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Nevada Dems gear up for showdown with Lombardo over budget

AP Photo/Ellen Schmidt
Clark County Sheriff and Nevada Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo gives a victory speech during a news conference, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, in Las Vegas. Lombardo ran against incumbent Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak.

Legislative Democrats are gearing up for a showdown with Republican Governor Joe Lombardo over the state's two-year, $11.6 billion budget known as the biennium.

In a series of statements to reporters, Lombardo’s Chief of Staff Ben Kieckhefer said the governor is prepared to veto the state budget if lawmakers fail to expand school choice in Nevada.

Specifically, Lombardo wants roughly $500 million to expand the state's Opportunity Scholarships.

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It's a program that allows families making less than 300% of the federal level to use state funds to pay for private, home or micro schooling.

The governor's proposal would raise the income cap to 500% of the federal poverty level- roughly $150,000 a year for a family of four.

Democrats are pushing back on Lombardo's promise to veto the budget, pointing to the governor's comments ahead of the session.

That includes a quote from a January, Las Vegas Review-Journal article where he said he wouldn't use the "big hammer of veto" to force the legislature to approve school choice legislation.

While Democrats maintain a majority in both houses of the legislature, they remain one vote shy of a veto-proof supermajority.

Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.