Democrats on Tuesday announced two pieces of legislation meant to bring additional money to the state’s education system.
The first piece of legislation, SB 545, would divert money from the existing 10 percent excise tax on retail marijuana sales from the Rainy Day Fund to the Distributive Schools Account. That would bring an additional $120 million to the state’s education system during the upcoming two-year budget cycle.
The second piece of legislation, an amendment to AB 309, would allow counties to raise their sales tax by a quarter-cent to support education. The Nevada Independent previewed the expected amendment, which was scheduled to be introduced by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson during an Assembly Ways and Means committee hearing Tuesday night.
Frierson described the marijuana funding bill as a righting of wrongs made during the 2017 Legislative Session. Many Nevadans have said they feel deceived by the state’s handling of marijuana tax money, saying they voted in favor of recreational sales because they believed it would fund education.
The amendment would essentially allow counties to create a dedicated source of funding to support educator salaries. Individual county commissions would either have to approve a sales tax increase by a two-thirds majority, or county voters would have to approve by a simple majority on a ballot.
During a press conference about the proposed legislation, Gov. Steve Sisolak suggested he did not see the sales tax amendment as contradictory to his no new taxes policy.
“I’m not forcing anyone to raise anything,” he said.
Republican lawmakers were still quick to pan the proposal.
GOP state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer tweeted that Democrats have opted to “punt increased funding to local governments so they can raise a tax they’ve always considered regressive.”
At the press conference, Sisolak also expressed frustration over the public narrative that his proposed budget did not properly fund education. Sisolak said his staff received budget requests from the individual school districts and funded them. He said that included enough money for the 3 percent educator raises he promised during his State of the State speech, as well as roll-up costs, merit pay increases and increased healthcare costs.
“We funded the budgets fully,” Sisolak said, adding that months later district projections changed and were suddenly short. “That story isn’t being told.”
When asked by media, Sisolak would not comment on the threatened teachers strike, which members of the Clark County Education Association authorized for next school year if adequate funding is not achieved.
As of publication, CCEA has not issued a statement in response to the funding bills. However, in an email sent to members of the union, the union introduced a description of the sales tax increase amendment by noting, “We’re glad to report that progress is being made.”