Negotiators Reach Tentative Agreement on Final Nevada Budget

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Senate and Assembly negotiators have reached a tentative agreement on final terms of a record $7 billion Nevada budget for the coming two fiscal years, and were expected to outline the deal Monday afternoon.

The pending deal includes no tax increases but numerous fee hikes, mainly affecting interest groups willing to accept them. Major progress on the spending plan occurred during closed-door meetings Saturday, in what one participant described as a "logjam" breaking.

The plan was being presented early Monday to Republican and Democratic caucuses in the Senate and Assembly, as bill-drafters worked to turn the deal into a printed Assembly bill to be introduced and voted upon later this week.

Legislators are still hoping to get the budget, which is about 15 percent higher than the budget for the current two-year cycle, passed and sent to the governor so that a deadline for adjournment by next Monday can be met.

The plan includes an agreement on K-12 public education funding of about $2.3 billion. Under terms of a new voter mandate, the education funding has to be approved first.

As part of the deal, there's an increase in full-day kindergarten and some more innovative school program funding - although not to the level that Assembly Democrats had initially hoped for.

Highway funding isn't part of the plan, and will be handled in a separate bill - one that Gov. Jim Gibbons has threatened to veto if it contains new taxes. That's despite a tentative offer from the trucking industry to sign off on a 3-cent-per-gallon increase in diesel fuel taxes to help overcome a huge shortfall in highway construction funds.

Also in the budget plan is an agreement on a state business tax, currently set at 0.63 percent. The current rate is scheduled to "sunset" and return to 0.65 percent, and Democrats in the Legislature have supported that.

Gibbons had proposed cutting the rate to 0.62 percent but then said he'd be OK with the current rate. The governor also wanted to eliminate a bank branch excise tax but said he's willing to give up on that.

In the final budget negotiations between Senate and Assembly leaders, those involved had said they were very close for several days but had differences that were more philosophical than fiscal.

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