Lawmakers reject governor’s Silver State Works plan | NevadaAppeal.com
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Lawmakers reject governor’s Silver State Works plan

Members of the legislative money committees on Tuesday rejected the governor’s proposed “Silver State Works” program.

The original idea was to put $10 million into a prototype project using state funding as seed money to get businesses to hire unemployed workers.

Lawmakers initially objected to the lack of controls in the plan saying a business could lay off existing workers, replacing them with Silver State Works employees. They said there also were no guarantees that, at the end of the subsidies, businesses wouldn’t just lay those workers off.

“I would submit to the committee a better use of these funds would be to put it into child care, which is preventing a lot of people from getting work,” said Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno.

The governor himself cut back the program after committee hearings on the plan, taking $8 million of the total out of Silver State Works. Leslie said she wanted to take the remaining $2 million out as well and use it to restore part of the governor’s proposed cuts to the Child Care Assistance and Development program, which helps low income families with child care services.

She moved to do just that, saying her plan is to abandon the Silver State Works program completely.

Assemblywoman April Matrolucca, D-Las Vegas, joined Leslie saying “this is how we get people back to work. We get them the tools they need and part of that is child care.”

While that makes a substantial add back to the budget, it doesn’t cover the 69 percent cut proposed by the governor, which reduced the $19 million funding this budget cycle to $5.2 million in the coming budget plan.

Staff advised lawmakers that would add less than 600 children to the total of more than 10,000 served by the program.

The joint Assembly Ways and Means, Senate Finance committee rejected the governor’s proposal to strip state funding out of the mental health courts.

Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said Carson City, Clark and Washoe counties have already served notice they would close those courts down if the state pulled its funding.

“We’ve got these amazing statistics on just how successful this program is,” Bobzien said.

Supporters and the judges who operate those courts have argued repeatedly they keep upward of 80 percent of drug addicted people referred there from going to prison, which costs the state more money.

He moved to reject the governor’s plan, adding back $3 million a year.

The committee also rejected the governor’s original plan to pull state funding out of the northern and southern Triage Centers. Those centers were created as an alternative to taking people with mental health issues to hospital emergency rooms. The Las Vegas center handled 4,245 people last year and the Reno center saw 703 patients in the first seven months of this fiscal year.

The governor proposed instead funding a non-medical transportation service that would basically transport people to the area adult mental health hospitals in the north and south. The governor’s office submitted documentation backing that change and putting the money back into the Triage Centers, for a total of $2.5 million during the biennium. That decision is actually less expensive than the medical transport plan originally put in the budget.

Lawmakers agreed with the governor’s budget amendment to restore supported living arrangements that keep some 1,300 people in the state from being institutionalized – which costs much more. The original budget plan cut $7.1 million out of that budget over the biennium, reducing the number of people served by nearly 300.

Lawmakers said that would just end up costing the state much more when those individuals were institutionalized.

Using added revenue generated from a variety of different places, the governor called for restoration of the supported living budget.

Lawmakers also added back nearly $1 million to preserve the team of psychological professionals who provide services to some of the state’s most seriously mentally ill people – those diagnosed with schizophrenia, paranoia and bipolar disorders. Without that support, Leslie said they fail to take their medicine, they just end up institutionalized or in trouble.

All those decisions will require more than $10.2 million in additional funding.

The money committees are scheduled to meet again Wednesday to finish closing the Mental Health and Disabled Services budgets.