Another fee increase added to budget | NevadaAppeal.com

Another fee increase added to budget

Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday voted to add another fee increase to the state’s two-year budget despite threats by Gov. Jim Gibbons to veto fee hikes not requested by those who pay them.

The increase was recommended so the Commission on Post Secondary Education can hire staff to inspect the nearly 200 private schools in Nevada which provide professional and technical training programs. It would raise $65,000 a year, which would cover the salary, travel and other costs of the added staff member .

A spokesman for the commission told lawmakers that added staff member would enable the commission to inspect those schools, which it isn’t able to do now.

“It seems to me without this position, they’re not going to be a very effective agency,” said Finance Chairman Bill Raggio, R-Reno.

He said the commission hasn’t increased its fees since 1989.

“They haven’t been able to function because they are understaffed,” he said.

The governor has proposed using the general fund to pay for the position but Raggio said he supports increasing fees “when it comes from the people who receive the services and the service is essential.” He said the alternative is to put the burden on all Nevadans by using tax dollars to perform the inspections.

Asked about his break with the governor on that issue, he said, “I’m following my conscience. I’m following what I think is right.”

Asked whether he thought Gibbons would accept the increases, he said, “He’ll have to make that decision.”

Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, moved to add the position to the budget and request a bill draft that would raise the fees to cover the cost.

The decision is the third fee increase supported by lawmakers this session over the objections of the governor.

The first two were in the Health and Human Services Department budgets where Gibbons cut proposed fee increases after taking office. Raggio made the motion and the joint Assembly Ways and Means/Senate Finance subcommittee voted to restore fee increases levied on hospitals and other health-care businesses to pay for inspections required by the federal government. The increase will raise $805,101 to hire nine additional inspectors.

The subcommittee did the same with fee hikes in the Radiological Health budget where Gibbons cut fee increases and put in general fund money. Those inspections ensure that X-ray equipment used in hospitals, doctors offices and other businesses are safe and operating properly.

Lawmakers removed the state money and replaced it by raising the fees.

And members of the money committees are considering doing the same in the Consumer Health Protection budget where Gibbons wants to use $1 million in general fund money to avoid fee increases.

Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said outside the meeting Gibbons opposes the higher fees in all those cases.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.