Gibbons meets with transition team leaders, readies for major address

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons said Wednesday he's heard enough from leaders of his nearly 200-member transition team to complete work on his first State of the State speech that he'll deliver Jan. 22 as he outlines a $7 billion budget plan.

The Republican governor met Wednesday with leaders of teams focusing on transportation, education, energy, business-industry and the state's casino industry. The preliminary information he now has will be in final reports he'll get later in the year.

The proposed spending plan for the coming two fiscal years is going to the printer in sections, Gibbons chief of staff Mike Dayton said. Legislators will start reviewing the bulky document starting Jan. 23, the day after the governor's State of the State speech.

The proposed $7 billion state general fund budget will call for no new or increased taxes and will make only a few changes in a draft prepared by former Gov. Kenny Guinn.

Gibbons said his goals include stepped-up efforts by the state's Desert Research Institute to determine amounts of groundwater around Nevada. That's a key concern because of proposals to pump water from rural areas to booming Las Vegas.

The governor also said he will propose innovative ways to generate funds for road-building projects needed around the state. He said proposals "outside the box" are needed rather than just another plan to raise gasoline taxes.

Among Gibbons' other goals are efforts to reduce a looming $10 billion liability to cover future pension and health care costs for the state's retired public employees. His 2007-09 spending plan also will propose raises for teachers and state workers of 2 percent this year and 4 percent next year.

Guinn's budget recommendation was that state employees and school teachers be given 3 percent salary increases in each of the next two years. Gibbons said his change will save the state $30 million to use to reduce the unfunded liability.

Gibbons has rejected Guinn's proposal to expand full-day kindergarten to all elementary schools in Nevada starting in 2009.

By cutting full-day kindergarten, Gibbons said, he will save $75 million, but he pledged to spend that money on other public education programs.

He also wants to continue the current pilot project of having full-day kindergarten available in schools in high-risk neighborhoods.

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