Gov. Guinn briefs Gibbons on budget | NevadaAppeal.com

Gov. Guinn briefs Gibbons on budget

Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., emerged from a nearly two-hour briefing on the state budget Wednesday saying he and his staff plan to ask Gov. Kenny Guinn for more meetings to get them up to speed on the state’s financial status.

Gibbons’ Democratic opponent Dina Titus took Guinn up on his offer more than a month ago.

“There’s a lot of information that has to go into formulating a budget,” said Gibbons. “We’ve just started learning the process from this side. It’s going to take a few more sessions to make sure we’re 100 percent.”

Gibbons said Guinn has “generally done a good job” and that the state has resources to meet its needs.

The budget office projects state general fund revenues will hit $7.2 billion for the coming two-year budget cycle. The statutory spending cap will only allow the governor to spend $7.06 billion of that for executive branch operations.

“Overall, the state is in good shape right now,” Gibbons said. “I think there are a lot of things, if left unattended to, that could produce some unintended consequences of unfunded liability.”

He specifically mentioned rising state employee health-care costs and the needs of the prison system, which he said should be addressed early so that fixing them doesn’t become an insurmountable burden in the future.

He said that with it’s solid economy, the state is in a position now to deal with some of those problems.

Asked whether he supports a raise beyond the 2 percent proposed by Guinn for teachers, Gibbons said, “I would love to do that. It’s something I feel very strongly about.”

First, he said, he needs a more thorough understanding of where the state’s resources and needs are.

Guinn has already said “rollups” and “maintenance” – the budget increases agencies need to cover inflation, prior commitments, growth in caseload and demands for service – will consume most of the difference between this biennium’s budget and the spending cap.

Base budgets alone, without those inflationary increases, will require more than $6.2 billion for the 2008-2009 budget cycle.

Director of Administration Andrew Clinger and his staff are still working out what the cost of growing public school enrollments, university enrollments, Medicaid, health insurance and other demands will be.

Other candidates for governor are Christopher Hansen from the Independent American Party and Craig Bergland from the Green Party.

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