By Geoff Dornan
Appeal Capitol Bureau
Despite the fact Gov. Jim Gibbons ordered budget cuts last month and the budget office sent the paperwork to the state controller more than two weeks ago, those reductions still haven't shown up in the actual agency budgets.
Controller Kim Wallin has so far refused to make the changes within the state's Integrated Financial System, which means agency budgets show more money than is actually available.
"We sent them over a couple of weeks ago, before the Interim Finance Committee," said Director of Administration Andrew Clinger. "The controller's office hasn't posted the changes yet."
Wallin said that's because of conflicting statutes that she needs interpreted before she makes the changes. She said NRS353.220 requires the legislative finance committee approve work programs that change a budget by more than 10 percent or $50,000.
But NRS353.225 states that, to handle financial emergencies in agencies, the governor, "may require the state controller or head of each such department, institution or agency to set aside a reserve."
Wallin said that presents her with a potential ethical conflict, and she wants the attorney general to tell her whether she should change the budgets or send the proposed changes to the Legislature.
Wallin says she has no ulterior motive and sees no danger any agency would violate the governor's order to make specific cuts.
"As I told the governor, there is no reason why agencies can't be making these cuts whether they're in the computer or not," she said. "It's not stopping the cuts."
Wallin said she won't take the chance someone could come to her later and charge she violated the law by making the cuts.
"Being a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and CMA (Certified Management Accountant), I have a code of ethics to follow," she said.
Clinger said the governor has already been through this issue with some Democrats in the Legislature, the university system and the school districts.
They argued Gibbons should have to consult the Legislature before making any major changes to the budget, but legal counsel advised Gibbons the decision was his and his alone.
Clinger restated that position, saying the law and the 2007 Appropriations Act give the governor the authority to make budget reservations. He said the controller's only function in this situation is to record the budget changes ordered by the governor.
"It doesn't say he may ask the controller to make cuts. It says he may require the controller to make the cuts."
He said in any case, agencies have been told no matter how much money the computer says is available, they are not to overspend.
"Whether the paperwork has been processed or not, as far as we're concerned, the cuts are in place," he said.
But Clinger expressed concern some employees might make mistakes and commit money that is part of the reserves ordered by the governor. He said everything would be much clearer to workers in different offices if their electronic version of the budget correctly stated how much money is available for any given program.
Wallin said she hopes to get an answer from the attorney general's office soon.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.