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Legislative money committees to be briefed on governor’s budget

CARSON CITY — Members of the state’s legislative money committees will dip their toes in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed $7.3 billion budget proposal today.

The briefings give members of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees an overview of agency budgets and expenses before the legislative session begins Feb. 2. That’s when they’ll begin the deep dive into budget numbers, assessing the needs of the state and weighing those against available revenue.

Under state law, the budget bill lawmakers will vote on near the end of the 120-day session in June must balance. The Economic Forum, an independent panel of fiscal experts, projected the state will collect $6.3 billion in revenue from existing sources. Sandoval, a Republican just elected to his second term, has proposed a $1.1 billion tax package to beef up education and other vital services.

The budget review hearings in Carson City are scheduled through Thursday and Tuesday through Thursday next week. Hearings will be teleconferenced to the Sawyer Building in Las Vegas and public testimony will be accepted. Proceedings also can be viewed over the Internet through the Legislature’s website, leg.state.nv.us.

To start out, the money committees today will get a broad rundown of the governor’s overall budget plan from Budget Director Julia Teska. The afternoon is reserved for public education, when state Superintendent of Public Instruction Dale Erquiaga will walk lawmakers through the distributive school account, the main pot of money for school districts that includes guaranteed, per-pupil funding based on enrollment.

The bulk of the governor’s proposed budget increase — $782 million — would go to prekindergarten through 12th grade programs. Sandoval is proposing doubling money for English Language Learners and investing new money for troubled schools, gifted and talented students, full-day kindergarten and to combat bullying in schools.

When combined with spending for Nevada’s universities and community colleges, education accounts for more than half of the general fund at $3.9 billion.

Wednesday and Thursday morning will be devoted to the other big budget item, health and human services programs, including welfare, mental health and aging and disability services. Human Services budgets total $2.2 billion.

Nevada’s higher education system will be discussed Thursday afternoon. Spending on higher education would increase 9 percent to $1.1 billion.

Plans include $9.3 million for UNLV to move forward with a medical school and $24 million toward construction of a new $45 million building for a hotel college.

Next week will include a review of prisons, wildlife, conservation and natural resource agencies, cultural affairs and taxation.

Nevada budget hearings

Here is the schedule for Nevada budget hearings in advance of the 2015 legislative session. All meetings will be held in the Legislature Building in Carson City, and teleconferenced to the Sawyer Building in Las Vegas. Hearings also can be watched by clicking on “view scheduled meetings” on the Legislature’s website, https://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/78th2015/. Times are approximate.

Meetings held Tuesday were the Executive Budget Overview, Capital Improvement Projects, Nevada Judiciary, Distributive School Account and Department of Education.

TODAY

8:30 a.m.: Health and Human Services

9:45 a.m.: Division of Health Care Financing and Policy

11 a.m.: Division of Welfare and Supportive Services

1:30 p.m.: Division of Public and Behavioral Health

3:15 p.m.: Aging and Disability Services Division

THURSDAY

12 p.m.: Division of Child and Family Services

2 p.m.: Nevada System of Higher Education

Jan. 27

8:30 a.m.: Department of Corrections

10:15 a.m.: Department of Public Safety

1:30 p.m.: Department of Transportation

3:15 p.m.: Department of Business and Industry

JAN. 28

8:30 a.m.: Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs

10 a.m.: Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

1 p.m.: Department of Wildlife

2:15 p.m.: Department of Agriculture

3:30 p.m.: Department of Taxation

Jan. 29

8:30 a.m.: Public Employees’ Benefits Program

10 a.m.: Office of the Military

11:15 a.m.: Department of Veterans Affairs

1:30 p.m.: Department of Motor Vehicles

2:45 p.m.: Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

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