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April 20, 2014

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Lawmakers pass set of bills to fund state government

CARSON CITY – The Legislature on Sunday completed action on bills to run state government for the next two years, overruling the votes of six Republicans in the Assembly and six in the Senate.

The five bills are the result of negotiating and bargaining between Gov. Brian Sandoval and legislative leaders, and signal the session is close to its deadline of 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, praised Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval for bringing both sides together after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled the state couldn't use about $63 million from the Clean Water Coalition in Clark County.

Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, said he reluctantly voted for the school funding bill, but he called it a “clunker” that does nothing to improve education.

The budgets reflect a cutback in money available due to the downturn in the economy and loss of revenue.

The block of Senate Republicans against the five major bills were Sens. Greg Brower of Reno, Don Gustavson of Sparks, James Settelmeyer of Minden and Barbara Cegavske, Elizabeth Halseth and Mike Roberson, all of Las Vegas.

The Assembly Republicans opposed to the budget bills were John Ellison of Elko, Ed Goedhart of Amargosa Valley, Pete Livermore of Carson City, Crescent Hardy of Mesquite and John Hambrick of Las Vegas.

Senate Bill 580 is the general appropriation act for $6.2 billion in state general funds, providing money to state agencies. The Assembly approved the bill 36-6 and the Senate passed the bill 15-6.

The votes were the same on all of the bills except on school funding, when Goedhart and Livermore were absent.

Senate Bill 503 totals $11 billion with money coming from the federal government, gifts, grants and money from Nevada counties.

Assembly Bill 579 provides basic support for school districts, setting the average at $5,263 per student. In Clark County, the average per-pupil support is $5,136.

The state will allocate $2.1 billion from the general fund for the next two years for schools, in addition to $226 million in state supplemental school support, plus other funds.

The appropriations bill allocates money to each of Nevada's universities and colleges. For instance, UNLV will receive $135.9 million from the state in each of the next two years. In addition, the university will be able to spend $181 million over the biennium from the tuition and fees it imposes.

Also approved was Senate Bill 504 to provide more than $50 million for construction and rehabilitation for minor state projects.

Lawmakers also approved Senate Bill 505, which sets the salaries of state workers, cutting their pay 2.5 percent and requiring that they take six unpaid furlough days each of the next two fiscal years.

Doctors will make the most money. The medical program director of statewide mental health services will earn $198,589 a year and the medical program coordinators of the mental health program each will receive $198,861 a year. The medical director of the state prison will have a salary of $186,595

Outside of doctors, the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board is one of the highest paid in state government at $145,986. The assistant attorney general and the chief of staff in the office each will be paid $137,145.

The salaries of the directors of major departments in state government are set at $124,528.

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  1. Yet another work of fiction, this one begins as usual: "Once upon a time in Nevada ..."