LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Just days before Governor Brian Sandoval leaves office he sent a message touting the growth of Nevada's rainy day fund from zero when he took office to nearly $300 million as he departs, with marijuana revenue expected to increase the fund by 10 percent in the coming months.
"It is really frustrating," Amanda Morgan, legal director with Educate Nevada Now, said.
Educate Nevada Now is among the organizations working to get more funding committed to schools and the ongoing fight over how marijuana revenue is used made the governor's statement more frustrating.
"It is great to save money, and I agree that is important, but when people voted on marijuana I think they really thought this was going to help our public school kids," Morgan said.
This is the statement Morgan, and others are now talking about:
"When I took office in January 2011, the state's rainy day fund balance was zero. As a direct result of the economic diversification and retention efforts we began, as well as diligent work by the Silver State and the Nevada family, a deposit of more than $55 million was made into the rainy day fund today, allowing the fund to reach its highest ever balance of more than $293 million. This is phenomenal news that all Nevadans should be proud of. "Moving forward, with continued monthly marijuana tax revenue deposits, the rainy day fund balance will continue to grow. It is estimated that at the end of fiscal year 2019, the balance will be approximately $326 million. "As I've said before, I am incredibly pleased by the work we have been able to accomplish over the last eight years, and I am thankful that the Silver State is beginning 2019 on this momentum-filled high note."
The use of tax revenue from marijuana has been a hot topic.
Clark County School District leaders say that money was used to offset other funding rather than add to education funding.
The Clark County Education Association is also closely monitoring the situation with both the marijuana revenue and the rainy day fund, issuing the following statement about the Governor's statement:
"We are pleased to see how much revenue the marijuana tax has generated. This reserve of funds may well be one of Governor Sandoval's most notable accomplishments during his time in Carson City, but, like the vast majority of Nevadans who voted to legalize and tax marijuana for the benefit of our public schools and our students, we must withhold judgement until we see where these dollars ultimately end up. "When it comes to education in Nevada, there can be no doubt that it is indeed "raining." Our schools need additional funds now, and we look forward to Governor Sandoval passing the baton to Governor-elect Sisolak, who has promised not only to honor the will of voters and direct the marijuana tax revenue towards public education, but to fully address the systemic education funding issues that we face in our state."
With many hoping the upcoming legislative session will lead to changes in education funding, leaders have mixed opinions about how much is needed in the rainy day fund.
"We've always said the money has to go to schools and we need to get it to schools and now we know exactly how much there is and where it is," former State Senator and Clark County Commissioner-elect Tick Segerblom said.
"When you are starving would you rather have food or have money in the bank and I think our schools are starving."
Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton telling 13 Action News education funding is important but said while the $293 million in the rainy day fund seems like a large number; as a percentage of what would be needed in another economic downturn, it is not that big.
Segerblom said he knows there is a need for a rainy day fund but the question remains how much should be set aside.
"I don't want to see it go down to zero, but to me if we could take a hundred million dollars of that and put it to schools. It is not a huge amount for schools but it is better than sitting there drawing one percent interest," Segerblom said.
As for Morgan, she says her organization is encouraging parents to get involved in the legislative session that kicks off next month and will lay the path for education funding for the next two years.
"Talk to your legislators. Show up and testify at session," Morgan said.
The fight over education funding is expected to take up much of the four-month legislative session and 13 Action News will continue to keep you updated on how you can make your feelings known to legislators.