Public Safety position cuts recommended

(AP) " A legislative budget panel recommended Friday that the Nevada Department of Public Safety rely on federal funding to cover costs of law enforcement jobs that would be eliminated under Gov. Jim Gibbon's proposed budget.

The Republican governor proposes a decrease of just over 11 percent in DPS state funding, by cutting $13.4 million from a legislatively approved figure of $121 million. Seventy-six positions would be eliminated.

The budget subcommittee decided against adding back nine detective and narcotic officer positions at a cost of $1.5 million.

instead that the Division of Investigations and narcotics control departments wait for federal grants to fund the positions.

The proposed cuts present a real challenge, Scott Jackson, investigations chief at the state Department of Public Safety, had told the subcommittee previously.

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, voted against the recommendation, calling reliance on federal funds a gamble. He told panel members that rural areas are vulnerable to drug activity.

"It is incumbent on us to invest in these positions," Coffin said. "Somebody's going to get hurt badly."

Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas, the subcommittee chairwoman, said she understands the situation is difficult, but "at some place we have to draw the line."

"Here's where the rubber meets the road," McClain said, adding that the divisions could come to the lawmakers' Interim Finance Committee if they are awarded the federal grants after the 2009 session ends.

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, agreed with Coffin's concern about rural county safety but added there are insufficient funds.

"Sorry we don't have money," Goicoechea said. "About the best we are going to do in these times is maintain what we've got."

The panel also recommended elimination of state overtime funding for narcotics control at a savings of $176,000 over the next two years. A reduction in overtime funding for the Division of Investigations would save another $135,000.

Members also voted against the governor's recommendation to consolidate the narcotics control budget with the Division of Investigations account.

"There is no reason to do it, so we'll just let them function like they're supposed to be functioning," McClain said.

In other proposed job cuts, the panel agreed with the governor's recommendation to eliminate two vacant state police positions.

The panel also requested that the Nevada Highway Patrol K-9 Program make quarterly reports to the Interim Finance Committee documenting overtime and reports on how the unit is helping fight drug issues.

"We want to know you're still on track," McClain said.

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