Legislators devise budget proposal for special session


CARSON CITY -- Legislative leaders have agreed on the "framework" of a plan to handle the state's budget shortfall when they go into a special session Monday, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley said Wednesday.

But state agency spending cuts are not under consideration, said Buckley, who is not saying yet what is included in the plan.

"Some of these agencies already have had 11 percent cuts," she said. "We are determined to resist further cuts. Cuts are off the table."

Until the plan has been examined by all legislators, Buckley will not talk about their ways of dealing with a shortfall estimated at $332 million to $340 million.

Legislators will continue holding private meetings on the plan almost every night, including Sunday night in Carson City.

"We are looking at obvious things," she said.

Daniel Burns, Gov. Jim Gibbons' communications director, said he could not discuss the specifics of the plan because of an agreement the governor has with legislators.

"There is an agreement not to talk about it until everyone signs off," he said.

Gibbons plans to issue the official proclamation Friday calling for the special session. The proclamation will set a two-day session for Monday and Tuesday.

But Buckley said she hopes to complete business Monday.

She said the plan includes securing a $160 million line of credit from the Local Government Investment Pool.

That is money from Nevada cities, counties and schools the state treasurer invests on their behalf.

If finances improve, then state government might not have to borrow money using the line of credit, Buckley said.

The plan will not include a proposal to cut spending by some agencies by 1.5 percent for the remainder of the fiscal year, she said.

Gibbons said the cuts were under consideration last week after a meeting with legislative leaders.

When he made that statement, Gibbons said that education, health and human services, public safety and corrections spending would not be affected by the cuts.

But more than 90 percent of state revenue goes to these agencies.

Buckley said to cut spending by the Department of Taxation and Gaming Control Board would be foolish because their duties include collecting taxes for the state.

She said the Parole and Probation Division, the Corrections Department and other agencies already have lost 20 percent of their staffs because of a hiring freeze.

"We don't want to jeopardize public safety," Buckley said.

In his proclamation, Gibbons will spell out in some detail where he wants legislators to make changes needed to balance the budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30, Burns said.

Governors call and set the agenda of special sessions.

Burns said too many people are under the false impression that what happens at the special session will solve all of the state government's budget problems.

He said the special session will deal only with the $332 million to $340 million shortfall during the current fiscal year.

Besides this shortfall, the Economic Forum determined Monday that state government will have only $5.65 billion to spend during the two-year budget period that starts July 1.

That is $1.2 billion less than the current budget.

The forum is a group of five business leaders who by law determine how much money state government can spend.

Because of increased school enrollment and inflation, Burns said state government needs about $8 billion in the next two-year budget to stay even with the spending program approved by the 2007 Legislature.

Legislators will not take up that deficit until the 2009 session starts Feb. 2.

"Just think how difficult the regular session will be when they have to deal with 30 percent less," Burns said.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

SENATE LEADERS FILL POSITIONS

CARSON CITY -- Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford has announced that Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, will serve as assistant majority leader during the special session next week and throughout the regular legislative session, which starts in February.

Horsford and Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, have named members to the nine Senate committees that will operate during the session.

Raggio, who had been majority leader for 10 of the past 11 sessions, lost control of the chamber when Democrats Allison Copening and Shirley Breeden defeated incumbent Republican Sens. Bob Beers and Joe Heck in the Nov. 4 election.

Democrats hold a 12-9 Senate advantage and control the chamber for the first time since 1991.

Horsford named Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, as Senate president pro tempore; Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, as majority whip; and John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, as assistant majority whip.

Raggio named Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, as assistant minority leader and Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, as minority whip.

Committee members include the following:

Finance: Horsford, D-Las Vegas, and Bernice Mathews, D-Reno, co-chairs; Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson; Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas; Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, and Raggio.

Transportation, Energy and Infrastructure: Schneider, chairman; Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, vice chair; Breeden, D-Henderson; Randolph Townsend, R-Reno; Lee, Nolan and Cegavske.

Commerce and Labor: Carlton, chair; Schneider, vice chair; David Parks, D-Las Vegas; Copening, D-Las Vegas; Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, Hardy and Rhoads.

Government Affairs: Lee, chair; Care, vice chair; Breeden, Horsford, Mike McGinness, R-Fallon; Raggio and Townsend.

Health and Education: Wiener, chair; Woodhouse, vice chair; Breeden, Horsford, Nolan, Maurice Washington, R-Sparks; and Cegavske.

Judiciary: Care, chair; Wiener, vice chair; Parks, Copening, Amodei, McGinness and Washington.

Legislative Operations and Elections: Woodhouse, chair; Mathews, vice chair; Lee, Wiener, Cegavske, Hardy and Raggio.

Natural Resources: Parks, chair; Copening, vice chair; Coffin, Mathews, Rhoads, Nolan and Amodei.

Taxation: Coffin, chair; Care, vice chair; Schneider, Carlton, McGinness, Townsend and Washington.

By ED VOGEL/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL CAPITAL BUREAU
 

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