Buckley wants to accept federal jobless pay despite governor's concerns

CARSON CITY - Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley set off another confrontation with Gov. Jim Gibbons today when she said the Assembly will introduce legislation this afternoon to require Nevada to accept federal stimulus funds for the unemployed.

Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said it would be “unconscionable” for the state to reject as much as $277 million in federal funds that would extend unemployment benefits for as long as 79 weeks for laid-off workers and provide benefits for 4,100 people who do not now qualify.

But Gibbons over the last two weeks has questioned whether Nevada should take the money since it could bind Nevada to continue paying the extended benefits even after the stimulus funds run out.

Nevada has a 9.4 percent unemployment rate and Employment Security Division officials have said they might need to secure a federal loan to continue paying benefits since the state trust fund could be exhausted by the end of the year.

“It is totally unacceptable,” Gibbons said today when informed of Buckley’s move. “The people (of Nevada) will have to pay for this change forever.”

Buckley said sections in the federal stimulus law allow state legislatures to accept stimulus funds over the objections of governors.

While noting that the Legislature eventually could review whether to keep paying funds after the stimulus money is exhausted, Gibbons questioned whether that would be permitted.

“The federal law is very clear,” he said. “By doing this, we would divest our control over unemployment to the federal government.”

But Buckley said the funds would not be exhausted for eight years and the economy will recover, more employees will be hired by companies and the program will pay for itself.

“I do not believe the governor will veto this bill,” she said. “That would be a slap in the face of every unemployed worker.”