CARSON CITY — U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., urged Nevada lawmakers on Monday to figure a way around the $2 billion-plus revenue shortfall faced by the state and fund public education and social services for children adequately.
Berkley also told senators and Assembly members that though some might think benefits exist for the state if the federal government could open a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain, "Yucca Mountain is dead."
She pressed lawmakers to fund education adequately: "I know you are faced with a huge budget hole in our state … but I implore you to do whatever you can."
Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons’ plan for higher education funding includes cuts of about 50 percent for the state’s two universities.
Gibbons also proposed an enrollment cap of 25,000 children in Nevada Check Up, a program that provides health insurance to about 23,000 low-income children, but Berkley said the cap should be lifted to allow for up to 37,000 more children.
"I can’t imagine not doing that," Berkley said, noting that about 70,000 Nevada children are eligible for the program.
Regarding the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project, Berkley said, "For those that keep talking about an amazing payday from the federal government, I invite you — when you’re not looking at your budget — to look at the federal budget’s red ink. There is no money."
Berkley also said she has worked hard to overcome "devastating consequences" for Las Vegas following criticism of travel practices by companies that have received federal bailout funds. She said that more than 300 conventions scheduled in Las Vegas have been canceled since the start of the year.
Because of the criticism of such events, Berkley said, "Las Vegas became the target of every politician who had an ax to grind."