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State Treasurer Answers Questions About Controversial Alternative Budget

State Treasurer Dan Schwartz ran into a buzz saw in Carson City last week when he testified in front of the Senate Finance Committee.

Even though he is a Republican, Schwartz presented his alternative to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $7.3 billion budget proposal.

Schwartz’s budget was only three pages long. Senators on the finance committee roundly criticized it and Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist Steve Sebelius called it a “news release.

For many lawmakers, the big problem wasn’t the ideas in Schwartz’s budget but that he was offering an alternative spending plan at all because that is not within the treasurer’s job description.

However, Schwartz defended his plan, explaining state law requires him to provide information on any subject connected with the treasury. 

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Schwartz told KNPR’s State of Nevada that the governor has the primary responsibility for the budget but the treasurer can comment on it.

“The purpose of the alternative budget was to, as state treasurer who is the state’s chief financial officer to say, in my opinion, this does not work,” Schwartz said.

The treasurer said he wonders if the state should really be spending the amount of money outlined by the governor’s budget on issues like full-day kindergarten, bullying, autism and digital devices for classrooms.

“If we want to spend $100 million on autistic kids then the governor can do that but then he can’t spend money on breakfast. He can’t spend money on digital devices. He can’t spend money on bullying,” Schwartz said. “What I do question is can we afford everything he has proposed and still balance the budget?”

During last weeks’ meeting, it was Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson who said he was embarrassed for Schwartz; however, Schwartz told KNPR that he was embarrassed by Roberson’s behavior, calling it, "unbecoming an elected official."

One of the problems pointed out by lawmakers during his testimony was a suggestion that conflicted with federal law. The alternative budget included a proposal to tax travelers passing through McCarran International Airport, but that is illegal.

Schwartz admitted mistakes were made in his budget but overall he stands by his ideas.

“My policy proposals are sound,” Schwartz said.

Ultimately, the treasurer believes the state needs to be choosey about where it not only spends its money but also where it gets any additional revenue.

“Do we ask reasonably well-healed casino owners to pay for it or do we ask small to medium-sized businesses or entrepreneurs to pay for it?” Schwartz said.

He is strongly opposed to the governor’s proposal to increase business license fees, which he believes is akin to the margins tax voted down in the last election. 

GUEST:

Dan Schwartz, state treasurer

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