Sandoval signs final 4 state budget bills |

Sandoval signs final 4 state budget bills

The Associated Press

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval signed four bills Monday that officially funded state government and public employee salaries for the next two years.

The Republican governor signed 30 bills, including the remaining four budget bills. The largest budget bill was funding education, and that was signed shortly after the 2013 Legislature adjourned.

The signed general fund budget generally mirrored Sandoval’s recommended budget, and it is finalized at $6.6 billion for the next biennium — more than $2.5 billion of that focuses on K-12 education.

Education funding was increased for the first time since the Great Recession plunged Nevada’s economy to one of the worst in the country starting in 2009, and significant portions of that increase will go toward English Language Learners programs, reducing class sizes and offering more all-day kindergarten.

The state employee pay bill erases the 2.5 percent pay cuts imposed two years ago, but it maintains six days of furloughs per year. Originally Sandoval proposed leaving the pay cuts and reducing the furlough days to three, but employees told lawmakers in hearings that they preferred having the pay cuts eliminated.

An appropriations bill allocates about $4 billion for general fund spending in the 2014-2015 fiscal years, and another $100 million was designated for capital improvement projects — about $55 million of that would be paid out in state-issued bonds. A fourth bill authorizes the others.

Other significant bills in the stack approved a week after the regular session adjourned included a measure authorizing a two-year study of the costs of Nevada’s death penalty and a bill paving the way for hydraulic fracturing in Nevada.

The death penalty audit was approved by lawmakers two years ago, only to be vetoed by Sandoval. This bill addressed the concerns that caused the governor to veto the 2011 version, Sandoval said.

“I think this will be an objective review of the death penalty in Nevada,” Sandoval told reporters Tuesday.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process of pumping water and other substances — such as sand — into high pressure faults to release valuable chemicals trapped in the ground, such as natural gas.

Another bill signed by Sandoval requires the University of Nevada system to pay the tuition and textbooks costs for children of Nevada’s public safety officers who are killed in the line of duty.