Special Session: State workers rally to save raises, prison
Appeal City Editor
They rallied with bullhorns, yelling “Solidarity Forever,” carrying signs that read “Text the governor and tell him no,” drawing honks and hollers from motorists and passersby along Carson Street in front of the Nevada Legislature building.
It was designed to be a protest rally urging Gov. Jim Gibbons and state legislative leaders to restore a 4 percent cost-of-living increase due state workers on July 1.
On Friday, as the first day of the legislative special session broke for lunch, state workers did the same, spending the hour knowing that their 4 percent cost-of-living increases would be granted July 1, but wondering if they’d be out in front of state buildings asking for the same things this time next year.
Kevin Ranff, who works at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center, said the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4041, which represents state employees, fought hard to keep the so-called cost-of-living adjustment in the budget plans from the beginning.
Ranff and dozens of colleagues rallied as legislators also worked to temporarily suspend plans to close Nevada State Prison, which was cited for closure by prisons director Howard Skolnik just last week.
“We can’t be sending all of our prisons down south,” Ranff said. “Are we going to have two strips – the prison Strip and the Las Vegas Strip?”
Ranff said the state needs alternative revenue streams to keep the state fiscally sound.
“We’re tired of having their budget balanced on the backs of state workers, and we’re asking for new revenues to do that.”
Fran McGregor, a middle-school teacher in Washoe County, said she’s happy that raises were granted, but she and other teachers worry that the money for those raises will be taken from classroom budgets.
“I don’t trust the governor and anything he says,” she said. “The contracts are signed, but if they take away from the programs, that’s a problem.”
McGregor joined a circle of state employees toting signs reading “Gibbons: Sheriff of Nottingham,” and “It’s Not a Raise if You’re Still Sinking.”
Carson City School District special-education teacher Travis Lee said two of his six colleagues’ positions were cut for next year, and he worries that the cost-of-living increases might have to go to pay for programs lost.
Shannon Moyle, a case worker at Northern Nevada Correctional Center, said she was glad to hear a proposal to close Nevada State Prison was off the table, for now.
“You close one prison, you affect us all,” she said. “This is an excellent decision.”
She said the decision keeps people in their homes and keeps them working in Carson City.
Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, and state workers helped convince her that closing Nevada State Prison would be a bad idea.
To that end, Buckley said she and her colleagues would work to set up a hotline where state workers could offer solutions to save money during times like these.
• Contact reporter David Mirhadi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1261.