Lawmakers tore into State Treasurer Dan Schwartz yet again on Tuesday, suggesting he was being “disingenuous or dishonest” by moving forward with hires and other projects after lawmakers told him not to.
The tense hearing in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee mirrored an earlier dressing down of Schwartz in the Senate Finance Committee. The Republican elected official acknowledged at that time that he might have been a “bad boy,” but said he had good intentions to improve education when he proceeded with financial incentives for a college savings program and hired a spokesman against legislators’ wishes.
"There’s a history of not following directions from this committee,” Republican Assembly Leader Paul Anderson said at the hearing. “It’s just a history of being disingenuous or dishonest, I’m not sure which it is.”
Schwartz bristled at the remark.
“I deeply reject and resent your comments,” he said, voice raised a notch, before noting that he won his election by more votes than Anderson.
(Schwartz ran a statewide election in 2014, garnering 277,450 votes to Democrat Kim Wallin’s 223,750 votes. Anderson won a 2016 Republican primary in his Assembly district with 1,738 votes compared with Steve Sanson’s 709 votes; he didn’t have a general election opponent.)
Among other things, Schwartz is under fire for hiring a public information officer after members of the legislative Interim Finance Committee, especially Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, panned the idea. His office defended the move, saying they tried to bring the decision back before the committee when they found available money, but were told it wasn’t necessary.
"Sen. Kieckhefer has for some reason a bee in his bonnet about the PIO," said Schwartz, who also suggested Anderson and Kieckhefer are “buds” who colluded before the feisty hearing.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson also jumped in the fray, telling the constitutional officer that he was overstepping his bounds while in the Legislature.
"I would strongly suggest that in this house, you adjust your tone,” he told the treasurer,, saying of his decisions: “It feels like my son went to mom, mom said no, my son went to dad and dad said you don’t have to go to mom.”
Schwartz has long been on the outs with the Legislature and accused of getting out of his lane. One of his earliest acts as an elected official was introducing a three-page budget in 2015 as a counterpoint to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s meticulously researched spending plan, which is thousands of pages long.
Lawmakers skewered the proposal in a sensational public hearing; the alternative budget never re-emerged.
Republicans also resent his public activism against a legislatively approved incentive deal for electric carmaker Faraday Future. Schwartz has touted his willingness not to issue bonds for infrastructure supporting the factory, saying he doesn’t believe the startup is viable.
“You ignore the legislative branch. You ignore our abilities and our constitutional obligations to do our job,” Anderson said. “Oftentimes, you forget you’re a compliance officer in the executive branch.”
Schwartz said after the hearing that he thinks he’s in the right and won’t change his modus operandi.
“The answer is no,” he said. “There’s nothing for us to change.”