State workers protest cuts, call for fairness
As lawmakers met inside the Legislature to try to hammer out solutions to the state’s budget crisis, state workers paraded up and down the sidewalk in front of the building carrying placards and shouting, “They say cut back, we say give back!”
Aldo Vennettilli, area field services director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, said a couple of hundred people turned out for the rally, showing up mainly on their lunch hours to let Gov. Jim Gibbons and legislators know that they’ve had enough.
Ron Brady, a retired state worker, said he came out because he doesn’t like what the governor is doing.
“His budget is unrealistic and so are a lot of his ideas. He will have to raise taxes as long as it is done in a professional manner,” Brady said. “My son is a state employee. He works for the prison and it doesn’t make sense that they want to build a new prison when they want to close the old one.”
Lisa DeHart, who works in the state’s welfare department said the measures taken so far have hurt everyone.
“For one thing, the economy is so bad already, and cutting a couple hundred dollars a month with furloughs, while health insurance has doubled is hurting us,” she said.
“Where I work, there were seven of us in the lunch room, and of those seven, two people have had to move into smaller apartments, two have lost their homes, and another one went bankrupt,” DeHart said.
She offered a few different solutions.
The zero-corporate-tax base is supposed to attract jobs, but Nevada’s unemployment rate is at like 13 percent and the national average is 9 percent. Evidently, it’s not attracting jobs,” she said.
She also said it doesn’t help that $889 million is budgeted over the next two years in private contractors which takes jobs from full-time state workers.
“We have quality control, so we make sure the money is spent efficiently for the taxpayers,” she said.
And Norman Huckle, who works at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, said Nevada needs to preserve what it already has.
“I’m here for all state workers,” he said. “We’re not bloated. I’ve been here for 25 years and we’re working more with less than ever. Everyone works their backsides off.”
Huckle also offered a couple of solutions.
“We can find revenue from the mining industry or we could ask big box companies to pay more. They seem to be getting away with murder,” he said.
“They also need to diversify the economy and get with it, dang it. We’ve been talking about this for about 30 years. We need to stop relying on gaming revenue and sales taxes,” Huckle said.
Edward Neidert, a senior corrections officer at the Nevada State Prison, who has been with the department for 29 years, said that Director Howard Skolnik has broken faith with his officers and lost credibility.
“He challenged us to find budget cuts that he could use instead of closing NSP. We rose to that challenge and came up with the idea of 84-hour shifts at straight-time pay. We crunched the numbers and determined that this would save the department 50 percent and would reduce 70 officers statewide mainly by attrition,” Neidert said. “Yesterday he broke faith with us and incorporated the percentage into the rest of his budget.”
During the special session, the 21 state senators and 42 members of the Assembly must reconcile their own evolving plans for balancing the budget with proposals for deep cuts called for by the Republican governor. They are charged with plugging a $900 million budget hole.