Updated June 2, 2023 - 7:20 pm
CARSON CITY — Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoed a bill funding state government operations Thursday night after days of tense negotiations between his office and Democratic legislative leadership, contending the bill “spends more and saves less” and sets up the state to face “a fiscal cliff.”
“The budget largely reflects the priorities I proposed in my recommended budget, and I am grateful for the hard work of the Legislature,” Lombardo said in his veto message. “With that said, I made it clear in my State of the State address that fiscal balance and responsibility would be paramount in my administration. AB 520 falls short in a number of important areas.”
Lombardo encouraged the Legislature to revisit the provisions in the bill and forward a revised budget in the time that is left of the session. Among the requested changes include revisiting what Lombardo said was a 78 percent increase in spending for the legislature and increasing the cap on the state’s rainy day fund from 20 to 30 percent.
In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro slammed the governor and said “Nevadans deserve better.”
“Governor Lombardo has chosen politics over policy, punishing ordinary Nevadans by vetoing a budget bill that invests in essential education, health care, and public safety services,” she said. “We will reintroduce and pass this budget bill again before the end of the session. Instead of repeating this reckless veto charade, I sincerely hope he will realize his mistake and sign it.”
Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager said despite the veto, lawmakers were committed to passing a budget.
“When this legislative session began, it was my hope and expectation that policy would come before politics and Nevadans would come before partisanship. With tonight’s veto, the governor made it clear that would not be the case,” Yeager said. “Despite the veto, we remain committed to passing a budget that improves Nevadans’ healthcare, education, and livelihoods.”
It’s the latest in a standoff between Gov. Joe Lombardo and Democratic legislative leadership.
The governor repeatedly threatened to veto budget-related bills if the Legislature did not prioritize his agenda, including criminal justice reform and his sweeping education bill that would, among several things, have given more money for Opportunity Scholarships — a promise he touted on the campaign trail.
That fight reached a temporary ceasefire Wednesday, when Democrats exchanged a pair of restorative justice bills for his signature on two other budget bills, including the state’s K-12 education bill and a bill authorizing spending by state agencies.
The governor also signed Assembly Bill 522 on Thursday, which will give state employees between 10 percent to 13 percent raises in the first year of the biennium, with a 4 percent raise in the second.
“Our state employees are deserving of these raises, and I’m grateful we were able to deliver this critical bill,” Lombardo said on Twitter.
The Nevada State Democratic Party credited Democrats for the passage of the pay bill, noting that Republicans opposed it. The Nevada State AFL-CIO applauded Lombardo’s signing of the bill, commending the governor for “making workers a priority.”
The remaining budget bill, a measure authorizing $1 billion in capital improvement projects, is currently on the Senate secretary’s desk awaiting a vote.
But it was just the latest bill the governor slashed Thursday. Lombardo killed one bill after another earlier in the day, including one that would have provided summer school to public school students and one relating to monorails.
The governor also killed Senate Bill 133, which would have criminalized those who participate in fake elector schemes. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Skip Daly of Sparks, was introduced in response to six Nevada Republicans submitting faux electoral certificates declaring Donald Trump the winner of the Silver State in 2020, instead of Joe Biden, who won by about 30,000 votes.
The Nevada State Democratic Party criticized the governor for the veto, accusing him of protecting election deniers to score political points.
“For years, Lombardo hasn’t hesitated to stand with the most extreme members of his party who have spread conspiracy theories that led to a deadly insurrection,” said spokesperson Mallory Payne. “There’s no question public safety and law enforcement are the furthest thing from Lombardo’s priorities.”
Lombardo said in his veto message to Cannizzaro that he believes ensuring the “sanctity and security” of elections is “paramount to maintaining public confidence in both our electoral processes and in elected officials,” and that there should be “strict punishments” for those who seek to undermine the confidence in election systems.
But he objected to the measure, saying the penalty would be harsher than that for high-level fentanyl traffickers, domestic violence perpetrators and “even some of the most extreme and violent actors on January 6.”
“Because SB 133 does nothing to ensure the security of our elections and merely provides disproportionately harsh penalties for an, admittedly, terrible crime, I cannot support it,” Lombardo wrote.
Lombardo also vetoed Assembly Bill 298, a bill authorizing rent stabilization for seniors and those with disabilities. In his veto message, the governor said the measure presents “an unreasonable restraint on standard business activity.”
The bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, D-Las Vegas, said she was “saddened and disappointed” by the governor’s veto.
The governor also vetoed Senate Bill 404, a measure related to challenging a voter’s proof of residency. The bill would have also allowed ballots to be counted beginning on the first day of early voting, rather than after the first day.