weather icon Clear

Teachers, state workers would feel most pain under Sandoval budget, legislator says

CARSON CITY — Teachers and state workers are making the principal sacrifices under the budget proposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, the leader of the state Assembly said Wednesday.

Assembly Speaker-elect John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said businesses and all citizens are supposed to feel pain under the "shared sacrifice" concept that Sandoval describes as necessary for Nevada’s economic recovery.

But Sandoval’s plan would lead to a 5 percent wage cut and a 5.3 percent loss in benefits for state workers and school employees, the speaker said.

"It should be a broad-based" shared sacrifice, Oceguera said at a news conference after a pre-session hearing during which legislators criticized Sandoval’s plan to cut public education support by at least 9 percent. "Right now the focus is on (school) employees and state workers shouldering the burden."

In response to questions, Oceguera would not say whether he thought businesses would be making any sacrifices at all under Sandoval’s budget plan. The governor proposes no tax increases and wants to end a tax increase approved in 2009 that essentially doubled business taxes.

Earlier Wednesday, school district officials told legislators that entry-level teachers in Clark County earn $35,000 a year and their counterparts in Washoe County receive $31,000 a year.

"I am worrying" about the effect of the cuts on starting teachers’ pay, said Assembly Ways and Means Chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.

Sandoval wants to withhold money from school districts to force them to cut teacher pay by 5 percent, but Oceguera said his calculations show teachers would be hit with a 5.3 percent reduction in benefits. Teacher salaries and benefits, however, are determined through collective bargaining negotiations with unions.

Smith asserted that state support for public education would drop by $668 million under Sandoval’s $2.2 billion public school funding plan. Oceguera refused to say that he would back tax increases or that increases are inevitable.

He said legislators will develop their own spending plan "week by week" during the legislative session, which starts Feb. 7 and then decide whether tax increases are warranted.

A similar strategy was used in 2009 by legislators who rejected the spending plan proposed by Gov. Jim Gibbons. After holding hearings and meeting behind closed doors for weeks, legislators before adjournment agreed on $800 million in temporary tax increases that they quickly passed but that were then vetoed by Gibbons. Legislators, including several Senate Republicans, then voted to override that veto.

Rob Roberts, the Nye County school superintendent and president of the Nevada Association of School Superintendents, told legislators the Sandoval budget leaves schools "severely underfunded."

Heath Morrison, superintendent of the Washoe County School District, predicted he would lay off 432 teachers and increase the average class size by four pupils if education funding is not increased.

New Clark County Superintendent Dwight Jones did not attend the hearing but said Tuesday that about 1,200 layoffs are contemplated in his district.

Jeff Weiler, chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, told legislators he expects a $250 million drop in state funding under Sandoval’s budget.

He said the Clark County School District has cut $375 million in the past three years and eliminated 1,700 jobs.

Because 89 percent of district spending is on salaries and benefits, Weiler said, more layoffs would be required without additional money, particularly if employee unions do not make concessions.

Sandoval also proposes setting up a block grant plan that gives school districts the option of continuing class-size reduction programs and full-day kindergarten programs or using the money as they see fit.

But his plan reduces by more than $18 million the $343 million that now goes to these programs.

In response to questions, Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Keith Rheault said the state never has done a study on whether students who were enrolled in smaller classes achieved lasting benefits. He also has no state studies on the effect of full-day kindergarten.

"I don’t have any hard evidence," he said.

Class-size reduction programs began in 1990. In Clark County, a study found that children who attended full-day kindergarten made greater gains in literacy by the third grade than those who attended half-day kindergarten classes.

Review-Journal reporter James Haug contributed to this story. Contact reporter Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)