Speaker wants special hearings before governor finalizes budget plan | NevadaAppeal.com

Speaker wants special hearings before governor finalizes budget plan

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, called Tuesday for a series of special meetings to review agency requests before Gov. Jim Gibbons presents his recommended budget.

Buckley said Interim Finance Committee Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, has agreed to call the special hearings for late November or early December to help lawmakers “get a head start on difficult budget decisions that must be made.”

Under state law, Legislative fiscal analysts participate in hearings with the budget office throughout the development of the governor’s proposed budget. But lawmakers themselves don’t get involved until January when the governor presents his budget at the State of the State address. That is followed by two weeks of hearings before the joint Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees to review the budget in depth ” including not only agency requests but the governor’s recommendations. Then those committees spent the entire 120 Legislative session on the budget.

Gibbons’ spokesman Ben Kieckhefer said the governor has planned all along to involve legislative leadership in the process early, but that it’s Buckley’s decision whether she thinks special hearings are necessary.

“We’ve been planning on reaching out to legislative leadership following the election to discuss these very issues,” he said. “We’re at a critical moment in state history right now and the governor feels it’s time we get together to work this stuff out cohesively.”

Buckley said that, with so much at stake, the Legislature can’t afford to wait until February to begin deliberating how to fund critical state services.

“We need to get started on this process now,” she said. “We need to have the time to take in-depth testimony from state agency heads and to thoroughly evaluate the impact of their budget recommendations on the citizens of our state.”

“It’s something we plan on doing when the election is over. Hopefully the speaker will want to participate,” said Kieckhefer. “Then there will be 10 days of joint hearings

in January once the governor makes his budget recommendations.”

– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.