- Associated Press - Saturday, April 18, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval says he’s optimistic that Nevada lawmakers will reach a deal to fund the state’s budget with only slightly more than a month to go in the state Legislature.

The popular Republican governor told The Associated Press that, despite skepticism over his plan to raise businesses license fees and other alternative plans proposed by lawmakers, he remains confident that legislators will see the need to increase revenue and fund K-12 education in Nevada.

“I’m going to give it everything I’ve got to make sure that something happens to fund education in Nevada because I think it’s absolutely critical,” he said.

In an interview with the AP, Sandoval waved off questions over his 2016 plans and a potential run for retiring Sen. Harry Reid’s seat, saying he preferred to focus on the legislature. He delved deep into education policy issues, including initiatives that would hold back third-graders not proficient in reading and allow charter organizations to take over failing schools.

He refused to comment or endorse a potential presidential candidate but called former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush a “mentor” whose work in establishing K-12 education programs inspired him to propose similar legislation in Nevada. Sandoval endorsed former Texas Gov. Rick Perry during the 2012 election.

“I’m thinking about the session,” he said. “It’s way too early to be making any commitments to any particular candidate.”

Sandoval instead has focused much of his attention on getting a tax package through skeptical Democrats and firebrand anti-tax conservatives, and said he’s working with legislative leaders to get the measure passed with the state’s constitutionally required two-thirds majority vote.

“As a Republican, this is not orthodox,” he said of the tax plan. “But at the same time, it’s my job to be honest with the people of the state of Nevada.”

Democratic Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said Democrats haven’t committed to a specific tax plan and needed to continue vetting the governor’s budget.

“I’ve been working on tax policy for many years to fill loopholes and make things broad-based, and we’ll continue to have conversations across the aisle,” she said.

Though the Republican governor rarely comments on pending legislation, Sandoval has called for changes to the state’s collective bargaining and public employee retirement systems. He said he wants lawmakers to propose changes that both unions and businesses can live with.

“I want it to be reasonable; I want it to be something that has some consensus with organized labor and with the business community,” he said.

Sandoval said he was happy with legislation that has reached his desk so far, including bills designed to curb frivolous lawsuits on construction defects and extending school bonds to help build new schools in Las Vegas and Reno.

“I don’t want to jinx anything,” he said, “but I feel good given where we are with a little more than 40 days left.”

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