CARSON CITY — In its final report, the SAGE Commission calls for state government to trade off the high-cost Ely State Prison and Lovelock Correctional Center to a private firm that would build new prisons for the state near Reno and Las Vegas.
The Saving and Government Efficiency Commission offered 44 recommendations to save Nevada money in the final report.
Most of the recommendations already have been considered by the Legislature, but a handful, including the prison closure proposals, are new.
The bipartisan commission, created by Gov. Jim Gibbons in June 2008, has met monthly and developed recommendations considered by the governor and the Legislature.
"I am very pleased with our work," panel Chairman Bruce James, a former U.S. printer, said Thursday. "Government works incrementally. Making big changes is tough to do overnight. The Legislature is going to be hard-pressed to save money in coming years. We think we have made recommendations that they will have to consider."
During the 2009 Legislature, lawmakers approved changes to the state retirement and health care systems along the lines proposed by the SAGE Commission, saving the state more than $100 million. About half of its early recommendations were approved during the session.
Former Assemblyman David Goldwater, D-Las Vegas, a commission member, echoed James’ view that the commission was productive. He said Democrats and Republicans agreed on almost every recommendation.
"A lot of our recommendations were common sense," he said. "But citizens should be confident that we found there isn’t any gigantic waste in state spending. The state isn’t buying $900 hammers. We didn’t find any horrible inefficiencies that could cure the state’s budget ills."
As far as trading rural prisons for ones in urban areas, Goldwater said, governors and legislators in the past looked at constructing prisons in rural areas as a way to bolster their economies.
"But it costs the state extra money to have rural prisons," Goldwater said.
In its report, the commission found Ely and Lovelock have higher operational costs and at times cannot find needed employees. Inadequate hospitals exist in the two communities, and offenders are far from courts that handle their appeals.
Other recommendations include:
• The state’s information technology department should come up with a common system for state e-mail and Web sites.
• The Nevada Department of Transportation should consider closing some highway maintenance stations and outsourcing some maintenance responsibilities.
Gibbons praised the commission, and added, "Just as SAGE commissioners did in their work, we hope our elected officials can now set aside their partisan differences to put the public’s interest first."
James said commissioners could have continued to meet monthly through June but believed they had completed their task so they decided to submit the final report early.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.SAGE reports