Gibbons to meet with chancellor and local officials over budget cuts | NevadaAppeal.com

Gibbons to meet with chancellor and local officials over budget cuts

Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal Gov. Jim Gibbons

Gov. Jim Gibbons said Tuesday he wants to meet Nov. 7 with Chancellor Jim Rogers and local officials who are fighting his call for budget cuts.

“I’m inviting (Clark Commission Chairman) Rory Reid and Rogers to Carson City to see what the reality of the revenues are,” he said.

He issued orders two weeks ago for state agencies and others who receive general fund money to plan up to 5 percent budget cuts.

After just two months of the 2008 fiscal year, gaming revenues are $15 million below projections used to build the budget and sales tax revenues are down some $20 million.

“If the obligations of the state are so out of balance we can’t meet those obligations, we have to start planning for it,” he said.

He said that is the way to handle the situation, “rather than jumping over the cliff like some previous administrations.”

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He refused to elaborate on that comment.

Under state law, the governor can order agencies to not spend up to 15 percent of their general fund budgets if the state’s ending fund balance falls below $80 million. But those cuts must be approved by the Legislative Interim Finance Committee.

A spokesman for Rogers said he was asked by the governor’s office Tuesday morning to attend the meeting Nov. 7 and will be there.

He was the first to protest, refusing to cut the $64 million from the system’s more than $1.2 billion general fund budget. State law, however, requires the university system to comply with any reductions ordered by the governor.

Reid and child welfare officials in Clark County said a 5 percent cut would seriously damage those programs and endanger children. Reid refused to develop plans for a 5 percent cut. Washoe child welfare officials submitted a plan to cut $1.4 million from their budget but said they would do everything possible to prevent it from happening.

Gibbons said there have been no cuts yet, that he has simply asked agencies to plan for reductions. He said that’s important because not every agency will be able to make a 5 percent cut.

“We want a glide-slope approach, not a draconian cut,” he said.

Gibbons said he understands why they would oppose cuts. But in the university system’s case, he pointed out their budget was increased 13 percent by his administration and the 2007 Legislature.

“We’re asking for a reduction in the increase,” he said.

The agency plans were due to the budget office Monday, but Gibbons said the details of how agencies will meet the reductions won’t be released at this time.

Gibbons said he believes there are some encouraging signs in the economy, including the housing market nationwide, which could reduce the problem or turn things around.

Several lawmakers have also weighed in. Republican Sens. Bill Raggio, of Reno, and Bob Beers, of Las Vegas, say they strongly support planning ahead for reductions in spending. But Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, of Las Vegas, a Democrat, expressed concern the early call for reductions was disrupting state workers and threatening serious damage to programs.

Gibbons said under the Nevada Constitution, he has no choice but to balance the budget and, if revenues don’t meet projections, that means cuts.

“I don’t have a money tree,” he said.

Director of Administration Andrew Clinger is expected to update lawmakers on the situation when the Interim finance Committee meets Nov. 14.

“We want to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” he said.

Altogether, a 5 percent general fund cut would trim $185 million from the state’s budget. The largest amount, more than $95.6 million, would come out of the Department of Health and Human Services.