State will get stimulus czar – but not at cabinet level
August 3, 2009
Members of the Interim Finance Committee agreed with the Gibbons administration Monday that Nevada needs to put someone in charge of monitoring the more than $2.2 billion in stimulus money the state will receive over the coming biennium.
But the proposal they approved came out far different than what the administration proposed.
Instead of being created inside the governor’s office as a cabinet-level position, the so-called stimulus czar will be selected by and report to the state controller’s office. And it will be filled at a much lower level – a budget analyst’s position.
Director of Administration Andrew Clinger presented the plan, saying the position and its executive assistant could be quickly hired if created as a non-classified position in the governor’s office, whereas it would take a month or more to have personnel develop a classified job position.
“It seems more like a technical person to me,” said Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks. “A more appropriate location would be in the budget office or the controller’s office.”
She said that would distance the position from political pressure.
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said that was his thinking as well.
“This is a critical position,” he said.
He disagreed it needs to be a cabinet-level post costing $125,000 a year in salary, as Gibbons proposed. He said a budget analyst’s position capped at about $100,000 a year should be able to handle the job and that would put some requirements on who could be appointed. He mentioned that putting the position in the governor’s office would allow anyone to be hired “without regard for qualifications.”
Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said a classified position raises the danger that, if the individual wasn’t doing a good job, he or she would be much more difficult to get rid of where a gubernatorial appointment could be easily fired.
When Clinger agreed that was a concern, Horsford responded by moving the post be put under the controller.
“Having a bit of separation in having a watchful eye is prudent,” said Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas.
Democrats voted along party lines to hand the post to the controller, instructing staff to reduce the requested $257,709 budget appropriately for the lower paid stimulus czar and his or her assistant.