Cultural Affairs gets double boost |

Cultural Affairs gets double boost

The Department of Cultural Affairs got a double boost from members of the Interim Finance Committee Thursday.

First, Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, suggested putting most of the $1.2 million in fines collected by the Secretary of State’s office into the department to restore some of its budget.

Then Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, called on fellow lawmakers to put enough money into the department so that workers whose weekly hours have been cut back don’t suffer lost retirement and health benefit credits.

Raggio pointed out that department suffered deeper cuts than any other state agency, some 40 percent overall, which resulted in numerous layoffs and reductions in hours for some workers.

“This would be a big help toward restoring some of that funding,” said Raggio. “The employees of these facilities were cut more severely than other agencies.”

Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, asked staff to make sure the secretary of state doesn’t have a shortfall in his investigations and enforcement budget first, then to prioritize potential restorations to cultural affairs.

That was followed by Amodei pointing out that, when the 57 state museum employees were cut back from 40 to 32 hours a week, the legislation didn’t provide for the state to continue making their full contributions to retirement and health benefits programs.

He said those workers are effectively getting an unpaid furlough day every week while other state workers are furloughed only one day a month. Yet those other workers, he said, are getting their full retirement and benefits premiums paid.

“They’re accruing their benefits at a part time rate,” he said.

Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Sparks, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said it wasn’t her intention to leave them out.

Buckley agreed, saying, “I didn’t want to affect anyone’s eligibility for benefits.” She said the potential cost is about $100,000.

“In the big scheme of things, that’s not a ton of money,” she said. “that’s one thing I think we should correct now.”

The rest of the committee agreed and asked staff to prepare the necessary documents for their next meeting.