Legislative plan doesn’t close prison
Closing down Nevada State Prison is not on the Legislature’s list of proposed budget cuts.
That proposal was made by Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik. He defended it Thursday before the Interim Finance Committee saying if he has to cut another 4 percent, closing a major institution is his only option and NSP is the oldest, most inefficient prison he has.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said other ways will be found to reduce corrections budgets, including delaying the opening of Phase 5 of High Desert Correctional Center which was scheduled for completion about the end of this calendar year. That would have saved $19 million a year but lawmakers including Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said there were just too many unanswered questions about the plan.
Asked whether the new cuts would result in state worker layoffs, Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said not very many.
“By taking Nevada State Prison off the table, I ‘think we’ve mitigated most of the impact (layoffs,” he said.
Overall, the largest amount of the total $275 million lawmakers must cut from the fiscal budgets taking effect July 1 will come from what Human Resources Director Mike Willden called “a thousand little cuts.” The plan takes $106 million in a 60 page list of reductions from nearly every agency in the state.
The biggest single reduction outside those operating cuts is the $50 million in general funds from the money remaining in the $170 million put into NDOT’s budget to get the next phase of Interstate 15 completed in Las Vegas. Lawmakers and the governor already took $56 million of that money, moving that portion of the project into bond money.
NDOT Director Susan Martinovich said the new $50 million reduction will “shut down our pavement preservation projects except those funded with federal money.” She said that means potholes on the Interstate’s will get patched but that, for the next year or so, damage to other state highways and roads won’t.
The next biggest piece is $47.9 million from the textbooks, instructional supplies and hardware money. The plan takes half of the total in that account. Washoe Superintendent Paul Dugan, the incoming head of the state association of superintendents, said that suggestion came from them because they didn’t want to see teacher pay raises, remediation funding and other programs damaged.
Raggio said the plan includes a trigger which says if the November Economic Forum projects an increase in the state’s revenues, some of that funding would automatically be restored.
After that, the biggest piece is draining the remaining $27.3 million in the Trust for Public Health. Tobacco money created that trust over the past eight years. Grants are made from the interest it earns and fiscal staff advised the Senate taking the money will dramatically reduce the interest available for public health program grants for a number of years since the trust only grows by about $4 million a year.
Both the Senate and Assembly are working on the list, which was generally agreed to by both parties and both houses.
When completed, it will add another $275 million to the $913 million already cut from this biennial budget ” a total reduction of nearly $1.2 billion.