Our Opinion: Session reaffirms need for budget reform
The 2009 Nevada Legislature, mercifully, ended on time Monday after a session notable for some of the most acrimonious carping ever between lawmakers and a governor.
The final moments were marred by confusion over failure to follow the proper protocol to end the session. Earlier in the day tempers flared to the point where Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, was accused of swatting the hand of Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, after a disagreement on a bill.
Gov. Gibbons on Tuesday blamed a toxic environment fomented by Democratic leadership with the nearly complete lack of cooperation between the governor and lawmakers on budget issues.
The Democratic leadership blamed the governor for handing them an impossible budget then refusing to work together to prevent catastrophic cuts to health services, education and state worker benefits.
Senate Majority Leader Stephen Horsford, D-Las Vegas, showed his inexperience with a few missteps, including sending the sergeant at arms out to round up senators for a late night vote.
Early in the session, Chancellor Jim Rogers fired off a scathing editorial opinion about the governor, who responded by shutting down all communication with him over higher education funding.
But, in the end, the job got done, and with an outcome that, while not ideal, could have been worse.
Current state employees’ benefits are intact, and the 4.6 percent pay cut will sting less than the governor’s proposed 6 percent.
The domestic partners bill, which did not establish gay marriage but did provide equal protection for partners gay and straight, passed after legislators overrode the governor’s veto.
The higher education budget was cut, but not so deeply that schools can’t manage the reductions.
Now, out of the limelight and without a looming deadline to add pressure, an interim committee will sit down and try to work out a way to prevent another budgetary fiasco in two years, when the state won’t have federal stimulus money to fill in the gaps.
This session should put to rest any doubts that Nevada desperately needs a new way to run its fiscal house. Our state’s future depends on the lessons learned from the 2009 session.