Group to study stimulus spending

Gov. Jim Gibbons on Monday announced the creation of a working group of executive branch agencies to look at how to use the funds provided by the federal stimulus bill, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Stimulus Package Working Group is to include representatives from the governor's office, the state budget office, and the departments of education, transportation, higher education, public safety, health and human services, among others, according to a news release from the governor's office.

The group "will be responsible for ensuring that the various elements of the (legislation) will be implemented in a manner that will allow Nevada to take full advantage of Stimulus Package funds," according to the governor's office.

However, with the Legislature in session, action on the state budget is now in the hands of state lawmakers, not the governor, as legislative leaders noted.

"It's fine that the governor wants to convene agency heads," Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said. "We're in session, therefore how the stimulus money is allocated will be decided through the legislative process."

Legislative committees, Horsford noted, have been holding and continue to hold hearings on how to deal with the federal funds, which total about $1.5 billion in direct aid to the state. The committees will call on agency heads along with other community leaders when they want their input, he said.

"Our first priority is to make sure it (the stimulus) helps stabilize funding for education and Medicaid, and second to make sure it goes to job creation and economic recovery, as the president intended," Horsford said.

He also accused Gibbons, who has criticized Democrats for not having budget alternatives, of acting unilaterally.

The Democrats, who lead both houses of the Legislature, have announced a schedule for hearings that they say will produce a budget plan, but Gibbons and other critics say they need to be specific about the mix of spending cuts and tax hikes they will propose.

The Legislative Counsel Bureau was invited to participate in the governor's working group, but declined.

Contact reporter Molly Ball at or 702-387-2919.