Proposed budget in the black with revisions |

Proposed budget in the black with revisions

Associated Press
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Michael Willden, director of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, answers media questions Wednesday at the Capitol. State budget officials released a recalculation of the state budget that erases a projected revenue shortfall of nearly $137 million.

A projected revenue shortfall of nearly $137 million has been erased with a series of cuts and recalculations of Nevada’s budget needs for the coming two fiscal years, state Budget Director Andrew Clinger said Wednesday.

Now, the nearly $7 billion spending plan proposed by Gov. Jim Gibbons is slightly in the black, Clinger and other state officials said at a press briefing.

The biggest single factor in the budget revision was a reduction in the expected caseload of Medicaid recipients. Mike Willden, head of the state Health and Human Services Department, said that change alone cut the projected revenue shortfall by more than $50 million.

Other cuts and adjustments within Willden’s agency brought its total to $71.7 million in reductions. While there are cuts in some programs, including mental health services, Willden said there will be “few if any” actual reductions in services to individuals.

When legislators and Gibbons began discussing the need for cuts due to the projected shortfall, the initial concern was that two-thirds of the program “enhancements” sought by various state government agencies would have to be scrapped.

Clinger said he now estimates that only about one-third of those enhancements will have to be deleted from the spending plan.

Besides Health and Human Services, other reductions suggested by Gibbons include nearly $11 million for Nevada’s higher education system. He also suggested cutting out a $15 million one-shot appropriation for renovating part of the Shadow Lane campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Other cuts or reductions are much smaller, including about $915,000 from the state’s public safety budget, which includes Nevada prisons; about $587,000 out of the state Military Department budget; about $195,000 from the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation; and about $180,000 from the state Wildlife Department spending plan.

The budget calculations are subject to more changes once the state’s Economic Forum meets on May 1 and provides lawmakers with updated revenue projections for the coming two years. Those projections must be followed by lawmakers in producing a budget by early June.

Also, legislators can make changes in what Gibbons has suggested as they wrap up work on the proposed spending by government agencies that must be balanced against available revenues.