Nevada Legislature sends budget bills to Sandoval

Four of the five major bills that implement the state budget have received final legislative approval and are headed for Gov. Brian Sandoval’s desk.

They are the K-12 Education bill, the Authorizations Act, Appropriations Act and the state employee pay bill.

Lawmakers still haven’t processed the Capital Improvement Projects bill but both Republican and Democratic lawmakers agree it will pass before the 2017 Legislature shuts down.

The Senate took final action on the Appropriations Act and Pay Bill Saturday. Appropriations spells out how the vast majority of the state General Fund will be spent in the coming two years and contains a total of about $8.4 billion.

The pay bill contains the 2 percent raises each year of the coming cycle for state workers.

Lawmakers had already approved the K-12 Education Act that includes most of the rest of the General Fund money the state has to spend. The legislation funds the state’s per pupil funding of $5,897 in fiscal 2018 and $5,967 in 2019. It also contains money for special education and disabled student programs, class size reduction and categorical funding for programs including Victory Schools, Zoom Schools, Read By Three and Career and Technical Education programs. While the per pupil funding is the largest element at $2.4 billion in state money, classize reduction is also significant at $387.5 million.

The largest amount of money is in the Authorizations Act — a total of $16.2 billion over the biennium. That legislation contains the non-General Fund money that makes up the budget — the majority of it federal money that feeds entitlement programs, the largest being Medicaid.

Under the Education First amendment to the state constitution, the education funding measure must be signed first.

The remaining element is the CIP budget that funds construction and maintenance projects for the coming two years. It contains a total of $354 million but since it includes the re-imposition of the state’s 17 cent property tax rate, requires a two-thirds vote of each house to pass.

Republican lawmakers voted no on all five bills saying without the Educational Savings Accounts — school vouchers — they would block the budget.

But only the capital improvement projects bill requires a two-thirds vote.

The other four don’t and passed both houses on a simple majority.

Assembly Minority Leader Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas, says Sandoval has indicated he won’t veto the budget to save school vouchers. That means without some unforeseen turn of events, vouchers won’t be included in this budget.

Their opposition stopped the CIP bill, SB546. But all agree it must eventually pass since that 17-cent property tax rate doesn’t just pay for new construction but for debt service on well over $200 million worth of existing General Obligation bonds. Without that tax rate, the state would default on all its existing bonds, destroying Nevada’s bond rating.

To pass it needs just two Republican Senators and one Republican Assembly member to clear the Legislature.


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