Geoff Dornan

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December 15, 2012
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Agencies seek $1.17 billion in enhancements, documents say

State agencies are asking a total of $1.17 billion in funding over and above Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget caps along with the addition of 617 more government workers as part of their spending proposals for the next two fiscal years.The details of the so-called “items for special consideration,” which the governor had wanted to temporarily keep under wraps, were released by the state budget office Friday and posted on the budget office website at budget.nv.govOf that total, $419.25 million would come from the General Fund. The balance would come mainly from federal sources.Added to the state Economic Forum’s projected $5.8 billion in General Fund revenues and the more than $600 million generated by extending the sunsets on taxes used to balance the current two-year budget, approving the entire list of requests would raise the total general fund budget for the upcoming budget cycle to more than $6.57 billion for the coming biennium.Requests by the Department of Health and Human Services accounted for two-thirds of the total in additional agency requests — $776.5 million in proposed enhancements and 359 more employees. Just $89 million of HHS’s requests would come from the state General Fund. The vast majority of the total — $706.3 million — would go to expand the Medicaid program.The Governor’s Office of Economic Development requested the largest amount from the General Fund of any agency — $60.6 million each year of the coming biennium for a total of $121.2 million. That list includes $26 million to create a biotech incubator and $40 million worth of additional economic development catalyst funding.Economic Development Director Steve Hill said the request was a “money was falling out of the sky” number, but with that level of funding he could generate significant economic development for the state.The Economic Development number was even bigger than the enhancements sought by the state Department of Education, which, for the two-year budget cycle, totaled $82.8 million in General Fund money.The Department of Corrections, which is almost exclusively funded from state dollars, is asking a total of $81.1 million in enhancements over the biennium, mostly to fund the addition of 165 employees. The biggest single chunk is $30.4 million for the Florence McClure women’s prison in North Las Vegas. Prison Medical is asking for an addition of $3.8 million.Gaming Control is asking for $10.8 million, the biggest items being technology and equipment to keep tabs on the increasingly computerized gaming world.The Nevada Highway Patrol wants $12.7 million, mostly to update and replace patrol cars and trucks and motorcycles.Also in public safety, the state’s criminal history repository has asked for $8.55 million to replace the antiquated computer system that stores and maintains criminal information records..The governor and his staff initially wanted to temporarily withhold the “items for special consideration” from public review, arguing they are often “pie in the sky” requests. Under pressure from both the press and lawmakers, he changed his mind and ordered them released.He declined on Friday to say whether any of the cuts suffered by state workers would be restored. He said building the budget “is an ongoing process,” and many of those decisions haven’t yet been made.While he initially said he would try restore as much of those cuts as possible, he later backed away from that because of uncontrollable increases in other costs, instructing his administrators to build the budget without restoring the cuts.State workers suffered a 2.5 percent pay cut and six unpaid furlough days a year this budget cycle — together equivalent to a 4.8 percent pay reduction. Restoring that would cost $120.5 million. Adding back suspended step increases and merit pay would cost another $65 million and longevity pay about $7.4 million for a total of just under $200 million.That number, however, doesn’t include the cost of restoring the amounts taken from K-12 education budgets to match the 2.5 percent pay cuts imposed on state workers.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Dec 15, 2012 01:56PM Published Dec 15, 2012 01:56PM Copyright 2012 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.