CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval unveiled a $7.3 billion two-year general fund spending plan Thursday that includes nearly $1.15 billion in additional tax revenue, including a new business license fee that would generate nearly $440 million for an ambitious plan to improve public education.
The proposed general fund budget is about $800 million higher than the current $6.5 billion budget, which ends on June 30.
It includes an extension of taxes that were scheduled to sunset this year, worth about $580 million, and an increase in the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 80 cents to $1.20 that would raise an estimated $80 million.
“What we must all agree on is that another generation of young Nevadans cannot move through our schools without more resources, choice and reform — and that we must modernize our revenue system,” Sandoval said.
But the big news in Sandoval’s budget is his proposed spending on public education, which includes more than a dozen new or expanded initiatives.
“I submit to you this evening that an education system for this century requires bold new ideas to meet the reality of our time,” Sandoval said in his address. “I am asking the Legislature to join me in beginning the work of comprehensive modernization of our education system to meet the needs of today’s students and the new Nevada.”
EDUCATION PLAN HIGHLIGHTS
■ The main public schools budget, called the distributive school account, would grow by $352 million to $6.3 billion, primarily due to increases in student enrollment. Statewide enrollment is projected to hit 454,555 by the second year of the budget.
■ Sandoval proposes to spend $782 million on his multiple initiatives aimed at prekindergarten through the 12th grade. This additional spending would bring spending on public education to $7.6 billion, an 11.7 percent increase over the current budget.
Some, but not all, public education spending is included in the general fund budget.
■ His budget would increase funding for English Language Learners from $50 million in this budget to nearly $100 million.
■ Schools with high levels of low-income students would receive nearly $50 million. They get no additional funding now. Sandoval calls them “Victory Schools.”
■ Technology funding, called “Nevada Ready 21,” would total $52 million, compared to $3.7 million in the current budget.
■ A program called “Social Workers in Schools” would provide $36 million in grants to combat bullying. There is no state funding now.
■ Career and technical education would see $14.7 million in state funding, compared to $6.7 million now.
■ College and career readiness would get $8 million in funding compared to none currently.
■ Sandoval is also proposing $20 million to expand charter schools in Nevada but will require $20 million in matching funds from a newly forming charter school organization for the funding to become available.
■ He also will propose a program for the state to take over failing schools and operate them as charter schools without any collective bargaining rules for teachers or administrators. The state Department of Education plans to announce today the list of poorly performing schools statewide.
Dale Erquiaga, state superintendent of public instruction, said about 70 schools will be on the list that could potentially be taken over by the state.
■ Pedro Martinez, a former Clark County School District superintendent who was forced out of his Washoe County superintendent position by the elected School Board, was named by Sandoval to help with the initiative as a superintendent in residence with the Nevada Department of Education.
■ Nonfinancial public education proposals include a change from elected to appointed school boards, and the opportunity to allow local governments in the larger counties to create smaller school districts.
■ Spending on higher education would increase by 9 percent to $1.1 billion.
■ UNLV would receive $9.3 million to move forward with a medical school. The Nevada System of Higher Education asked for nearly $27 million for the project, but most of that funding won’t be needed in the next budget.
■ UNLV would receive $24 million in state funding toward the construction of a new $45 million hotel college academic building. The remaining funding is being raised by the university.
■ State funding will total around $600 million a year for the health care program, but the federal share of funding has jumped significantly due to the Affordable Care Act and will total nearly $2.5 billion in each year, up from about $1.5 billion now.
■ The state’s Medicaid caseload has leveled off at about 600,000 recipients each year but has jumped significantly from 320,000 before the federal health care law took effect.
■ The expansion of the program has helped reduce the uninsured population in Nevada to 11 percent from 23 percent. For children, it has reduced to 2 percent from 15 percent.
Contact Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.
See all of our coverage: 2015 Nevada Legislature.