CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada lawmakers at a joint budget meeting Thursday made deep cuts to school safety initiatives after Democrats proposed to reroute marijuana sales tax funds to pay for education.
Democrats on two budget committees threw their support around the cut despite opposition from Republicans, approving decreased funding for school resource officers and facility improvements.
Republican state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer said he was shocked after the panel voted to cut about $30 million from the initiatives. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s budget proposed spending a little under $54 million on the school safety efforts over the next biennium through a portion of revenue from a 10% sales tax on retail marijuana.
A Democrat-backed bill introduced this week proposes to divert those marijuana sales tax funds toward education funding instead of to school safety and the Governor Guinn Millennium Scholarship.
Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said the change will redirect about $120 million to fund education over the next two fiscal years.
With the sales tax being redirected, the governor said Tuesday he hoped to keep the school safety initiative funded at the same level outlined in his budget.
Kieckhefer criticized Democrats and described the school safety efforts as gutted, saying that providing a safe school environment should be a top priority for lawmakers. “The idea that they just backed out $30 million that was dedicated to doing that is really unfathomable to me,” he said.
The move from Democrats also received criticism from Republican Sen. James Settelmeyer. “At a time that the Democrat party is clamoring for more gun control they cut 30.5 million dollars from (school) safety. I do not support making our schools unsafe,” he wrote on Twitter.
High-profile school shootings in recent years have spurred a national conversation over how to protect schools.
The Nevada budget committees approved $4.5 million for school resource officers over the next biennium, a sharp drop from the $10 million proposed by Sisolak in his budget.
School safety facility improvements were also reduced, with lawmakers allocating funds well under the $25 million recommended in the governor’s budget.
Henderson Democratic Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, who chairs the Senate Finance committee, said Clark and Washoe counties have the opportunity to make facility improvements through capital funds. “The rurals don’t particularly have that opportunity, which is why we kept some money in it,” she said.\
The Democrat also said lawmakers would find money for the Governor Guinn Millennium Scholarship, the program Sisolak allocated to receive funds from the marijuana sales tax.