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EDITORIAL: Budget games in Carson City

Democrats in Carson City now complain that they need Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo to agree to a budget before they can address scores of pending bills, including the Oakland A’s relocation and handouts to movie stars. The answer is simple. Get over to the Governor’s Mansion and cut a deal.

The legislative session ends June 5. Otto von Bismarck famously remarked that, “Laws are like sausages. It is best not to see them being made.” The adage aptly describes activities in the state capital. With barely more than a week to go, majority Democrats hope to ram through at the last minute various bills of public import with little debate. That’s hardly good governance and a stain on the leadership but amounts to business as usual.

Gov. Lombardo complains that lawmakers are ignoring his priorities — particularly on crime and education — and has threatened to veto the Democratic budget plan. Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said last week that nothing else would move forward until the state had a spending blueprint in place.

“If we don’t have an agreement on ‘This is what we’re funding the state at,’ it’s just really hard to have that kind of conversation in some sort of final fashion,” she said.

But have that conversation they must. Gov. Lombardo is hardly being unreasonable. He has already acquiesced to spending billions of more money on the state’s dismal public school system along with generous raises for state workers. And what have Democrats offered in return? Virtually nothing in terms of his election reform or school choice agenda — and virtually nothing when it comes to accountability for the new education spending. Quite the opposite, in fact. Legislative Democrats have instead telegraphed their intent to further gut the state’s already weak teacher evaluation system and to kill commonsense efforts to ensure third graders can read before moving on to the next level.

Gov. Lombardo, meanwhile, seeks only a modest increase in spending for Opportunity Scholarships, which provide tax credits for private contributions to funds that allow underprivileged children to escape underperforming public schools. Is opposition to such a program — which is popular with parents and even has the support of the Clark County teachers union — really a hill to die on? How wedded are Democrats to a system that is failing so many children?

Gov. Lombardo isn’t proposing to starve the state. He’s prepared to sign the biggest budget in Nevada history, made possible largely thanks to congressional Democrats in Washington who believe the U.S. Treasury can print an endless supply of money without consequence. We’ll see where that leaves us down the road.

Time for legislative Democrats to accept the fact that Steve Sisolak lost. Gov. Lombardo won support from a majority of Nevadans emphasizing issues such as school choice and rising crime. He now runs the state’s executive branch. The governor can also control the agenda for any special session called to address a potential budget stalemate. If the Democratic leadership maintains its intransigence, Gov. Lombardo should follow through on his veto threat.

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