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I-Team: State Grabs Clean Water Money to Shore Up Budget | News

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I-Team: State Grabs Clean Water Money to Shore Up Budget
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LAS VEGAS -- Millions of dollars has been taken from a state fund supposed to help clean up the water in Lake Mead. The money will now be used to help the state budget shortfall.

The loss of $62 million has critics upset and threatening a possible lawsuit.

It's a little-publicized way of helping Nevada stay afloat -- take money from local governments and agencies to fix the state's problems. It's a no-win scenario for everyone, but lawmakers are backed into a corner.

Read the bill that moves the money

Poached programs don't like it, but it's a sacrifice that keeps Nevada in the black.

With the chemicals and waste flowing from homes into the drinking supply, the Nevada Clean Water Coalition wants to build a pipe to dilute that water in Lake Mead. Not anymore.

"They should be outraged. They should be enraged," said Chip Maxfield with the coalition.

Maxfield says the pipeline plan has been on hold and they have been stockpiling connection fees.

"You just don't generate $62 million overnight," he said.

Those millions come from casinos, small businesses and homes, connection fees to get water hookups.

It's $62 million lawmakers took to help offset layoffs, deep cuts and education rollbacks. Maxfield never liked the concept.

"If you haven't already spent your money, we're going to take it because we can," he said.

Senator bob coffin voted against the plan. He wanted to see new taxes, not a quickly-passed budget with more local cash grabs. It's the unfortunate catch 22 forced on lawmakers: take the cash or create more cuts.

"I thought it was a phony deal," he said. "When you're taking low-hanging fruit, that has a kick to it -- maybe a little poison in it and you don't even know it. You're at the end of the road."

That road may lead to court. The M Resort, which declined comment, is prepping a lawsuit to stop the money from changing hands.

The local home builders association isn't happy either.

Affairs Director Monica Caruso says connection fees are rolled into the price of homes and when the state takes it, she says we don't get what we pay for.

"It was a surprise," she said. "This is part of the costs of purchasing a home for our buyers."

Maxfield said the $62 million taken represents 98-percent of their entire operating money.

State law expected to be signed by the governor will force the money transfer this Friday.

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