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April 24, 2014

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Gibbons, Buckley disagree on textbook funding

Could this be a not-so-short, not-so-bipartisan special session?

Dueling speeches by Gov. Jim Gibbons and House Speaker Barbara Buckley cast a couple of big questions heading into the special session slated to begin at 9 a.m. Friday.

In the speech tonight, Gibbons promised no new taxes and proposed a spending cap for future budgets.

He also said he would not support cutting money for textbooks — a $45 million piece of the plan negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio and Buckley.

But the real thing that might lengthen the session came during Buckley's speech, in which she took some pretty big shots at the governor. She praised Raggio for his bipartisan cooperation, then said: "I cannot say the same for our governor."

She continued, "This governor has rarely consulted the Legislature, and after categorically stating he would not call a special session, reversed himself 24 hours later."

She also said that in 2009, she would push for reform to the state's tax system.

"It's sad and pathetic to have to even consider these kinds of cuts," she said. "And so here's my pledge to you beyond this special session: I will do everything in my power ... to never do this again."

Ben Kieckhefer, the governor's spokesman, said Buckley's shots wouldn't affect negotiations.

"The governor is focused on public policy matters," he said. "If other people want to turn to political finger pointing, they can do so."

Other observations:

In the governor's office with Gibbons were his highest political advisers, including Sig Rogich, Monte Miller and Robert Uithoven. When Gibbons emerged from the office, he said there were negotiations between his administration and the Legislature and he did not "want to jeopardize them" by revealing details.

He said however that closing the Nevada State Prison in Carson City "is off the table," meaning the prison will remain open. This week, he had emphatically said that closing the prison would be one of his recommendations.

Gibbons also said that his administrators have talked with legislative leaders and have been working together to reach consensus.

As for the textbooks, Buckley said the suggestion came from the school districts. She pointed out there would still be about $45 million for new textbooks, and that the money would be released once certain economic triggers kick in.

She expressed hope the governor would come around to delaying money for textbooks. Kieckhefer said Gibbons "does not want to touch textbook money." Buckley said she decided to take a more aggressive tack about four or five days ago.

"I had enough thinking about what vital service to cut," she said. "I was frustrated by a lack of dialogue."

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