Committee again votes to take Indigent Accident Fund money from counties |

Committee again votes to take Indigent Accident Fund money from counties

Despite admitting it puts counties and hospitals at risk financially, the Assembly Ways and Means Committee voted Friday to again take the Indigent Accident Fund money to help balance the budget.

That money is generated each year by a portion of county property tax revenue and placed into a fund which is then used to pay catastrophic medical bills generated when indigent people are hurt in accidents. For the coming biennium, it is projected to bring in a total of $38.3 million.

The fund was created when county officials came to the Legislature in 1985 offering up part of their property tax revenue to solve a problem. Bob Hadfield, director of the Nevada Association of Counties at that time, said the fund stopped the ongoing battle between hospitals which were suing counties for payment after providing care to indigent victims.

Without it, he and his successor Jeff Fontaine have said repeatedly, small counties could land in serious financial straits if there was a major accident on their roads.

Lawmakers sunsetted the IAF legislation two years ago, promising to give the money back to the counties this coming budget cycle. But Gov. Brian Sandoval decided to take the money again this time because of the state’s budget crisis.

The committee amended Assembly Bill 529 to again put a sunset in the plan.

“I believe it’s very important we sunset this,” said Assemblywoman April Mastrolucca, D-Las Vegas. “We can’t continue to do this. We have to find another answer.”

The panel also recommended passage of Senate Bill 441, which allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to contract for kiosks to provide a variety of services to people including vehicle registration renewals – and allows a fee to cover the state’s cost for that convenience. DMV Director Bruce Breslow said the current fees will actually go down when the new contract goes into effect in 2012. He said the proposal should save the state about $1.6 million.