Special Delivery: Legislature adjourns after completing $1.2B in cuts
Appeal Capitol Bureau
The 24th special session of the Nevada Legislature adjourned after just more than 12 hours Friday, balancing the state budget by making January’s first round of reductions official and taking another $275 million out of the budget to match the latest shortfall projections.
Altogether, that reduces the budget approved by the 2007 Legislature by a total of $1.2 billion.
But the lawmakers did it without taking away the 4 percent cost-of-living raises the teachers and state workers were promised effective July 1. And they did it without taking the tobacco settlement money in trade for a one-time cash payment.
The legislation implementing the first round of cuts, the 4.5 percent reductions ordered in January, included such things as taking the $267 million Rainy Day Fund.
Those cuts were agreed upon in advance by lawmakers and the governor.
The latest round of cuts was hammered out in meetings between Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and other members of leadership along with Gov. Jim Gibbons’ staff before the session began.
And with a couple of exceptions, they stuck to the plan.
In the Assembly, things ran smoothly all day. But the Senate hit some bumps in the road.
Democrats objected to the plan to cut $47 million out of the $96 million provided to schools for textbooks, equipment and other materials. Minority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said cuts like that would cripple the ability of schools to do more than warehouse students.
Raggio countered that it was the school district superintendents who suggested that reduction as less painful than taking the raises or other reductions on the list.
In the end, that part of the package remained in place on a mostly party line vote with Democrat John Lee of Las Vegas joining Republicans to make it 12-9.
Gibbons said that was one of his disappointments as well but indicated he probably wouldn’t veto the package because of it.
In addition, the Senate killed the Assembly-approved attempt to reaffirm that complimentary meals casinos provide employees, patrons and others are taxable. Gaming lobbyists had pushed hard to win that battle, which could cost the state millions a year in sales tax revenue.
And Senators blocked the bill designed to give Medicaid and welfare programs access to the Interim Finance Committee, if tough economic times leave those programs in the red. Those programs have been barred from seeking budget enhancements for more than two decades to control their spending.
That decision cost the state an estimated $1 million a year but Human Services Director Mike Willden and Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said they could make up that amount elsewhere.
The session, called by Gibbons Thursday night, also failed to give Gibbons the legislation mandating a flat budget for the coming biennium.
He said that disappointed him because, “the reality is we do not have a positive revenue stream.”
He said projections say revenues will be lower next year than this year and that services, “absolutely are going to have to get cut.”
The session began about 10:15 a.m. and finished at 10:20 p.m.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.