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Sandoval makes budget pitch in televised speech

By Sandra Chereb

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, May 3 2011 8:05 p.m. MDT

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, right, talks with advisors Dale Erquiaga and Heidi Gansert outside an education budget hearing Tuesday, May 3, 2011, at the Legislature in Carson City, Nev. Sandoval will deliver a televised address Tuesday evening about his budget proposal and his stance to not raise taxes.

Cathleen Allison, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval renewed his call Tuesday for shared sacrifice to pull Nevada out of its lagging economy, saying that while signs are improving, "we still have a long road ahead."

In a televised address from the Governor's Mansion, the first term Republican defended his no-tax-stance and urged support of his $6 billion budget proposal.

Businesses, he said, "cannot afford a tax increase or further intrusion by government."

"We must make responsible decisions, spend within our means, and leave something better for those who follow," Sandoval said.

In a written statement, Democratic leadership thanked the governor for "keeping Nevadans informed as we go through this budget debate."

Highlighting the good news, Sandoval said sales tax, payroll tax and other economic indicators are improving, and that new business prospects during the first quarter more than doubled from last year.

His speech came the same day Democrats on Senate and Assembly money committees voted to reject $650 million in education cuts proposed by the governor, creating a massive budget hole.

Democrats have scheduled a briefing Thursday to outline their budget options.

On Monday, the Economic Forum projected Nevada will take in roughly $270 million more in tax revenues in the upcoming biennium. Sandoval said he will commit $242 million of it to education and urged that it be used to restore full-day kindergarten and class size minimums. Another $20 million will go to the university system.

"We can direct millions of dollars to restoring nearly 95 percent of the reductions to basic classroom support," Sandoval said, "or we can overreach, without changing the way we do business and without regard to the long-term economic impact of short-term spending."

Sandoval also renewed his push for education reforms, some of which have been embraced by Democrats, saying money alone won't improve Nevada's worst-in-the-nation graduation rate.

"Nevadans want ... a better return on their investment," he said.

Democratic lawmakers argue the governor's budget falls $1.2 billion below what's needed to adequately fund education and critical social services.

While Democrats control the Senate and Assembly, they lack the majority needed to raise taxes or override a governor's veto.

Sandoval said with the rosier tax projections and higher than anticipated federal funds for Medicaid programs, he has added back $440 million to his original budget released in January.

"The proposed budget is reasonable, reflective of the times and responsive to the sacrifices already made by so many in the private sector that must now be shared by those of us in government," he said.

Sandoval urged lawmakers to pass a budget by June 6, when the 2011 session will end.

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