Lawmaker rails against 'secretive manner' of budget cuts as shortfall hits $564 million

Cathleen Allison/Nevada AppealState Budget Director Andrew Clinger waits for his turn to testify in an Interim Finance Committee hearing Thursday at the Legislature. Some Nevada lawmakers accused Gov. Jim Gibbons of unwarranted secrecy and even breaking the law while others defended him during a heated hearing on budget cuts he says are needed to cover a revenue shortfall that may grow to more than $540 million.

Cathleen Allison/Nevada AppealState Budget Director Andrew Clinger waits for his turn to testify in an Interim Finance Committee hearing Thursday at the Legislature. Some Nevada lawmakers accused Gov. Jim Gibbons of unwarranted secrecy and even breaking the law while others defended him during a heated hearing on budget cuts he says are needed to cover a revenue shortfall that may grow to more than $540 million.

Lawmakers were told Thursday that Nevada's projected budget shortfall is now $564.7 million.

But despite the continued growth of the budget crisis, Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, found himself tilting at windmills in his demand that legislators be involved in deciding where and how to make budget cuts.

"It is wrong to cut these budgets without the Legislature's approval," Coffin argued.

He said the appropriations act that provided general fund money to Nevada agencies requires the Legislature be consulted.

"In a very secretive manner, you have continued to move forward as if the Legislature doesn't count," Coffin said.

But Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said the section of that act Coffin referred to only involves the Legislature if the state's ending fund balance falls below $80 million.

With the cuts ordered by Gov. Jim Gibbons, he said that balance will be $177 million in June 2009, more than double that amount. The governor's counsel Josh Hicks pointed out another section of that act gives the governor specific authority over any budget reductions.

Clinger also told the committee it was the governor's decision in 1992-93 when 3 percent cuts were ordered by Gov. Kenny Guinn. He said the reductions were presented to the finance committee as an informational item, not an action item.

Coffin also complained that Legislative Commission Chairman Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, refused to put on that commission's agenda an item to sue the governor over the issue.

Read the full story in Friday's Nevada Appeal or check back online.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment