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Few details revealed about 2011 Nevada budget

CARSON CITY — Does Nevada’s new governor plan to turn over operations of the state’s community colleges to the counties?

No.

Does he plan to take $70 million in Clark County property taxes to help community colleges?

No comment.

So goes the race to run down rumors and hunt down details of Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval’s plans to prepare a spending plan for the 2011 Legislature.

Sandoval and his transition team remain tight-lipped about specifics, but on Friday, Dale Erquiaga did rule out one rumor:

Sandoval is looking at offering some type of “home rule” for local governments but that won’t include letting them increase local taxes.

And Erquiaga lent insight to another:

Sandoval, he said, believes that the public doesn’t care whether funds come from state or local sources, but about the services the money provides. That’s another clear indication that he will look to local governments to help the state out of its financial pickle.

“We are looking at where local services and local revenues match,” said Erquiaga, also Sandoval’s deputy transition director. “I am told in total there is about $20 billion in revenue collected by all governments. It’s peoples’ money. People don’t care if it is spent in a county, municipal or state general fund, so why should we?”

Erquiaga said Sandoval remains committed to vetoing any tax increase bill and would not budge from that stance when he meets in coming days with legislative leaders. And if he takes revenues from local governments, he wants to tie where revenue is raised to services that would be performed in that area.

He has to submit his budget to the Legislature by Jan. 24.

Speculation is rampant among local government circles about how much the cities and counties might suffer under the new governor. Some of those talking have suggested Sandoval is considering shifting state adult probation supervision from the state to the counties, and making changes to the state collective bargaining law in an effort to reduce payroll costs to local governments and schools.

Erquiaga said he did “truly not know” whether the proposals to shift services from state to local control were on Sandoval’s agenda.

But he added these type of service shifts are options that are under state budget office consideration.

He confirmed that making changes to the collective bargaining laws is something local governments are demanding in order to keep their payroll expenditures in check, and Sandoval will support such legislation.

“We have been told by school districts and local governments that they can’t weather the reductions coming in this biennium unless we address Chapter 288 (the collective bargaining law),” he said.

Gov. Jim Gibbons also tried to change the collective bargaining law. A petition he circulated didn’t get enough signatures, and he got nowhere with legislative leaders. Both houses of the Legislature are controlled by Democrats.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, called Thursday for a meeting with Sandoval before the governor-elect completes the proposed budget. He predicted that most of the budget issues could be resolved in such a meeting.

Erquiaga said Friday during a news conferences that a meeting will be scheduled, but that no time has been set yet.

“We have two weeks until we take office,” he said. “We have not set a date when we will sit down with leadership. Our commitment is we will continue to communicate with them.”

While Sandoval will not barter away his no-new-taxes pledge, he wants to meet with state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, and Oceguera and to maintain a positive relationship with him, he added.

Sandoval does not intend to advocate “financial home rule” that allows schools and local governments to levy taxes on their own, but he is working on other aspects of home rule.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@ reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@gmail.com or 702-477-3861.

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