Gov. Gibbons calls Economic Forum to help with budget |

Gov. Gibbons calls Economic Forum to help with budget

Nevada Appeal file photoGov. Jim Gibbons

Gov. Jim Gibbons on Tuesday ordered a special meeting of the Economic Forum to help resolve the state’s ongoing budget crisis. He signed an executive order calling on the forum to provide him with a revised economic forecast by Jan. 19.

The forum is a body of outside financial experts formed to project state revenues. Its projections made at the end of even-numbered years are binding on the governor and lawmakers in building the state budget.

However, the forum’s May projections have proved too optimistic as the state slid deeper into recession, falling millions short in just the first quarter of fiscal 2010.

“Preliminary indications show Nevada has spent in excess of $50 million more than it has taken in in just the first three months of the fiscal year,” Gibbons said.

Since this meeting of the forum is a special meeting, its recommendations would be advisory rather than binding.

Gibbons said the forum’s input will be added to that of the state’s agencies, university system and schools to decide how much must be cut from the budget to balance it.

He said agencies have been asked to tell him how they would meet both 1.4 and 3 percent budget cuts by Dec. 15.

He said if those agencies tell him they can’t make those reductions, then everything from expanded furloughs to salary reductions and layoffs are on the table.

“We want to consider everything,” he said.

Gibbons said there will be no special session before Jan. 19 in any event and whether he eventually calls lawmakers back depends in part on what authority he has to make budget cuts.

“We will make a decision at that time whether we need legislative approval,” he said. “We don’t really want to call a legislative session.”

The goal, he said, is to reduce government spending, “while preserving as many state jobs and services as possible and putting Nevada’s economy back on the road to recovery and prosperity,” Gibbons said.

But Gibbons said there will be a special session of the Legislature before June 1 in any event because the law prohibiting any tie between student performance and teacher evaluations must be repealed in order for the state to qualify for Race to the Top grant money from the federal government. Those grants could mean up to $175 million to Nevada’s public schools.

“If there’s no budget special legislature, I will call one just for that law,” he said.

In order to have full membership for the meeting of the Economic Forum, Gibbons said he has asked the Wynn Resorts, Ltd., for the services of Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Matthew Maddox, 34. He would replace Kathy Santoro, who resigned after she moved to Arkansas.