every agency in state government to examine their regulations and identify any of them that were redundant, unnecessary, antiquated, what have you, and as a result of that, if my recollection is correct, we eliminated over 700 regulations,” he said. “I know that we've been very careful in regards to the adoption of the regulations since that time. I've talked to my cabinet to ensure that all the regulations aren't redundant or unnecessary or what have you and address a specific issue.”

He said regulations might need a second review, but wondered what specific provisions candidates think are holding Nevada back.

“I would think that any of my cabinet members, if they felt there was an unnecessary regulation, they would have brought that to my attention,” he said. “That was a priority of mine from day one and is still a priority to this day, to have the most friendly regulatory scheme that we possibly could have.”

Sandoval has not endorsed in the gubernatorial race and declined to say Friday who he voted for in the primary, although he repeated that “I will not support a candidate who is going to essentially repeal some of the great gains that we've been able to accomplish during my tenure as governor.”

He was also critical of the fact that there are no scheduled debates in race to replace him.

“I absolutely believe that the gubernatorial candidates should debate and I just feel like it's a disservice to the voters. … This individual is going to be the one that is going to be making some really important decisions with regard to the budget, with regard to how it affects every facet of our life. And they need to stand up and debate each other,” he said.

Sandoval named five official debates he participated in during his 2010 campaign, and a sixth impromptu debate when he and his Democratic opponent were at an event together.

“Nobody should be afraid to debate … They should actually look forward to answering questions,” he said. “I hope they change their minds between now and the election because it is inconceivable to me that the candidates for governor would not debate before voting starts.”

The governor noted that he is still undecided about how he will vote on Question 3, the ballot question that would open up energy markets to competition and has prompted record-breaking campaign spending of nearly $100 million this cycle.

“There are unanswered questions either way. And so at the end of the day I want what's in the best interest of the ratepayers,” he said, adding that he has read reports from an energy choice committee and the Public Utilities Commission, in addition to studying energy issues before signing related legislation. “it's still a very deliberative, important, personal decision for me.”

He was more decided on Question 1, or Marsy’s Law — a measure that would enshrine a lengthy list of victims’ rights into the constitution. Supporters include Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Laxalt and Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, but opponents including the ACLU say it’s unnecessary, could potentially jeopardize the rights of the accused and would be costly to implement.

“I'll put it this way — victims can never have enough rights,” he said.

The measure requires victims receive restitution before defendants must pay costs such as fees that support the courts.

“I get that, that there's a fiscal impact, but if you're going to pit victims against the courts, I mean, certainly the victims should come first,” he said.

Updated at 8:45 p.m. on Oct. 19, 2018 to add detail about Laxalt's plan on Commerce Tax.

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