Budget deal sets stage for end of session | NevadaAppeal.com

Budget deal sets stage for end of session

State employees and teachers will get 2 percent raises next year and 4 percent in 2007, and more than $22 million will provide all-day kindergarten in Title 1 schools under terms of an “agreement in principle” reached by legislative leaders Tuesday evening.

Members of leadership refused to give details of the agreement following the meeting’s end just after 6 p.m., sticking with the mantra they had used for two days running – “We’re making progress.”

Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, said both money committees would discuss the proposals in meetings beginning at 8 a.m. this morning.

“Once we see how the numbers look, we’ll take it to the committees,” he said.

Minority Leader Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, also said final resolution of the budget conflicts depends on the numbers provided by staff this morning. Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, said they had a meeting of the minds.

The comment from Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, was equally vague: “There is no deal. We made progress, and now staff has to crunch the numbers.”

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He did, however, say the final budget “is going to be the second or third largest percent spending increase in the state in the past 100 years.”

The small group of leaders from both parties in both houses stuck with Gov. Kenny Guinn’s proposed 2 percent raises for teachers and state workers next year. But they voted to make it 4 percent in fiscal 2007, which will cost about $56 million.

The kindergarten deal is far smaller than the Assembly’s original demand for mandatory statewide all-day kindergarten. That plan will cost $72 million this biennium and at least $130 million for the next budget cycle.

The funding reportedly comes out of the $50 million each year Guinn put into his Educational Excellence trust fund.

The money will reportedly be put into Title 1 schools where at least half the students qualify for federal free or reduced-cost lunch programs. That’s about 1Ú3 of Nevada’s elementary schools. The plan frees up for other projects federal money which now provides all-day kindergarten in some of those schools.

Arberry will get some funding for the Academic Medical Campus near downtown Las Vegas. But it will reportedly be much less than the $25 million he originally sought.

The group agreed, however, to put some $30 million into the science and math building at the University of Nevada, Reno and to fund CAVE, the high-tech seismic study facility.

The resolution of budget differences came, from staffs’ perspective, at the last moment. Since the mechanical task of actually putting those changes into the budget legislation takes about a week, failure to reach some agreement Tuesday could have forced the governor to call a special session to finish the budget.

The Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees planned to meet at 8 a.m. today to vote on the proposed compromises.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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