Posts Tagged ‘Crescent Hardy’

In Late Night Hearing, Assembly Caught Up In Education Funding Numbers Game

By Andrew Doughman | 10:37 pm April 19th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Assembly was awash with numbers tonight.

As part of the Democratic strategy to close the budget, the Assembly as a whole discussed for four and a half hours the education budget so that all legislators could learn about the cuts.

Legislative staff presented to the Assembly more than $1 billion proposed “major reductions” to school districts. These numbers come from a variety of sources:

  • $600 million from freezing teachers’ pay increases, reducing salaries by 5 percent and making teachers contribute more to their retirement plans.
  • $238 million from the governor’s direct reductions to state support for public schools.
  • $221 million of room tax money continues to shift from supporting schools to the state general fund, as it does in the current budget.

The governor has also proposed to use $301 million in districts’ bond debt reserves for day-to-day expenses. School district representatives argue that this equates to an additional cut.

For legislators who do not sit on fiscal committees, the hearing in the Assembly chambers allowed them to ask questions about the education budget and education policy.

What ensured was a semantics game.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget director, Andrew Clinger, said that a $141 million pay freeze does not equate to a reduction and the $221 million room tax is already diverted to the state budget this year.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, contended the pay freeze was a reduction.

Clinger said shifting $301 million from debt reserves to day-to-day expenses was not a cut.

Smith said it was.

The confusion, however, did not end there.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero-Loop, D-Las Vegas, asked how much money the state would cut per student. That ever elusive “per pupil spending” number was no easier to find this evening.

“It really depends on who you ask,” Clinger said. “Depending on what your source is, you’re going to get a different answer.”

Depending how one cooks the numbers, those estimates can vary by thousands of dollars. But boiled down, the proposed budget would allot $315 less per student than it currently does.

Smith asked Washoe County Superintendent Heath Morrison whether he thought sweeping districts’ bond reserves should be called a “cut.”

“The semantics of ‘is it a cut?’ Here’s what I know: It hurts the Washoe County School District,” he said.

Republicans, however, contended that school districts could make the cuts hurt less through changes to state government.

Assemblymen Pat Hickey, R-Reno, and Mark Sherwood, R-Las Vegas, suggested that school districts suspend prevailing wage – a requirement to pay a certain wage for public works projects – in an attempt to help districts save money.

Assemblyman Mark Hammond, R-Las Vegas, who is a teacher at a Las Vegas school, said he would like to see principals have more control over funds that come to their schools.

Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Mesquite, said the Legislature should change collective bargaining rules so districts can drive a harder bargain for contracts with teachers and administrators.

Morrison contended this would not help. He said teachers and administrators have agreed to cuts in the past.

“I did not see collective bargaining as a problem,” he said. “I did not see anything but cooperation and support.”

Smith also said that reform is not the issue.

“We do need reform and we are working on reform,” she said. “But we also need to adequately fund our education system.”

Through the semantics squabbles and policy debates, a partisan bent seemed to triumph.

Democrats said there was too little in the governor’s $5.8 billion budget to help Nevada out of the recession.

“The elephant in the room is that we have a revenue problem rather than a spending problem,” said Assemblyman Joseph Hogan, D-Las Vegas.

Republicans said Sandoval’s budget is just right.

“The governor is trying to restore the economy,” said Assemblyman Pete Livermore, R-Carson City. “If you’re going to tax people out of their businesses and out of their homes, how can you restore the economy?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assemblyman Asks Lawmakers To Put “Cards On The Table” In Forum Today

By Andrew Doughman | 12:47 pm April 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Sparks, is asking other legislators to “lay your cards on the table.”

As the budget debate in Carson City roils to no discernible conclusion, Hickey is bringing 21 lawmakers, business leadersa and academics to the Legislature to talk taxes and government reform.

“This forum will help get out into the open things that have only been talked about behind closed doors,” Hickey said. “As moderator, I plan to press participants to speak openly about the ‘end game’ here this session.”

That end game has traditionally involved closed door meetings between legislative leadership.

Hickey will moderate the “Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery” panel today between 3 – 5 p.m. at the Legislature. Viewers online can watch here.

Hickey said he would like to have a serious discussion in public that could evolve into legislative negotiations about the budget.

