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Nevada lawmakers a step closer to approving biennium budget

June 1, 2019
FILE - In this Friday, May 31, 2013 file photo, Nevada Democratic state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, speaks on the Senate floor at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev.Democratic Sen. Joyce Woodhouse oversees the Senate Finance committee and says she expects the budget bill outlining kindergarten through 12th grade education spending to be introduced in the Senate on Friday. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison, File)

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada lawmakers inched one step closer to approving a two-year budget during a late-night floor session Friday, introducing a bill that outlines K-12 education funding.

The bill proposes an average basic support guarantee of $6,218 per pupil for next year’s budget, an increase of just over 4% from the current rate. The bill marks the 2021 figure at $6,288.

The two-year budget bill introduced Friday allocates about $327.2 million for a class-size reduction program and $62.9 million for the Read by Grade 3 program.

Nevada lawmakers have just days left to approve a two-year budget before the session ends Monday.

Attention to education funding this session has largely centered on whether the Legislature can find enough money to fund a 3% cost-of-living pay increase and a 2% merit pay raise for public school employees — funding efforts outlined in Gov. Steve Sisolak’s proposed budget.

The proposal was initially called into question by the bipartisan Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities, which estimated that the Democratic governor’s budget is short $107.5 million in providing those increases if per-pupil funding were to remain at current levels.

The Clark County School District — one of the nation’s largest — has reported they need somewhere between $110 and $120 million to fund the merit pay raises, cost-of-living pay raises and increases in health care.

Lawmakers have made various budget maneuvers in the weeks leading up to the end-of-session deadline.

Weeks ago, Democratic leadership announced legislation that proposed rerouting funds from a 10% sales tax on retail marijuana sales toward education funding, away from the state’s rainy day fund.

Sisolak’s budget had allocated the marijuana sales tax money toward school safety initiatives and a scholarship program.

Later, Democrats in a joint budget meeting voted to cut about $30 million from the proposed school safety efforts.

The move spurred swift rebuke from Republicans and led the Nevada Republican Party to release a digital advertisement blasting Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro over the decision.

This week, Democrats rolled out a proposal to restore the school safety funding by extending a payroll tax that is set to expire.

“Senate Democrats firmly believe corporate tax breaks aren’t worth shortchanging our public schools,” Cannizzaro said in a statement announcing the plan.

Republican Sen. James Settelmeyer argues the bill would be a raise in revenue and would need a two-thirds majority vote to clear the state Senate — a two-thirds majority that escapes Senate Democrats by just one seat.

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