Clark County joined a growing chorus of local governments that want the state to get their consent before raiding their coffers.
County commissioners on Tuesday approved putting an advisory question on the November ballot asking voters whether the state should seek permission to grab local revenues or impose new taxes and fees.
Last year, the county’s budget crisis deepened when the Legislature took almost $200 million over two years by diverting revenues and instituting fees. About $45 million of that was pulled from the county’s general operating fund, affecting social services and other agencies.
The ailing economy has bedeviled all levels of government with reduced tax revenues, forcing budget cuts, furloughs and layoffs. By law, state and local budgets must be balanced .
The Nevada Association of Counties is sponsoring the advisory question. So far, 10 of 17 counties have passed resolutions to place the question before voters.
“It’s a strong message,” Commissioner Larry Brown said.
Although he sympathizes with the state’s financial struggles, he said the county must be able to work within its means without constantly worrying about the state compounding the problems.
Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, a former assemblywoman, said the advisory question was a futile exercise that will waste county staff’s time and energy. “This will have no teeth,” said Giunchigliani, the lone dissenter.
Commissioners Susan Brager and Rory Reid voiced support for the measure, saying it expresses the need for more local control.
The Las Vegas City Council is scheduled to consider a resolution today supporting the advisory question.
State lawmakers grabbed revenue in the last legislative session from Clark and Washoe counties and left the smaller counties and cities alone. Local government leaders statewide have expressed fears that no entity will be immune next year with the state’s budget shortfall expected to swell larger than in 2009.
“I don’t envy the state Legislature in 2011,” Brown said. “This is going to be the hardest task they’ve faced.”
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