Gov. Jim Gibbons to address state’s budget crisis Monday night
Gov. Jim Gibbons will address the state Monday night in a televised speech designed to tell Nevadans how serious the state’s budget crisis is.
The state is looking at an overall gap between revenues and expenses for this current budget cycle of more than $881 million and a potential gap in the next biennium of $2.4 billion.
Gibbons said the address also will lay out some of the things he believes must be done to keep spending in line with the available revenues.
In the half-hour speech, Gibbons is expected to emphasize that
20 percent cuts in general fund spending cannot be absorbed without hitting both K-12 education and university budgets.
Nearly 90 percent of public school budgets are personnel costs. At issue is school teachers’ salaries can’t be reduced unless the teachers agree to a change in contract. The alternative, according to school superintendents, is massive layoffs, larger class sizes and, possibly, a shortened school year.
The governor will again emphasize that he doesn’t intend to give lawmakers the option of raising taxes when he calls a special session – tentatively planned for the last week of February. The governor has sole power to set the agenda for any special legislative session he calls.
Gibbons said Thursday that every other agency in the state has the ability to review contracts in cases of emergency. He said his administration is looking at whether declaring an emergency would give the ability to school districts as well.
“They need that ability to adjust those contracts,” he said.
But teachers’ union president Lynn Warne rejected the idea of pay cuts during Thursday’s hearings before the Interim Finance Committee.
“The Legislature is turning its back on finding a revenue source to solve this budget crisis,” she testified. “Instead they are looking to students and educators to make more sacrifices.”
The Nevada State Education Association represents some 28,000 teachers and public school employees.
Gibbons must also address other areas of the budget, and spokesman Dan Burns said earlier in the week the governor would also spell out at least some of his proposed solutions. He has proposed serious reductions to programs that help the mentally ill, disabled and elderly as well.
The 6 p.m. speech will be followed by an address from Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, which will also be televised statewide.