Gov. Brian Sandoval wants to use $425 million for school operations. AB183, sponsored by Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, would restrict use of the money to its voter approved intent of capital improvements. Sandoval opposes the bill, saying it would create a $400 million hole in his $5.8 billion budget proposal that he's pledged to balance without raising taxes or fees.
On Wednesday, Assembly Republicans reaffirmed their support of the first-term governor and opposition to the bill, dubbed "School Works."
"In a time of belt tightening across the board, we should be doing everything we can to direct every available penny away from administration and into programs that directly improve a child's education," Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said in a statement. "Any bill effort to divert money away from the classroom just makes for a larger deficit and more painful cuts."
The bill received wide support during an Assembly Government Affairs hearing last week. Smith said it would preserve public trust by using the money for its intended purpose, while helping to jump start the depressed construction industry that has lost nearly 80,000 jobs since the Great Depression began in late 2007.
Bonds, Smith said, "were never intended to be used to solve a budget problem." In previous testimony, she said the bill could free up $50 million to $70 million more for construction projects in a district where nearly half of the schools are more than a half-century old.
But Republicans counter it should be left to school districts to decide how best to use the funds.
"In these difficult times, every legislator knows that if we allow revenue sources like bond reserves to be used for anything other than classroom education, it puts our children and teachers at a disadvantage," said Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas.
Assemblywoman Melissa Woodbury, R-Las Vegas, agreed.
"Everyone would like to make capital improvements," Woodbury said. But given the state's budget deficit and "limited resources," she said "it's an easy decision to choose putting more money in the classroom over a new paint job or repaved parking lot."