Negotiators close to agreement on final Nevada state budget |

Negotiators close to agreement on final Nevada state budget

Associated Press Writer

Senate and Assembly negotiators held more closed-door meetings on Saturday and neared a final agreement on a record Nevada budget of nearly $7 billion, in what one lawmaker described as a “logjam” breaking.

“We saw a lot of movement today on many levels,” said Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, one of the negotiators. “It looks like the logjam broke and finishing by June 4 now seems possible.” If the June 4 deadline isn’t met, the legislators will have to go into special session.

“We’re making progress,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, declining to give any specifics. Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, also declined to comment. The closed-door meetings are scheduled to resume on Monday.

One of the still-unresolved issues involves a state business tax, currently set at 0.63 percent. The current rate is scheduled to “sunset” and return to 0.65 percent, and Democrats in the Legislature have supported that.

Gov. Jim Gibbons, who has repeatedly opposed tax increases, had proposed cutting the rate to 0.62 percent but then said he’d be OK with the current rate. The governor also wanted to eliminate a bank branch excise tax but said he’s willing to give up on that.

Assembly and Senate leaders also had differed over the $2.3 billion budget for Nevada’s K-12 schools – which under a new voter mandate is supposed to be approved by the full Legislature before anything else.

While full agreement hasn’t been reached, the negotiators are less than $20 million apart on the education spending plan – less than 1 percent of the total.

Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, and Leslie, the Assembly’s majority whip, have described the differences as more philosophical than fiscal, with Republicans balking at the Democrats’ efforts to put more funding into various innovative programs.

Titus has said that a long-standing dispute over funding for all-day kindergarten was resolved, with a compromise that expands an existing pilot project but doesn’t set up such classes in all schools. She didn’t elaborate.