SAN FRANCISCO — After a sometime acrimonious six-day special session, Nevada lawmakers adjourned in the wee hours of Monday after passing legislation to bring the budget back into balance.
The state has been hammered by the recession and one of the nation’s worst real estate markets. It faced what Gov. Jim Gibbons estimated as an $887 million shortfall on a two-year general fund budget in the $6 billion range.
Lawmakers weren’t scheduled to meet this calendar year, but Gibbons called them into special session to deal with the budget deficit, which had emerged despite cuts made in the two-year budget adopted in 2009.
The governor, a Republican facing a re-election fight this year, said he would oppose tax or fee increases.
But Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, said they would fight to prevent schools and colleges from getting the 10% cuts Gibbons had proposed as part of his plan for across-the-board cuts to state government.
What emerged, according to published reports, was a Carson City compromise. Along with $60 million in fee increases, the final bill limited education cuts to 6.9% while other areas of state government saw reductions of10% .
The final budget included $585 million in spending cuts and more than $60.2 million in new revenue, according to a list published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The revenue came from a variety of sources, such as $25.7 million from new mining-claim fees, as well as higher fees on things like park visits, corporation documents, and foreclosure filings.
Most of the remaining gap was filled with accounting maneuvers, such as a $197 million “sweep” of state agency trust funds, and the recognition of $62 million in additional mining taxes expected because of high commodity prices.
Lawmakers also passed last-minute legislation that is expected to support new bonding capacity for transportation projects, according to published reports.
The bill reportedly eliminates the sunset date on a Clark County sales tax, which the Southern Nevada Regional Transportation Commission could borrow against to fast-track projects.
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said the bill would create up to 12,000 jobs, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
Gibbons’ special session proclamation also authorized lawmakers to address a controversy created by a state Supreme Court ruling in January that threatens the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plans to build a pipeline bringing water to metropolitan Las Vegas from rural eastern Nevada.
It is an important issue, but lawmakers didn’t have enough time to address it, Horsford said in a floor speech that was printed in the Legislature’s daily digest.
“After several hours of testimony, it is the sense of the Legislature that resolution of the issues raised by the Great Basin Water Network decision is of critical importance and that the Legislature should attempt to resolve these complex policy issues,” Horsford said. “However, the testimony has made clear that many of the parties potentially affected by the resolution of these issues will not be heard in the remaining hours of the 26th Special Session.”
The majority leader suggested another special session might be needed later in the year to deal with the water issue.
Lawmakers didn’t adjourn the special session until 2:16 a.m. on Monday.