Amounts available to states still shifting

WASHINGTON — How Nevada might benefit from the national stimulus package became clearer Thursday, though analysts cautioned that the numbers still could shift before the package reaches President Barack Obama’s desk.

Preliminary details on the $790 billion show that Nevada could get $1.46 billion, with about a third for education and a third for Medicaid and other social service programs. States are receiving about $226.2 billion total to stabilize their budgets and to fund federal programs.

“Believe it or not the numbers still are changing at this late hour,” said Marcia Howard, director of Federal Funds Information for States, a service that breaks down complex legislation for governors and state legislatures.

Gov. Jim Gibbons and legislative leaders of both parties, who are counting on federal aid to help close a projected $2 billion revenue gap, welcomed the news.

Also welcomed was the disclosure that the final version of the bill preserves Nevada’s ability to seek a waiver if it cannot otherwise qualify for millions of dollars in federal stimulus grants.

Without a waiver, Nevada leaders feared that proposed cuts in school spending would cause the state to fall below requirements to receive as much as $400 million in education grants aimed at bolstering stressed state governments.

“While states need to be held accountable for maintaining appropriate levels of funding for education programs, there must be some flexibility for states like Nevada that face unprecedented fiscal challenges,” said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev. “This waiver provision can provide that needed relief.”

With the stabilization money, an estimated $81.4 million would be made available for Nevada school programs geared to low-income students and $71.2 million for special education.

Nevada could get $450 million in additional federal funding for Medicaid. Also, estimated $210 million would go to highway and bridge repairs, while $59.6 million would be made available for transit grants.

Josh Hicks, Gibbons’ chief of staff, said the governor would propose to the Legislature that the first use of $70 million in general purpose funding be to reduce his proposed 6 percent pay cuts for state workers and educators in the K-12 and higher education systems.

White House officials said the stimulus bill, which reflects Obama’s tax cut and spending strategy to attack the recession, will create or save 34,000 jobs in Nevada over the next two years.

Beyond the $1.46 billion, up to 960,000 Nevada workers would qualify for payroll tax cuts of $400 for an individual or $800 for a married couple, White House officials said. Some 32,000 families would be eligible for a new $2,500 partially refundable tax credit for college.

“This package will mean jobs for Nevada at a time when we continue to face record unemployment levels,” said Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

Berkley and Titus have indicated they will vote for the bill. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., has not announced his vote. Heller voted against an earlier version after complaining its spending was poorly directed.

State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford and Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, both D-Las Vegas, with Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio and Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, both R-Reno, announced they will create a 10-member bipartisan subcommittee to oversee Nevada’s part of the federal recovery money.

Over the next few weeks, joint Assembly and Senate committees will oversee the selection of public works and transportation projects that could receive recovery funds.

The Senate Finance Committee and Assembly Ways and Means Committee will oversee the rest of the recovery money.

“Nevadans have a right to know where their money is spent,” Gansert said.

Horsford added: “We want these jobs to go to Nevadans who are now unemployed or underemployed, and we will report back how many jobs are created with this money,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at or 202-783-1760. Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.

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