Governor defends budget process
Nevada News Bureau
Gov. Brian Sandoval said Friday his administration has fully complied with a requirement in state law to provide preliminary state budget data to lawmakers and their staff.
“The agency requests have been presented to the Legislature in accordance with the law,” he said. “I don’t see any problems.”
Lawmakers on Thursday questioned state Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp on why some components of the initial agency request budget, known as “items for special consideration,” were not supplied to their fiscal staff as has been past practice. The items are funding requests beyond the agency base-budget requests for the 2013-15 spending plan. Expanding Medicaid to a new population of eligible Nevadans as allowed for under the Affordable Care Act is one such request.
Mohlenkamp said his office does not believe the special consideration items are part of the budget information required to be provided under Nevada Revised Statutes 353.211.
Sandoval said today the issue should not be characterized as one involving the transparency of his office.
“We are still gathering information on the Medicaid question,” he said. “We have not gotten all the instructions that we need from the federal government in order to completely prepare that. So anything that would be presented would not be complete at this time.”
Sandoval said his recommended budget will be made public in a “matter of weeks” and that release should satisfy lawmakers.
The budget is typically presented following the governor’s State of the State address in mid-January.
Sandoval said Friday it is unfair for anyone to suggest his administration failed to follow state law in the release of the budget data without providing any specifics about the alleged violation.
“There is no violation of law,” he said. “We’re perfectly consistent and in accordance with Nevada state law.”
Lawmakers expressed their concerns at a meeting of the Interim Finance Committee.
Rick Combs, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said the additional budget information has been provided to legislative staff historically as specified in state law. It has also been made available to the public after being transmitted to fiscal staff electronically by the state budget office on Oct. 15.
“The part that is of concern to us there is twofold,” Combs told the committee. “Your staff doesn’t have access to the information. The other concern is that information that is provided to us on Oct. 15 is supposed to be open for public dissemination at that point.”
Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes said Nevada statues, both 353.205 and 353.211, require the information to be provided to legislative fiscal staff. NRS 353.211 says in part that the information to be provided must include: “Each agency’s requested budget for the next 2 fiscal years.”
Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said at the meeting it is an ongoing issue that needs to be resolved.