CARSON CITY -- About 60 state workers and their allies rallied Monday against the 5 percent wage cuts Gov. Brian Sandoval wants to impose on them and against his proposed reductions in mental health and other programs.
"All these cuts that are being discussed are not just line items in a budget," said Tracy DuPree, a Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation employee. "These cuts have human consequences."
DuPree said state government cannot be run like a private business, cutting staff, salaries and services whenever needed.
"A business can say this population is not profitable to me," said DuPree, who noted his salary is down 10 percent, counting increases in health care costs. "We have to take anyone who comes in the door."
Bunchie Tyler, president of the Nevada Alliance on Mental Illness, said the state is going to have "another Arizona" because of cuts to mental health programs and the lack of workers to care for the mentally ill.
Her Arizona comment was a reference to the killing of six people and the wounding of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., by a suspect with a history of mental health problems.
Tyler added that recently in Reno, a mentally ill man who was off his medication "threw a rock at a child" because he thought he was teaching him how to bowl.
The rally in front of the Legislative Building was organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4041. The union, affiliated with the AFL-CIO, has 4,000 members in Nevada.
Vishnu Subramaniam, chief of staff for the union, said after the rally that public employee pay cuts should not be equated with pay reductions in the private sector.
"Public services are a little different than the private sector," Subramaniam said. "Cuts to us affect the most vulnerable, mental health, public safety, things we all need."
He said that there is not enough legislative support to pass tax increases and that the rally was meant to help draw public support to their cause.
"Revenue shouldn't be a taboo subject," Subramaniam said. "We need a stable tax system. This is not going to be done solely by the Legislature. We need the people to speak up."
AFL-CIO state Secretary-Treasurer Danny Thompson said the state's budget problems were "solved on your backs" two years ago when state workers were required to take a 4.6 percent wage cut through a requirement they take an unpaid furlough day each month. Now the governor wants them to end furloughs and simply take a 5 percent pay cut.
Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said Nevadans need to "put faces" on state employees, see them as nurses, teachers, case workers and the people who maintain buildings, not as statistics that can be dismissed.
Horsford said cuts are coming, but without new revenue he said state government would be dismantled. He called for changes to state tax codes from the 1950s so they fit today's economy.
"Slashing the budget is not reasonable or realistic," said Horsford, who said last week that the state budget is $2 billion short of the real needs of the state.
Aldo Vennettilli, area field director of Local 4041, said state employees are not "greedy," and because of the recession and a hiring freeze, they must deal with far greater caseloads.
"It's time for the politicians to fix the problem," he said.
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