Money committees meet to roll back budgets

In a 90-minute closed door meeting Monday evening, legislative Democrats put a plan in front of Republican leadership that would cut the budget back closer to what Gov. Brian Sandoval proposed. The cutbacks would be a trade for lifting the sunsets on tax hikes approved in 2009 and the 26th special session.

The Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees convene in joint session at 8 a.m. today to reopen the K-12, higher education and human services budgets and begin making those cuts. What happens in that meeting depends on how the GOP caucuses react to the proposals.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said Republicans were reviewing the deal, which would provide an estimated $626 million during the biennium to stave off the worst cuts in Sandoval's budget.

Throughout budget closings this session, Democrats have pushed through $968 million in added spending. However, they have been unable to generate enough Republican support for the $1.2 billion revenue plan necessary to pay for those additions.

That means they will have to cut enough to close the $342 million gap between those numbers.

"The goal is for the Legislature to finish it's work - and to do that, we have to have compromise," said Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, before the "core group" meeting. "We have to cut it to balance."

"Hopefully not too deep," said Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno.

There are reportedly several other pieces in motion along with the budget cuts. The pieces include potential changes to the legislative redistricting maps that would help the GOP and at least incremental changes to NRS288, the collective bargaining statute. Those changes include mandating escape clauses in local government union contracts triggered by the recession and such things as allowing the arbitrator in negotiations to compromise instead of having to take one side's offer or the other.

The plan has to be put together in just a couple of days in order to get the budget bills to the governor by Friday, leaving enough time that the Legislature still would be in session after he vetoes the budget measures. If they wait longer, a special session would be needed to do complete the budget and Sandoval would have control of the agenda, enabling him to send lawmakers back to work without a revenue option. Because of an expected veto, the plan has to have at least two-thirds support in each house.

Subcommittee chairs in the money committees were each given a target amount to cut from their agencies. While they declined to give specifics, those contacted indicated they managed to prioritize their cuts.

In addition to Horsford, Democrats attending the meeting included Leslie, Assembly Speaker John Oceguera of Las Vegas, Ways and Means Chairwoman Debbie Smith of Sparks and her vice-chair Marcus Conklin of Las Vegas. The Republicans in the room were Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness of Fallon, Barbara Cegavske of Las Vegas, Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea of Eureka and Crescent Hardy of Clark County.


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