- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada senators ripped apart Republican state Treasurer Dan Schwartz’s proposed alternative to GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval’s spending plan during a hearing on Thursday, with the chair of the committee calling the three-page document “a press release, not a budget.”

Members of the Senate Finance Committee also said Schwartz was disrespecting the very governor who helped bring him into office by presenting the alternative, which Schwartz said responds to apprehension about Sandoval raising taxes just months after voters rejected a tax increase.

“All I’m asking is that you respect the will of the voters,” Schwartz said at the end of the emotional hearing.

Schwartz, who announced a week ago he was drafting an alternative to Sandoval’s budget, had to make a last-minute change after learning that his proposed $5 fee per airline passenger was illegal under federal laws.

On Thursday, he presented his revised plan, which included a 25-cent tax on food and drink receipts in casino restaurants and a higher tax on gambling.

His $6.8 billion, two-year budget is less than the $7.3 billion proposal from Sandoval, which includes $1.1 billion in new and extended taxes to fund a major expansion in K-12 education programs. Sandoval’s plan also includes a dramatic increase in funding for autism treatment and anti-bullying programs, something Schwartz called wasteful.

Parents of children with autism gave tearful testimony during the meeting, saying the kinds of treatment Sandoval’s budget proposes would mean the difference between their children reading and being self-sufficient as adults. Several brought their children to the witness table and had them try to read passages for lawmakers.

Jason Lamberth, who says his 13-year-old daughter’s suicide in 2013 stemmed from bullying, also testified against Schwartz’s cost-cutting plan.

Sandoval’s chief of staff, Mike Willden, appeared visibly exasperated Thursday when he testified about the work that went into developing the budget. He said the process begins months in advance and the result is hundreds of pages long.

Although Nevada law does not give the treasurer the ability to create a budget, Schwartz said he based his actions on a portion of the Nevada Revised Statutes directing the treasurer’s office to “provide information” to the Legislature when required.

Schwartz told The Associated Press last week that he met with a group of Assembly and Senate Republicans interested in drafting a bill reflecting the alternative budget. Several conservative Republican lawmakers say they’re trying to block Sandoval’s plan, which will need the votes of two-thirds of the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass.

But Schwartz appeared to back away from his previous statement on Thursday. Asked who put him up to drafting the budget, he said “it’s purely my doing.”

Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, who chairs the finance committee, said the alternative budget is unlikely to move forward.

“I would suspect it was its last hurrah, if it ever had a hurrah,” he said.

___

Associated Press writer Michelle Rindels contributed to this report.

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