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$12 billion K-12 school budget passes in Nevada Senate

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The $12 billion budget for K-12 education passed in the Nevada Senate on Wednesday on a party-line vote.

The 13-8 vote in the Senate advances the education budget — Senate Bill 503 (SB503) — to the Assembly, which is likely to approve it and send it on to Gov. Joe Lombardo, setting the stage for a likely veto that will require a special session. It’s a scenario that has developed over the past two weeks as Lombardo’s priorities for the Legislature — in this case, funding for private schools — were set aside as Democratic leaders flexed their majority muscles.

The governor’s education priorities were put on a shelf as lawmakers pushed through bills with an emphasis on public education — not funding that would benefit private schools.

“We all agree that we want to put a substantial amount of money into education,” Sen. Heidi Seevers Gansert said as details of the budget were argued.

Seevers Gansert (R-Washoe County) said she disagreed with the way the bill was written, saying that it wasn’t financially sound because it allocates $291 million in “one-shot” funding as if that money would be available for the next budget. Republicans sought to use that money as seed money for programs for early literacy and teacher pipeline programs. Their plan would have used interest on the $291 million to create ongoing funding.

But Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) countered that would have been a mistake.

She emphasized that SB503 makes the biggest investment ever into the education stabilization account — $878 million. That money will be available down the line if necessary for continuing programs like early literacy and the teacher pipeline.

“$291 million is not a fiscal cliff that we’re going to fall off of,” Cannizzaro said.

The bill provides about $6 billion per year for education over the next two fiscal years.

Additional budgets that received initial approval on Wednesday include:

  • AB520: Appropriations for the support of civil government — passed full Assembly 28-14, sent to Senate
  • AB521: Capital projects — passed full Assembly 28-14, sent to Senate
  • AB522: Compensation for state employees — passed full Assembly 28-14, sent to Senate
  • SB501: Public Employees’ Benefits Program for insurance, passed full Senate, 21-0, sent to Assembly
  • SB504: Budget for state agencies — passed full Senate, 21-0, sent to Assembly will continue to report on the progress of each of the budget bills.

Republicans criticized Democratic leaders for “playing games with the budget” in statements that followed Wednesday’s votes.

“We have been very clear that we will not vote to support appropriations not included in the governor’s budget,” Assembly Minority Leader PK O’Neill said. “We Republicans have taken historic steps into increasing funding for schools and state worker pay. In return, the Democrats have simply asked for even more taxpayer dollars. The Democrats proposals are unsustainable and will hurt our state agencies in the long run. There are many fee-funded agencies who will have to increase their fees in order to remain sustainable with these proposed raises.”

Democrats fired back: “Despite many of the portions of these budgets receiving bipartisan support in the Ways & Means Committee and our subcommittees, not a single Republican was willing to put aside their politics today and vote in favor of them,” said Assembly Ways & Means Chairwoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno said.

“When we receive the budgets passed by the state senate today, I hope that our Republican colleagues will prioritize Nevadans over their political party,” Monroe-Moreno said.

The Clark County Education Association (CCEA) issued a statement as SB503 passed:

“CCEA believes that Senate Bill 503 represents a much needed budget for education, and we applaud the Nevada State Senate for passing it in their chamber today. There is still work to be done to ensure this significant investment in education passes out of both houses and is signed by the governor.

“In his State of the State address, before the legislative session even began, Gov. Lombardo made an historic pledge of $2 billion more for public education in Nevada, and Democratic leaders have proposed significant additional funding and legislation for educator salaries and more as the session has progressed.

“With less than two weeks left in the session, CCEA is confident that the executive and legislative branches will find bipartisan solutions to pass an historic education budget for Nevada’s students and educators.”

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