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CLARK COUNTY QUESTION 5 (Local funds)

Voters are being asked whether the state should get Clark County’s permission before taking its revenue and imposing new fees and responsibilities for programs.

The Nevada Association of Counties is sponsoring the advisory question statewide. Clark County commissioners approved putting the question to voters in its jurisdiction.

Most commissioners became concerned after legislative actions in 2009 cost the county $180 million over two years. They worry that the state’s projected $3 billion shortfall will drive lawmakers to take even more from the county in 2011.

Commissioner Rory Reid said there’s no legal way to stop the state from raiding local coffers, but the county can let lawmakers know what voters think.

“A diversion (of money) is not a solution,” Reid said. “This is at least an opportunity for other voices to be heard.”

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani argued that there is little point in asking voters about a measure that can’t be enforced.

“It has no teeth,” Giunchigliani said at a recent commission meeting.

The question lays out arguments for and against the state being able to grab local revenue, impose new fees and require governments to fund a greater portion of state programs.

Critics say that when the state dips into local funds, it further strains the budgets of local governments struggling to deal with falling tax revenue. The state gets a quick financial fix but no long-term solution, they say.

Diminished capital funds result in roads not being built and jobs not being created, they say. Taking money from the general operating fund can lead to layoffs and reduced services.

Those who support the state’s current authority say the Legislature must have the ability to divert funds from local governments in a budget crisis for the benefit of all Nevada taxpayers.

In the ballot question, they use an analogy about family. The state shouldn’t have to get counties’ permission for how money in the overall pot is spent, any more than parents shouldn’t get their children’s OK to adjust the family budget, they argue.

Lorne Malkiewich, attorney for the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said the state pulls revenue from local governments as a last resort, after it increases fees and cuts services to fill budget holes.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

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