Sandoval hopeful to restore state worker cuts
Gov. Brian Sandoval said Tuesday he hasn’t given up on reversing the pay cuts suffered by state workers over the past two legislative sessions.“I’m still hopeful we can restore some of the salary reductions,” he said after Tuesday’s Board of Examiners meeting.He said the reason he directed the budget division to tell state agencies to continue those cuts in their 2014-2015 budgets is the rising costs the state can’t control.He blamed particularly Medicaid enrollment, which has continued to increase despite the slow recovery of the economy. Sandoval also pointed to higher costs he said will come from the Affordable Care Act.He said while he issued statements saying he wants to restore state workers, “there was no promise or pledge.”“It’s always been subject to what’s going on in the Health and Human Services budget,” he said.More people currently eligible are signing up for Medicaid because in part of the mandate that people get health insurance. In addition, there is the expansion of Medicaid in the ACA that makes more people eligible for services.Some experts have argued expanding services could reduce overall costs by cutting the number of emergency room visits and catching medical problems earlier. Sandoval said he has asked the agency to build the Medicaid budget both with and without the expansion elements and that a final decision will be made after the Economic Forum projects revenues — just as it will with state worker pay cuts.He said his budget staff is now reviewing the budget requests submitted by state agencies but that that’s just one piece of the budget puzzle. He said the needs of K-12 education must still be finalized and there is also the revenue side that must be determined by the Economic Forum in early December. Until revenue projections are completed and education needs are done, he said he won’t know what can be done for the employees.Restoring state worker pay cuts would cost about $200 million over the coming biennium. Restoring the 2.5 percent pay cut and eliminating six unpaid furlough days each year — equivalent to a 4.8 percent pay cut — would cost $120.5 million. Restoring suspended step increases and merit pay would add another $65 million and adding back longevity pay about $7.4 million.In addition, the state would have to add the cost of restoring the 2.5 percent pay cuts to the K-12 education budget, an amount that is substantial but hasn’t yet been calculated by the state’s 17 school districts.The amounts agencies have requested for the coming two years are scheduled to become public next week. But Sandoval confirmed that agencies are following the directive to keep budgets flat. Excluding K-12 funding, the General Fund cap is some $3.96 billion for the biennium.
( Nevada Appeal Capitol Bureau) —A spokesman for the union representing state workers says he wasn’t surprised Gov. Brian Sandoval ordered agencies to build their budgets without restoring cuts to state worker pay.Sandoval and his budget director said in March the governor intended to try restore the cuts state workers had suffered and the budget instructions to agencies directed them to build those increased into their proposed budgets.“When he put this thing up the flagpole, my response then was talk’s cheap,” said Keith Uriarte of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.He said he regarded it as political rhetoric since, even in March, then-Chief of Staff Heidi Gansert told reporters the final decision wouldn’t be made until December after the Economic Forum made revenue projections for the state.So he said it wasn’t a surprise when new orders went out directing agencies to continue with pay cuts in their proposed 2014-2015 budgets.“State workers are outraged they got played like that,” said Uriarte adding that many of them believed they had a commitment from the governor. He said following that with April’s proclamation recognizing the “significant contributions to the citizens of the state” by state workers and proclaiming May 6-12 Nevada State Employee Recognition Week, “was an insult.”Uriarte said the shifting statements on the pay issue he interprets as “attempting to put struggling state employees and their families against fellow Nevadans for whom state employees provide services.”He said AFSCME will wait until union officials can see the actual numbers and determine whether the state can restore those cuts.