CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada’s Republican governor and Democratic-majority Legislature drew battle lines Thursday for a fight over policy priorities with less than two weeks until the session ends.
Gov. Joe Lombardo issued a terse five-point ultimatum and declared he “will not sign any budget bills until my priorities are addressed.” Earlier in the day, Senate and Assembly Democrats stood by their budget bills, which are set to receive final votes and head to Lombardo’s desk.
Nevada’s Democratic leadership says a Lombardo veto would jeopardize initiatives to partially fund a new stadium for the Oakland Athletics, use tax credits to help expand the film industry in Las Vegas, and replace a crumbling tribal school.
“If we do have a budget veto, I don’t know how we pass any of those bills because we don’t have a budget,” Democratic Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager told reporters Thursday. “We don’t know how much money we have. We will have to forgo doing very, very important things.”
Democrats control a supermajority in the state Assembly, and are one vote away from a supermajority in the state Senate, meaning they would need one Republican vote and all Democrats to override any vetoes.
Lombardo’s priority bills haven’t built traction. They include a sweeping public safety measure that rolls back some 2019 criminal justice reform initiatives, a school safety bill that Democrats have stalled in favor of their own similar bill, and a major expansion of a school choice scholarship program that would fund access to private schools. If those aren’t addressed in the Legislature, Lombardo said he could veto the state budget.
“Before the Senate and Assembly take final action on these five bills today, tomorrow, or the next day,” Lombardo said, “I suggest they reconsider their decision and delay final passage until the policy priorities that I spelled out on day one are on my desk.”
“If they choose to test my resolve, I’ll make it easy for them,” the governor wrote in a statement Thursday.
Many of the bills reflect what Lombardo wants, but the discrepancies are causing tension that could force a special legislative session. Those include $291 million in leftover education funding that Lombardo wants to use for programs for early literacy and teacher scholarships. He’s warned of a “fiscal cliff” of over-committing one-time funding. Democrats have proposed the funding to to the state’s new education formula to better sustain county school districts.
The stadium funding bill is expected to be introduced any day, as Lombardo and legislative leaders reached a tentative agreement this week with the Oakland Athletics. The film industry measure includes $190 million in tax credits over at least two decades, with private developers funding two sites to recruit film companies.
Meanwhile, tribal leaders have pushed for a new Owyhee Combined School they say has been neglected by rural Elko County, where the Duck Valley Indian Reservation sits along the Nevada-Idaho border. Colonies of bats are living in the ceiling, and windows have been hit by stray bullets. The school sits adjacent to land where toxic chemicals are stored underground, which doctors are studying as a potential link to a string of cancer deaths.
“We’re a political football by no means of our own,” Brian Mason, chairman of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation, said in an interview Thursday. “This is about the time we thought all leaders and legislators would put on their big boy pants and get it done. And we still have some hope that they will, because you’re talking about children’s lives.”
Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabestern326.
Gabe Stern, The Associated Press