Budget plan closes Nevada State Prison; 136 NSP jobs would be eliminated
Nevada State Prison is again on the chopping block as one of the governor’s proposed budget cuts.
Shutting down the old prison would save $12.9 million. It also would account for more than half the layoffs Gov. Jim Gibbons’ staff says may be necessary to balance the budget.
But it’s not the biggest single cut on the list. The proposals backed by Gov. Jim Gibbons also include a 10 percent, $167 million cut in per-pupil spending for public schools. The reduction would cut the state’s average per pupil funding from $5,395 next year to $4,855.
The list of reductions recommend by the governor didn’t include further cuts to the university system, which took deep reductions during the 2009 Legislature.
Chief of Staff Robin Reedy and Deputy Lynn Hettrick laid out some of the proposed cuts after a three hour closed-door meeting with legislative leadership Wednesday evening.
A total of 234 layoffs are contemplated in the governor’s proposals. Of that, 136 are employees at NSP. Notices were posted Wednesday and today advising those employees they may be out of work because of the law requiring 30 days notice to lay off classified workers.
Hettrick said if those numbers can be reduced, some of those workers may not lose their jobs.
In addition, 362 vacant positions would be eliminated from the books.
He said the governor’s list of proposed cuts totals $418 million. That is about half the $881 million in cuts needed to balance the current budget.
Hettrick and Reedy said the plan will get some more money by sweeping certain reserve accounts of excess funds. But he said that still won’t get them to $881 million.
Hettrick said there are some ideas being considered to raise additional revenue to cover that gap but declined to elaborate. He did, however, say that it won’t be a tax increase and that, “we’re not going after counties and cities.”
Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said when he left the meeting that salary reductions must be considered.
“Obviously the biggest part of the budget is personnel costs so we’re looking at layoffs or salary reductions,” Raggio said.
Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, confirmed the K-12 education proposal.
“Anything we can do to bring that cut level down, we will do,” she said. “But it’s just unbelievably dire.”
She said in addition to education, many of the cuts the governor proposed during the 2009 Legislature are back on the list, including cuts to personal care and supportive services, mental health programs and hospital reimbursements for Medicaid patients.
“The shortfall is so unbelievably large that there’s not a great deal of optimism we would be able to find the money to spare most of these cuts,” she said.
The governor and lawmakers already took a bite out of Medicaid rates for hospitals and other medical providers, doctors and others – a total of 10 percent. But further reductions are also on the list. Altogether, reductions to those programs would save $36.2 million.
When all the Health and Human Services reductions are tallied including mental health, welfare, child and family services and aging services, they come to $109.4 million in general fund money and another $83.4 million in lost federal funding.
University officials said earlier in the week that a 20 percent cut would require them to shut down the Community College of Southern Nevada and Henderson State College.
Another 25 positions and $1 million in costs would be eliminated by abolishing the Nevada Equal Rights Commission.
Thirty-two positions would be cut from Gaming Control, saving another $2.9 million in general fund money. Another 30 layoffs would come from closure of the Summitview Youth Correctional Center in Southern Nevada, saving $3.7 million.
The cuts generally come to about 10 percent across the board but the state is facing the necessity of cutting 20 percent overall.