By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
All of Nevada’s marijuana tax money should go to education, Jason Frierson, the Speaker of the Nevada Assembly, said on Nevada Newsmakers Tuesday.
“The will of the people is that money would go toward education and it should,” Frierson told host Sam Shad.
Nevada took in almost $70 million in retail and wholesale tax revenues during the first year of legal recreational marijuana sales, according to the Department of Taxation. Yet less than half went to education, according to Department of Taxation documents.
Nevada’s Distributive School Account received $27.5 million from wholesale taxes on marijuana. Nevada’s retail marijuana taxes netted more than $42 million for the state’s Rainy Day Fund, according to Department of Taxation documents.
Frierson proposed establishing a rainy-day fund for education with marijuana taxes.
“It is the responsible thing to do to create a rainy-day fund especially for education. But you can’t put money away before you pay your basic needs,” he said. “Before we start putting money in a savings account, we have to make sure our teachers are paid, that we have reasonable class sizes and we are giving the children the tools they need in the classroom to be successful.”
Political maneuvering at the end of the 2017 Legislature forced lawmakers to move retail-marijuana tax money away from education. Lawmakers, however, back-loaded the education budget with money from the general fund to meet previous established benchmarks.
“There is a misconception that it (marijuana tax money) is not going to education but it is going to education,” Frierson said. “But because of political maneuvering last session, we had to go at it in a roundabout way. So I am looking forward to making it much clearer that this (marijuana) money is going straight to education at a time when we don’t have to go through that maneuvering.”
One of the first priorities for education is increasing teachers’ pay, Frierson said.
Frierson and the Democrats are in a position to get what they want when the 2019 Legislature opens in February. Democrats have a solid super majority (two-thirds) in the Assembly. Democrats in the state Senate are one vote away from a super majority.
In Nevada, a super majority is needed in both houses to raise taxes and to override a veto from the governor. The new governor is Democrat Steve Sisolak, the current chairman of the Clark County Commission.
“The governor-elect and I agree that we need to pay our teachers better,” Frierson said. “It is not the end-all, be-all (fix of the education system) but we should not have teachers digging into their own pockets just to do their job. So I think we have to do better by our children and our teachers to pay them more.”