Four of the five bills that signal the end of the legislative session have now been presented to the money committees.
The fifth and final budget bill, the K-12 education funding bill, was still being worked on Thursday evening. Staff said it would be presented Friday morning. Under the Education First provision in the state constitution, that bill must be passed before the other budget bills. That sounds significant, but, in practice, it simply means the education funding is voted on five minutes before the other budget bills.
The Authorizations Act, the largest of the five, will be introduced in the Senate. It authorizes expenditure of all non-General Fund, non-Highway Fund money — primarily federal funding — a total of $17.7 billion. In addition, it authorizes the Nevada Department of Transportation to spend $971 million in Highway Funds.
The measure does, however, include one chunk of General Fund cash — $64.2 million over the biennium to support the operation of the Gaming Control Board and Gaming Commission.
Altogether, the Authorizations Act contains authority to spend just under $18.8 billion over the biennium, the largest single piece of which is the $6.8 billion federal share of Medicaid. When state funding is added in, Medicaid totals more than $8.5 billion, the largest budget in state government.
The so-called pay bill includes the 3 percent cost of living raises for state workers promised by Gov. Steve Sisolak. It will cost the state $62.9 million in General Fund money over the biennium along with $13.5 million in Highway Fund money. In addition to classified salaries, the bill sets maximum pay levels for unclassified state workers.
The Appropriations Act, the second largest budget bill at some $5.7 billion in General Fund revenue, will be introduced in the Assembly. That is about 15 percent more than the current budget. In addition, the measure appropriates $264 million in Highway Fund money, about $22 million less than the current budget.
The rest of the total $8.8 billion in General Fund cash available this coming biennium will be in the K-12 Education Act.
The Ways and Means Committee made one amendment to the Appropriations Act Thursday evening – removing language that would have prevented the university system from using funding to provide professional merit increases for professors. Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez Thompson said that would allow university staff and the regents negotiate what to do.
In addition, Ways and Means reviewed the measure spelling out the state’s Capital Improvement Projects program. The bill appropriates $60.8 million in General Fund cash and authorizes the issuance of $186 million in General Obligation Bonds to support maintenance and construction projects. It also appropriates $8.8 million in Highway Fund cash and $38.5 million in money other than General Fund and Highway Fund funding.
Altogether, that comes to just over $302 million. When funding for projects including environmental work at Lake Tahoe, cultural and historic preservation and water infrastructure funding are added in, the total comes to about $340 million for the coming two years.
The biggest recipient is the Nevada System of Higher Education, a total of $153.6 million. That includes more than $60 million for the Nevada State College Education Building and some $76 million for the CSN Health Sciences building.
The list also includes $5.3 million in General Obligation Bonds to complete construction of the South Reno DMV center.
Under Nevada’s constitution, the K-12 education funding bill must be passed before any of the other measures.