Bill would allow moving state money around between sessions

Lawmakers heard legislation Monday that would give state agencies more flexibility to move money between accounts when they aren’t in session.

Director of Administration Jeff Mohlenkamp said Senate Bill 482 would give agencies the ability to respond “more nimbly” to such things as new grant opportunities or shifting needs in areas such as Medicaid.

“It would still require agencies to go forward to Interim Finance, and it does not seek any flexibility to move funds outside the department,” he said. “This would allow state agencies or department directors to move funds within their department.”

Under present law, often even a small shortfall in an agency or program must be handled by taking cash from the state’s contingency fund because neither the executive branch nor the Interim Finance Committee has the legal authority to move money from one place to another.

An example would be a new federal grant opportunity between sessions, Mohlenkamp said.

“We get the opportunity to leverage federal dollars, but we lack he state dollars to do that because the state dollars aren’t located where they’re needed,” he said.

Mohlenkamp said during this past interim, there was a severe need for more cash in child-care accounts, but there was no way to move existing funds to that program.

Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden said one potential example is the budget savings in mental health funding in anticipation that a number of those clients will move to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“There are substantial savings built into the mental health budgets,” he said. “If Medicaid patients don’t show and people continue to need mental health services, there isn’t he flexibility to move the money between those accounts.”

Sens. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, and Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, both asked it the plan completely cut IFC out of the picture. Mohlenkamp said no, that any transfer in excess of the $75,000 or 10 percent of the account’s total budget minimum that currently requires IFC approval would still have to go there.

Smaller amounts, however, could be moved by a department head. Public Safety Director Chris Perry told Senate Finance members an example would be this year’s shortfall in the dignitary protection budget.

“Likely, if we had this flexibility, the Highway Patrol would be able to transfer the money from another general fund agency,” he said.

Keith Uriarte of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said that union opposes the measure. He said he was concerned money transfers won’t be fully reviewed by IFC if it passes. Uriarte said there have been a number of situations where, had it not been for discussion at IFC, there would not have been adequate disclosure.

The committee took no action on the bill.


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