State’s general fund budget bill to pass today | NevadaAppeal.com

State’s general fund budget bill to pass today

Chad Lundquist/Nevada Appeal Assembly Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, commenting on the final elements of a record $7 billion budget said, "Everything has been coming together."

Lawmakers will approve a budget today that sets total general fund expenditures to $7.012 billion for the next two years.

Expenditures listed in the Appropriations Act bring the budget in just a hair below the statutory spending cap, which this year is $7.064 million.

AB628 will be approved today along with the other measures that enact the budget.

Of that total, $2.32 billion is in the Distributive School Account, which provides funding for the public school system in Nevada. When non-general fund money is added to the DSA, it totals $2.67 billion, more than $63 million above what the governor proposed.

The property and sales taxes collected by school districts more than double the total statewide education budget.

Another $2.24 billion is in the Health and Human Services budget, the biggest single portion of that in Medicaid where the state contributes $908.5 million over the biennium. That is up from the $2.01 billion in the governor’s proposed budget and accounts for the majority of the increases made by lawmakers. Overall, the general fund portion of the Human Services budget increased by more than 30 percent – primarily due to caseload growth.

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Again, another revenue source – in this case federal grants – more than doubles that total.

The next largest pot of general fund cash goes to the system of higher education – a total of $1.28 billion over the biennium. Student fees, grants and other revenue sources raise the total university budget to $1.7 billion. That budget increased by nearly 20 percent over the current biennium.

In the Department of Corrections, lawmakers agreed on a series of reforms, primarily changes to awarding good time credits, to actually reduce the governor’s proposed budget from $547.1 million to $512.27 million – a savings of nearly $35 million. But they decided to earmark half those savings to expand programs within the prison system designed to help inmates with drug and alcohol problems, behavior problems and to provide better educational opportunities within the system.

The budget includes pay raises of 2 percent next year and 4 percent the year after for state workers, teachers and classified employees within the university system. Lawmakers rejected the governor’s proposal to give unclassified state employees – administrators and professionals including doctors and lawyers – a 5 percent raise above those cost of living adjustments. They made a couple of exceptions, adding the extra 5 percent to salaries of Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki’s staff and to certain professional positions in the Gaming Control Board, which has said it loses too many experienced lawyers and others to private corporations.

In addition, the unclassified pay bill includes two pay grade raises for nurses, psychological counselors and other allied professions.

Base pay for top agency directors will be $120,401. One exception is the chairman and members of the Gaming Control Board: $141,147 and $131,242 respectively.

But they aren’t the highest paid employees in state service. There are numerous medical professionals in the state. Top paid are the statewide Mental Health Services coordinator at $192,007 and the medical director of the Department of Corrections at $180,410 a year.

All those rates will be increased by 2 percent July 1 and another 4 percent the following fiscal year.

In addition to the general fund money, the Appropriations Act contains $245.3 million in highway fund money just about equally split between the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Public Safety.

That legislation does not include the bulk of the highway fund money, which goes to the Department of Transportation, federal and other funds, most of them contained in the Authorizations Act, which contains $10.6 billion. When all funds in the budget package are totaled, the biennial state budget for 2007-2009 will be just under $18 billion.

And that doesn’t include the $812.4 million Capital Improvement Projects budget.

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

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