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2017 won’t be revenue overhaul year for Nevada, Sandoval chief of staff says

CARSON CITY — The first baby-steps to developing what will be Brian Sandoval’s budget legacy as governor began Wednesday with a kickoff briefing for state agency officials on how the process will play out over the next 11 months.

Even with a new revenue plan in place that is bringing in $1.2 billion in new taxes to the current two-year general fund budget that began July 1, 2015, Sandoval Chief of Staff Mike Willden warned state administrators: “We’re not out of the woods, I want to be clear about that.”

Sandoval will present his final budget to lawmakers and the public in January 2017 in his State of the State address. The legislative session will begin Feb. 6 and run to June 5 barring any special session.

Sandoval will be involved in preparing a 2019 budget before he leaves office, but a new governor elected in 2018 will have the final say over the spending priorities.

Willden said the current budget projects about $7.3 billion in revenue. Estimates for the next two-year budget are in the $7.5 billion to $7.6 billion range but there will be budget roll-ups and other expenses that will consume much of the additional revenue, he said.

Those budget issues include Medicaid spending, which has seen tremendous growth since the health insurance program was expanded to cover new groups as a result of Obamacare, Willden said. The federal share of the program will decrease slightly as well, meaning a higher state contribution, he said.

The 2017 session “will not be a revenue overhaul session for the governor,” Willden said.

Sandoval got a major tax package approved in the 2015 session, including a new commerce tax. Efforts are underway by those opposed to the new levy to ask voters to weigh in on the tax in November.

Willden said agencies will be asked to submit proposals on how to cut spending by 5 percent just so there are options on the table if they are needed.

The actual revenue estimates will be set by the Economic Forum by December.

“I think we have probably maximized our revenue streams for the foreseeable future,” Willden said. “And we will be talking more and more about efficiencies and how we pay for the things we want to do. That we believe the taxpayers and the people we serve deserve to have.”

Dale Erquiaga, chief strategy officer for Sandoval, said the office will be releasing about two dozen budget goals to state agency officials as part of the planning process.

“The governor has already indicated, for example, that workforce development and post-secondary, that is after high school, education and training will be a major initiative of this administration,” he said.

The full strategic planning framework will be released in early April, Erquiaga said.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801

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