Stimulus fund estimate uncertain | NevadaAppeal.com

Stimulus fund estimate uncertain

BRENDAN RILEY
Associated Press Writer

Nevada got an estimate of nearly $1.5 billion as its cut of federal stimulus funds, but Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley said Monday that only a third of that might help to lower a big state general fund shortfall.

Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said legislative staffers spent the weekend analyzing the stimulus bill passed by Congress, and continue to work on figuring out exactly what the measure, more than 600 pages long, means to Nevada.

For now, Buckley said it looks like about $400 million of the total will come to the state in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, or FMAP, funds. Medicaid programs are in line for most of the FMAP money, although other human services programs also will benefit.

Since Gov. Jim Gibbons already has built in about $150 million of the FMAP money into his budget, Buckley said the net to the state general fund in new funds is about $250 million.

Buckley also said Nevada should get about $395 million in state stabilization funds, which could be used for education. However, she said the state may have to match that with funds equal to about two-thirds of the stabilization total, so the net amount from the federal government may be only $130 million for the state’s general fund.

When those two sources of money for the general fund are combined, the total is less than $500 million, Buckley said. The other $1 billion in stimulus funds still comes to the state, but she said they don’t help with a general fund shortfall estimated at anywhere from $1.6 billion to nearly $2.4 billion.

“No matter what you assume, whether it’s $2.4 billion or any other shortfall number, it appears the stimulus package will be valued at less than $500 million to assist us with our (general fund) shortfall,” Buckley said.

“I don’t mean to say that all the other money is not helpful,” she added. “It’s extraordinarily helpful.”

Also included in the federal total is just over $200 million for “shovel-ready” highway construction projects, mainly in the Las Vegas and Reno areas, Nevada’s population centers. Various projects that could get some of that money have a combined total cost of several hundred million dollars.

Besides the FMAP, stabilization and highway funds, the money for Nevada includes millions of additional dollars for renewable energy programs, special education, vocational rehabilitation, water quality and mass transit programs, and grants for dislocated workers.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is expected to talk more about the stimulus bill when he addresses the Nevada Legislature on Wednesday.