Legislative Commission approves tentative budget for coming biennium

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The Legislative Commission on Wednesday voted to forward the legislative branch budget to the executive branch Finance Office.

Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Rick Combs said the tentative budget totals just more than $64 million in General Fund dollars over the coming biennium.

Combs said that’s $750,000 more than the current budget.

The total also is close to the total biennial budget for the Judicial Branch that pays for the Supreme and Appellate courts and district judges’ salaries.

Combs said he had an advantage over executive branch agencies because he could wait until the Economic Forum made its revenue projections. As a result of those projections, he said he didn’t include the 5 percent overall reductions Gov. Brian Sandoval mandated for his agencies.

“Five percent reductions would include layoffs and not filling vacant positions,” Combs said. “I met with the Finance office and basically tried to keep the budget as flat as possible.”

The proposed budget includes $31.4 million for the first year and $31.1 million for the second year of the biennium. It also includes $847,000 for the first interim of the budget cycle and $701,000 for the second interim period between legislative sessions.

“There are no new positions requested in the budget,” Combs said. “Pretty clearly most of what you’re seeing here is personnel related.“

The Counsel Bureau has about 300 permanent employees. That total doesn’t include “session hires,” temporary employees such as secretaries for individual legislators.

But he said if funding is available during session, they would welcome the opportunity to ask for a “handful” of new positions.

Like the past four biennia, Combs said there’s no money in the budget for lawmakers to attend out of state meetings. Restoring that would cost about $225,000.

This time, Combs said he has included one-shot expenditures of about $1 million. Most of that, nearly $900,000, is for dues to national organizations. The rest is for computer hardware. He pointed out that’s about half what was sought for those uses last time.

The one-shot money comes primarily from the Legislative Fund and, this time, includes funding to update and repair one elevator. Combs said they’re replacing one elevator each biennium.

In addition, he said the Sedway office building across Fifth Street from the Legislature needs a new roof.

Combs said submitting the budget doesn’t commit any lawmakers to support it and there would be changes made to the overall spending plan before it’s finalized in hearings during the 2017 Legislature.


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