Senate joins Assembly in adding fee hikes to health budgets | NevadaAppeal.com

Senate joins Assembly in adding fee hikes to health budgets

Nevada’s Senate Finance Committee joined Assembly counterparts Monday, restoring fee increases in the Health Division budgets that Gov. Jim Gibbons cut after taking office.

The fees are in the budgets of Consumer Health Protection, Radiological Health and Hospital licensing.

Consumer Health conducts inspections of restaurants, food processors and sanitation facilities. Radiological Health inspects providers of X-ray, mammography and other such services to ensure that equipment is safe. Hospital licensing inspections examine hospitals, clinics and other health providers to ensure they are operating in a safe, sanitary manner to protect patients statewide.

Outgoing Gov. Kenny Guinn put the fee increases in the budget to cover costs of providing those inspections. Gibbons removed them, instead covering the costs with state general fund revenues.

But faced with a statutory spending cap, lawmakers are trying everything possible to free up general fund money for schools, the university system and other programs.

Assembly Ways and Means restored the fee hikes Saturday with members saying that saves general fund for other purposes and puts the cost on those businesses which benefit from the inspections.

Without comment, members of the Republican dominated Finance committee unanimously did the same Monday.

Senate Finance Chairman Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said in an earlier hearing the health and food service businesses that receive the benefits of those inspections should pay rather than effectively making all Nevadans cover the cost through the state general fund.

The Assembly committee has also restored fees in several other budgets, saving general fund money in the process. It remains to be seen if the Senate committee follows suit in those budgets.

Gibbons said after his election he opposes any tax or fee increases. He has threatened to veto legislation containing fee hikes.

These fees will be part of the legislation that implements the state budget. To block them, Gibbons would have to veto the budget.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.