Nevada lawmakers will be able to blow off steam during the upcoming session thanks to new exercise equipment installed at taxpayer expense - and despite a massive budget shortfall - in a spare room at the state Legislature.
Two treadmill, two stairmaster and two elliptical machines have been moved into an empty office on the third floor.
Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said Friday he authorized the $30,000 expense as part of session costs. The 2011 Legislature begins Feb. 7.
"We thought it was a worthwhile expense to keep our people healthy," he said.
Nevada is facing a budget shortfall projected between $1.1 billion to $3 billion, and Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has said he won't raise taxes or fees to fill the gap. In his Jan. 3 inaugural speech, he spoke of "sharing in sacrifice," to meet the budget challenge.
Oceguera, an assistant North Las Vegas fire chief, defended the fitness room as a "fairly small investment" in the health and well being of lawmakers and staff.
"In the past we've had issues with people and health issues. They're in the building 6 a.m. to midnight."
He also pointed to $550,000 he said the Legislature will save this year by doing away with printing bills on paper. That eliminated the need for 27 temporary workers who used to staff the bill rooms in the Senate and Assembly.
"We did not hire them this session," Oceguera said.
For conservatives like Muth, the argument was hollow.
"John Oceguera should be ashamed of himself," Muth told The Associated Press. "It's absurd on its face."
Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said he was unaware of the fitness apparatus.
"I did not know," he said Friday afternoon.
He also questioned the expense.
"Usually during orientation we get coupons from the local fitness clubs. There's plenty of gyms in Carson City we can use," he said.