Money committees vote to reverse state worker pay cuts |

Money committees vote to reverse state worker pay cuts

The Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees voted unanimously Friday to restore the 2.5 percent pay cuts state workers have endured the past four years.

They did so in part by using the roughly $20 million Gov. Brian Sandoval budgeted to first reduce, then eliminate, furlough days over the biennium.

The total cost of eliminating the 2.5 percent pay cuts for state and university employees is about $52 million. The remaining $32 million needed will come from savings achieved during budget closings and the added revenue projected by the Economic Forum, said Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.

The move extends the existing six annual unpaid days for two more years. But Smith and Ways and Means Chairman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, both said in hearings that state workers have made it clear they would rather have their pay back than eliminate the furloughs. The rationale is that with furloughs, they at least get the days off.

In addition, the plan adopts the governor’s recommendation to restore merit pay in the second year of the biennium.

Several Republicans on Finance, however, said they want to see exactly where the pay-restoration funding will come from before finally voting for the plan.

“State employees have made significant sacrifices over the past few years, and they should share in the gains as we climb out of it,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.

But he asked, “Where do we find the $30 million we’re adding back?”

“I want to make sure everything pencils in the end,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, said he would support the restoration contingent on where the funding comes from.

“I will not support this if even one dime of the money for education is reduced from what the governor has proposed,” he said.

The committee decisions on employee pay were matched Friday with the introduction of the Authorizations Act — the bill that lays out how all non-general fund revenues are to be spent over the next two years.

The appropriations act, which spends general fund money, and capital improvement projects act were introduced Thursday. That leaves just one major budget measure unresolved: the bill that appropriates the $2.5 billion in general fund cash to the Distributive School Account to support K-12 education. There reportedly is one outstanding issue to be resolved before that measure can be introduced. But it is key to ending the session, given that under the Education First provision of Nevada’s constitution, K-12 education funding must be voted on first.

Lawmakers intend to work through the weekend to finish the budget and shut down the 2013 Legislature.