State agencies keep budget requests flat

CARSON CITY - Talk about a modest budget. State agencies requested a net increase of only $37 million - on a total budget of $6.46 billion - for the upcoming two-year period, a report released Monday shows.

Because state taxes are not expected to grow much in the 2013-15 period, Gov. Brian Sandoval requested state agencies propose increases in budgets only if the population they serve grows. In the past, state agency requests have been double the available funding.

"I am pleased with the requests," state Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp said. "By setting a cap, state agencies came in right where they were before. We don't have a myriad of requests that cannot be funded (next year) with available revenue."

But, the administration noted, the agencies' requests are actually a $279 million increase, 4.5 percent, to the previous budget. In addition to the operating budget, more than $200 million in one-time appropriations, construction and other costs were approved in 2011.

The raw numbers released Monday mean little until the Economic Forum meets in December. The governor's proposed budget rests with the binding decision of the Economic Forum's prediction of state revenue.

The governor said state revenue and leftover funds could be at least $130 million higher than anticipated, and that money can be used in the next budget.

While Sandoval opposes new taxes, he does support extending the $600 million in sales and business taxes that were set to expire next July. Sandoval said there could be millions in additional spending required next year. He has pledged not to cut public school and higher education spending after both suffered cuts in the previous two two-year budgets.

The state spends about $5,200 a year per student, and the Budget Office does not have final projections on public school enrollment.

Sandoval added that Medicaid spending is expected to increase $198 million through normal growth over the next two years. That money, however, is part of the Department of Health and Human Services' proposed budget.

The 310,000 Nevadans enrolled in Medicaid are expected to reach 335,00 through normal growth in the next budget year. But another 70,000 people who are eligible but not enrolled are expected to sign up in the next few years to avoid penalties under the Affordable Care Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June the decision to expand the program was up to the states. Sandoval has not revealed a decision, and the state budget office did not estimate any additional Medicaid costs.

The expansion would include people with income equal to 138 percent of the poverty level - about $15,000 a year for an individual. That would add another 80,000 people to the program.

Sandoval's budget proposal will be released in late January.

Contact reporter Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.