At the very least, the diversity of voices at the forum should provide an interesting sideshow to the day-in, day-out legislative hearings and committees.

Speaking at the forum span nearly every position on the tax debate. Politically, Hickey’s guests span the spectrum from left to right and include representatives from unions and contractors, free-market libertarians and progressive groups, chambers of commerce and school districts.

Hickey’s forum is not the only change in the legislative end game.

This year, Democratic leaders in the Assembly and Senate have said they will conduct budget hearings in the Assembly and Senate chambers. They say the move will lead to more transparency and include more legislators in budget discussions.

As first reported in the Las Vegas Sun, the change could prompt legislators toward a budget battle over education.

The Legislature has 49 days remaining to conclude its session, pass a budget and finish the drawing of political districts as required every 10 years by the U.S. Census.

 

Panelists for the “Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery” include:

Heidi Gansert, the governor’s chief of staff

Speaker Pro Tempore Debbie Smith, D-Sparks

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas

Tray Abney, Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce

Carole Vilardo – Nevada Taxpayers Association

Dr. Elliott Parker – UNR economist

Clara Andriola – Associated Builders and Contractors

Geoffrey Lawrence – Nevada Policy Research Institute economist

Dr. Heath Morrison – Washoe County School District superintendent

Mary Lau – Retail Association of Nevada

Dr. Tyrus Cobb – former assistant to President Ronald Reagan

Neil Medina – Northern Nevada Contractor

Jim Pfrommer – Education Alliance of Washoe County

Former Sen. Randolph Townsend

Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Mesquite

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks

Bob Fulkerson, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada

Chuck Muth – Citizen Outreach

Dave Humke – Washoe County Commissioner

Danny Thompson – AFL-CIO union representative

Norm Dianda – Q&D Construction

New Senator Says Mining “Lobbyists May Live To Regret” Ignoring Her, Sparking Mining Industry Reaction

By Andrew Doughman | 3:39 pm February 16th, 2011

CARSON CITY – It took less than a day before Sen. Elizabeth Halseth had the attention she was looking for.

Tim Crowley, a lobbyist for the mining industry, said he called her this morning to schedule a meeting after she asked in a Tuesday night blog post, “did mining just hit a brick wall?”

“During the 2010 election cycle, the mining industry didn’t take the southern Nevada Republican senate candidates very seriously,” wrote Halseth, a freshman Republican from Las Vegas. “Considering the legitimate and penetrating questions posed by Sen. [Michael] Roberson, that may be a calculation the industry’s lobbyists may live to regret.”

She referred to the questions Roberson, one of those “southern Nevada Republican” Senators, posed to Crowley on Monday.

This morning, more than the snow in Carson City, her blog post had legislators abuzz with talk of Halseth openly advertising a “pay to play” strategy.

“I’m trying to think of how we want to say this,” she said outside of her office this morning. “They [the mining industry] didn’t take the time to talk and … meet with me. If I’m not informed about their side, how can I make a decision?”

Crowley said he saw the blog post Tuesday night.

“I don’t care what her motives were … it sends the signal that we need to be talking more,” he said during a phone call today. “I called her this morning; I think that’s what she wanted.”

Halseth’s blog post was later edited to tone down the rhetoric by replacing Republicans with “Clark County candidates” and adding a clause that clarified that it was meetings, not money, that mattered.

“During the 2010 election cycle, the mining industry didn’t take some Clark County candidates very seriously, by being unwilling to meet with some candidates regarding issues pertaining to mining,” the new post reads.

Roberson, a freshman Republican from Las Vegas, has also criticized the mining industry.

On Monday, he grilled Crowley over the rate of the state’s mining taxes. He felt like he didn’t get a clear answer.

Today, he signed on to a bill that would remove the mining industry’s eminent domain privilege, which allows the industry the same power the government has to take private land for market-value compensation.

Las Vegas Review Journal reporter Benjamin Spillman blogged yesterday that Halseth and Roberson come from a set of fiscal conservatives who do not always agree with representatives from Nevada’s powerful industries.

Another newly-elected southern Nevada Republican, Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Mesquite, signed on to a similar bill in the Assembly.

Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, is sponsoring the Senate bill. That bill has not only received support from Democrats, but also from free-market think tanks like the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

Halseth said she still hasn’t made up her mind about whether to add her name to Leslie’s bill.