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Millions at stake as Clark County challenges state money grab

Clark County officials want the state to refund at least some of the $180 million it took from the county over the past two years.

They will start by asking the state to return $39 million to $74 million it diverted from the county last year as part of the 2009 legislative money grab.

A recent Nevada Supreme Court decision prompted some county commissioners Tuesday to explore retrieving the money.

The high court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the state to take
$62 million from the Clean Water Coalition, a local entity that had collected fees to build a pipeline.

The state can’t impose its will on just a single local government but must apply laws and policies uniformly throughout the state, the justices ruled.

County Commissioner Steve Sisolak thinks the court’s decision is a strong basis for going after money the state took.

Sisolak said some state officials he knows are displeased that he aims to push for a refund that could blast a crater in the state’s budget, which was approved Monday.

“Their biggest concern is if I’m right, they’ve got a big budget hole to fill,” Sisolak said.

The head attorney at the Legislative Counsel Bureau wouldn’t comment on whether the county had a valid claim. Officials in the governor’s office couldn’t be reached for comment.

If the county wins its claim, it could open the door for others to sue.

Al Martinez, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 1107, said Tuesday that he would consider suing the state.

A couple of commissioners backed Sisolak, and a few seemed neutral.

But Commissioner Tom Collins called it a bad idea.

County leaders agreed two years ago to let the state take some money, Collins said, arguing that they can’t suddenly change their minds.

Legislators could retaliate by making the county responsible for more state-funded programs, Collins said.

“Why go through all the hassle?” Collins said. “Let’s go forward.”

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