Lawmakers say deal struck, hope to finish tonight | NevadaAppeal.com

Lawmakers say deal struck, hope to finish tonight

BRIAN DUGGAN & GEOFF DORNAN
Nevada Appeal Capitol Bureau
Brian Duggan/Nevada AppealAssembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, left, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, center, and Gov. Jim Gibbons address reporters on the front steps of the Legislature Sunday evening after reaching a budget compromise.
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Legislative leaders say a deal has been struck resolving the final issues needed to settle the state budget and that they hope to finish tonight.

“Let me say that no one likes everything in this agreement,” said Gov. Jim Gibbons. “We think we’ve reached that accord.”

The final hold-up was a dispute over how to apply the annual mining claim fee increases which small miners said seemed designed to drive them out, making it easier for the large companies to take over their claims. Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said that was resolved with a three tier system charging those with very few claims less than companies with large numbers of claims.

For those with 10 claims or less, the fee will be $70 a year. For those with up to 200 claims, it is $85 and for those with more claims than that – primarily the major mining companies – the annual charge would be $195.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said the negotiations weren’t easy but that she was pleased they were able to restore proposed cuts to human services, reduce the damage to K-12 and Higher Education as well as avoid further cuts for state employees.

She said the four day, 10 hour a day work week for state agencies will hopefully save some money. That plan will not be applied to agencies such as corrections and the highway patrol.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, joined Gibbons in saying while there is a consensus, the different caucuses don’t agree on everything.

He cautioned that the next session’s budget shortfall will be much larger than the $888 million they are trying to fix now. In a meeting following the press conference, Horsford said he will push Nevada industries to contribute more to state coffers.

“I fully expect that they will be a part of the solution next session because we must address comprehensive revenue reform that is fair, balanced and equitable,” he said. “And that means shared responsibility by all corporations that do business here.”

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said the group was helped by an increase in some fee collections and the $62 million in Net Proceeds of Mines revenue over what was budgeted, reducing the amount of the shortfall to $805 million.

Raggio, who has been a senator 38 years, said this has been the most difficult period he has ever seen.

“Next session will be an even bigger challenge,” he said. “We’re probably looking at s shortfall three to four times this size.”

Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, agreed with Raggio saying, “People will feel the pain.”