Gibbons Reacts to Challenges on Fees, School Funds, Nevada

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Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons had mixed reactions Friday to state lawmakers who question his revenue estimates, disagree with his education funding plans and challenge his fee-cutting plans.

The first-term Republican governor also said he hopes the 2007 session will end on time June 4 without the need for a special legislative session to complete the lawmakers' work.

Asked about a move Thursday by a Senate-Assembly budget panel to
restore nearly $3 million in fees he had cut from two Health and Human Services Department budget accounts, Gibbons said he's "firmly committed to withholding approval on fee increases."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said that he hoped the governor would accept the fees, prompting Gibbons to say, "I guess hope springs eternal." He added he has pledged to "make government live within its means."

Asked about statements by Assembly Democratic leaders that they
can't support his nearly $7 billion budget until he agrees to more public school spending, Gibbons sounded conciliatory, saying that his K-12 spending plan is a major improvement but "we're going to work with them."

"We're not dismissing them out of hand," he said, adding, "Every recommendation deserves close analysis and we're going to give it that close analysis."

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley and Ways and Means Chairman
Morse Arberry, both D-Las Vegas, said Thursday that Gibbons had
shortchanged kindergarten- through 12th-grade spending and must
support increases that are fair for all state agencies.

Skeptical lawmakers also demanded that the Gibbons administration prove its claim that a projected revenue shortfall of nearly $137 million has been erased by a series of budget cuts and recalculations.

The critics included Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, who questioned whether the new calculations and cuts were "artificial."

"Nonsense. Nonsense," Gibbons said when asked about concern that his staffers might have made up numbers to get around the revenue shortfall concern.

If lawmakers and the governor can't agree during the regular session on big issues such as K-12 funding and taxes and fees, a special session might be needed. But Gibbons said, "My first hope is that we can get the Legislature in and out within the constitutional 120-day period."

"We're not saying our ideas are the only ideas that are acceptable," he said, adding, "We will continue to work on compromise."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)