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October 7, 2015

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Democrats vote for $250 million in budget cuts

CARSON CITY — In an effort to compromise with Republicans on spending, Democratic lawmakers voted for about $250 million in budget cuts Tuesday but said that’s as far as they are willing to go.

Republicans, meanwhile, sent the message that they are standing with Gov. Brian Sandoval and his budget, dimming hopes that the 2011 Nevada Legislature can even extend taxes passed in 2009 scheduled to expire next month.

The votes fell along party lines.

“This is our last, final offer. We’re not funding below this level. This level is below what the state needs,” Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said he would not be supporting options that didn’t meet the funding available without sunsets.

Assembly Ways and Means Chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Reno, said she was “sad and embarrassed.”

“My constituents want give-and-take,” she said. “I feel like I’m giving. I don’t feel like I’m getting. I feel like on this day, we approach a precipice.”

Democrats reopened the budgets “in the spirit of compromise and cooperation,” Smith said.

Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said he would continue to compromise. “I’m not giving up,” he said.

He repeated that he wants a “balanced approach to this budget crisis, which includes some revenue.”

The taxes passed last session have not “impeded our economic recovery one iota,” he said.

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said extending the taxes approaching their sunset was still alive.

“We hold our nose,” he said.

The budgets passed Tuesday more closely aligned the Democrats’ spending with the revenue that extending sun-setting taxes would provide. Extending those taxes would raise about $676 more than Sandoval has proposed spending.

Among the cuts passed on Tuesday:

• Reduce funding to school districts, assuming a 2.5 percent salary reduction. The eventual cut to teacher, administrator and other employee pay would be determined by the collective bargaining process. But it would reduce overall funding to districts to the equivalent of that pay cut.

• Reduce basic per-pupil funding by $100 a year to save $85 million.

• Another $10 million a year cut to higher education over what Democrats had approved.

• Increase the waiting list for children with autism to get treatment.

• Eliminate day care subsidies for a few hundred poor parents.

• Eliminate housing slots for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled, such as those who are mentally retarded or have fetal alcohol syndrome.

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