Guinn will keep promise for teachers | NevadaAppeal.com

Guinn will keep promise for teachers

Gov. Kenny Guinn says whether or not the state budget will support additional 2 percent raises for teachers this year, he will keep his promise to put it in his next budget.

Guinn said he will add the necessary $34 million-$36 million to give teachers a raise July 1, 2003, despite the state’s economic problems this year.

The governor included 2 percent for teachers this year and tied another 2 percent raise to a “trigger” if state revenues came in high enough to afford it.

But the estimates the Board of Examiners will certify later this month will be far below the amount needed to trigger those pay raises. Under the legislation, the state’s ending fund balance June 31 would have to be at least $154 million. State Budget Director Perry Comeaux has said it’s highly doubtful that amount will reach $120 million.

Guinn said, however, he will keep his promise to put the money into his next budget even though he has ordered cuts in most other departments. He said the money will be built into the base of his proposed budget to the next Legislature with teachers getting 2 percent more effective July 1, 2003.

The technical advisory committee reduced estimated state revenues for this year after receiving staff reports that actual revenues will fall $86.4 million below the estimates used to build the 2002 budget. Comeaux said under the law establishing the trigger for teachers, that means the Board of Examiners must cancel the raise at least for this summer.

Comeaux said the budget will be reviewed again in the fall to see if there is enough money for teacher pay raises but that he doubts the state economy will improve that much by then.

The primary causes of the shortfall center on Nevada’s tourism economy which was below expectations even before Sept. 11. After the terrorist attacks, the number of visitors to the state dropped dramatically. Analysts now estimate gaming revenues will finish this fiscal year 3.8 percent below last year’s totals — some $41.4 million less than forecast.

For much the same reason, sales tax revenues are expected to finish the fiscal year $22.7 million below forecasts used to build the budget.

The rest of the total shortfall is in reduced revenues in every area from business licenses to cigarettes, mining and casino entertainment taxes.