First Nevada budget bills unveiled

Sandra Chereb, Associated Press
First Nevada budget bills unveiled

The Assembly Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, introduced the first major budget bills Thursday, May, 30, 2013, in the state Assembly in Carson City, Nev. The bill introductions signal the end is near for 2013 Nevada Legislature, which must adjourn by midnight June 3. (AP Photo/Lisa Tolda).

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) -- The first of five major bills detailing spending for state government were introduced Thursday in the Nevada Legislature, signaling the beginning of the end of the 2013 session.

AB507 was introduced in the Nevada Assembly after being reviewed by legislative money committees earlier in the day.

The appropriation bill lays out $4 billion in general fund spending — $1.98 billion and $2.02 billion in each of the next two years, respectively. It covers approved spending levels for all state agencies, buildings and programs that were hammered out over months of laborious hearings held by the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees.

A big chunk of the general fund — roughly $1.1 billion over the next two years, is to cover the state's share of Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law. Nevada's Medicaid rolls are expected to swell from 319,000 to around 490,000 by 2015 as more people become eligible for coverage.

The spending bill also includes about $750 million for the seven institutions within the Nevada System of Higher Education.

A new funding formula adopted by lawmakers and recommended by the Board of Regents sends more money to the university and colleges in southern Nevada, where three-fourths of the state's population lives.

About $13 million in state support shifts to the south, with Great Basin College in Elko and Western Nevada College in Carson City taking the biggest budget hits. Those campuses will see an 11 percent reduction over existing spending levels in each of the next two years.

Sen. Pete Goicoechia, R-Eureka, said he might vote against the budget bill if more money can't be found to help the small, rural Nevada colleges.

"I need about $6 million for the biennium to make them whole," he said.

Another bill introduced Thursday, AB505, authorizes about $50 million for various capital improvement projects.

The rest of the budget bills likely will be introduced Friday.

Those include funding for K-12 education, the Distributive School Account, totaling about $2.5 billion and setting out per-pupil state support. Under state law, the K-12 education bill must be approved first before legislative action is allowed on the other budget measures.

Also to come is the state employee pay bill.

Both were still a work in progress Thursday. State employees on Wednesday held rallies in Carson City and Las Vegas, urging the governor and legislators to restore pay reductions imposed since 2009 when Nevada's economy tanked and deep budget cuts were made. Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed reducing the number of mandatory furlough days from six to three in the first year of the biennium and eliminating them beginning July 1, 2014.

But the governor's budget does not restore a 2.5 percent pay cut in pay for state workers.

The last budget bill will be an authorization for spending federal dollars that help support state programs.

Lawmakers are expected to work through the weekend as they face a midnight deadline Monday to adjourn.