Budget deal close, but party rifts remain | NevadaAppeal.com

Budget deal close, but party rifts remain

Both Gov. Jim Gibbons’ Chief of Staff Mike Dayton and Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, say the Senate and Assembly are very close to a deal on the budget.

But neither they nor Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, gave any real details.

There was reportedly a deal cut Saturday in a closed door meeting but it developed problems Monday morning when the governor objected to some parts of it – joined by at least four members of Raggio’s own GOP caucus.

Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, led the revolt joined by Maurice Washington of Sparks, Joe Heck of Las Vegas and Barbara Cegavske of Las Vegas.

Dayton admitted the Modified Business Tax is part of the issue. The tax rate was lowered to 0.63 percent two years ago but that decrease will sunset July 1, returning to 0.65 percent. The difference is about $18 million but Gibbons says it is a tax increase, which he will consider vetoing the budget to prevent.

“He has drawn the line at 0.63,” said Dayton. Buckley, who met for the third time Monday with Raggio, said she hopes to resolve remaining budget issues by today.

She said the proposed deal “would add a significant amount of new funding” for education. She said there was no problem with her Democratic Assembly caucus in accepting the proposal. The problem was with the governor and that group of GOP senators.

The core of the dispute centered on the Democrats desire to fund all day kindergarten. But Raggio has repeatedly said he doesn’t believe the state, with current funding sources and the statutory cap on growth in general fund spending, can afford to fund all day kindergarten into the future. The costs have been estimated at more than $100 million a year in the future, growing as the number of students in the state grows.

Another issue is the desire of Raggio and some Republicans to fund a series of non-profit groups providing services for the disabled and doing research into problems including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, cancer and other issues. Those proposals, sponsored by well-known political, business and lobbying figures including Harvey Whittemore, Sig Rogich and Larry Ruvo, have been derisively called “rich guy charities” by some Assembly Democrats.

The two sides are rapidly approaching the point where, if they don’t reach compromise, a special session will be needed to finish the budget. The reason is staff will need at least a week to put together the budget as amended and create the series of six bills, which will implement it.

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