CARSON CITY -- The new state museum at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve has been in limbo for several years.
There was enough money to finish the $50 million building, expected to become the state's flagship museum. There just wasn't enough to pay for the exhibits.
So museum officials and supporters were looking forward to April when it could open to the public, including exhibits paid for with the help of donors.
But if Gov. Brian Sandoval has his way, it won't happen this year.
Or even next year.
Because there's just not enough money to pay the salaries of people to operate the state-of-the-art museum.
Sandoval's proposed budget calls for the museum to be mothballed for at least the next 2½ years, the victim of Nevada's declining economy.
"It is purely a money issue," said Dale Erquiaga, Sandoval's senior adviser and the former state Department of Cultural Affairs director. "There isn't enough money to run the museum."
Current Cultural Affairs Director Michael Fischer repeatedly has said the 69,000-square-foot museum will become a tourist attraction and the flagship of all state museums when it opens.
The decision on whether to open the new museum will be made by the Legislature.
But legislators' attention in pre-session budget hearings has been on proposed cuts to education. No mention has been made of the Las Vegas museum.
During the 2009 session, legislators cut cultural affairs spending by 40 percent, the largest hit on any state agency. And they have suspended a $3 million-a-year competitive grant program to repair historical buildings.
Funds to construct the Las Vegas Springs Preserve museum came from a statewide bond issue approved by voters in 2002.
What the state does not have is the money to hire additional staff to operate the new museum and move the staff from the existing state museum in Lorenzi Park to the Las Vegas Springs Preserve.
The Department of Cultural Affairs runs all six state museums, the Nevada Historical Society in Reno, the Nevada Arts Council and the State Library and Archives in Carson City.
Then-Gov. Jim Gibbons last fall proposed closing the Lost City Museum in Overton, the Historical Society, the railroad museum in Ely and the railroad museum in Carson City because of declining revenue. The Historical Society opened in 1905.
But in his proposed two-year budget, Sandoval proposes keeping all museums open, but most would operate four days a week.
The governor also wants to eliminate the Cultural Affairs Department.
All state museums would be transferred to the control of the state Commission on Tourism, led by Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki.
The state Library and Archives would be moved to the control of the Department of Administration, headed by state Budget Director Andrew Clinger.
The state Historical Preservation office would be moved to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, led by Leo Drozdoff.
Clinger said last week there is not enough money to open the State Library to the public more than the current four hours per day.
The library is often crowded with unemployed people using its computers to surf the Internet for jobs.
Erquiaga said the elimination of the Cultural Affairs Department will bring a savings in administration costs.
"It would be great if by 2014, when we celebrate our history, that all museums could be open," he added.
Nevada will observe the 150th anniversary of statehood on Oct. 31, 2014.
In his inaugural address on Jan. 3, Sandoval pledged that Nevada would return to normal by that day, less than a week before the election in which he might run for a second term.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.