Gibbons calls for action while lawmakers meet to iron out budget plan | NevadaAppeal.com
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Gibbons calls for action while lawmakers meet to iron out budget plan

Gov. Jim Gibbons charged Tuesday that lawmakers need to stop complaining and start coming up with ideas to fix the state’s budget crisis.

“What I want them to do is start coming up with some ideas,” he said on Tuesday’s Nevada Newsmakers program. “All I’ve heard from some of them is constant criticism.”

As for himself, Gibbons said he and his staff are developing a “20 or 21 point proposal” to present Thursday.

At the same time, however, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and other members of leadership talked by phone Monday, reportedly working out a plan for Friday’s special session.

“There were no raised voices,” said Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno. “It was all very cordial.”

She said she was “cautiously optimistic” lawmakers would be able to find a way through the crisis, which is forcing another $250 million or more in cuts to the current budget.

That will bring the total amount cut from the budget to just about $1.2 billion this biennium.

The group hosted a second phone conference Tuesday afternoon to continue the process.

Several lawmakers have suggested the Legislature meet Friday, approve the cuts they’ve already agreed on, then adjourn. The idea would then be to take other parts of the puzzle before the Interim Finance Committee as they are developed and agreed to.

Leslie said that idea makes sense to her because, “You can’t get all the details done by Friday.”

Asked for some details from his 21-point plan, Gibbons said most of them involve getting legislative approval to move money around.

Legislative approval is specifically required for several pieces of the cuts already adopted by Gibbons and lawmakers including taking the Rainy Day Fund and the educational improvement trust money.

Gibbons objected to suggestions he hasn’t been as involved in dealing with lawmakers as he should.

“I’ve been in touch with every one of these legislative leaders – daily,” he said.

Pressed on his ideas for the additional $250 million in cuts recommended by the Economic Forum Friday, Gibbons pointed to the 4 percent pay raises for teachers and state employees scheduled for July 1 saying that would save more than $130 million a year.

But he refused to say whether he supports taking back the pay raises: “That’s a decision the Legislature is going to have to make.”

He repeated his opposition to the idea of any tax or fee increase to cover part of the difference.

He said the suggestion by MGM Mirage CEO Terry Lanni the state increase the Modified Business Tax would hurt small businesses.

And he rejected Chancellor Jim Rogers’ arguments further cuts would devastate important programs like the higher-education Health Sciences Center.

“I would say to Mr. Rogers that, unfortunately, the economy of the state of Nevada did not generate enough revenue to support all these wonderful programs,” Gibbons said.

He said where to cut at the universities is up to the chancellor and Board of Regents, not him.

“I’m just the individual who says ‘This is your slice of the pie,'” he said.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.