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Raggio explains need for special session

Nevada Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said today that the state must postpone the 4 percent salary increase that state employees and teachers are scheduled to receive July 1 to avoid layoffs.

"We have to forgo the pay increase or there will be layoffs, layoffs of teachers, university employees and state employees," Raggio said. "These are tough times. In my 36 years in the Legislature, we have never had this kind of economic downturn."

He said he supports Gov. Jim Gibbons’ plan to call the Legislature into a special session Jun 23.

Raggio said he has asked legislative lawyers to draw up a bill for the special session that would postpone the 4 percent salary increases for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Eliminating the increases for state employees, teachers and university system workers would save the state $130 million.

If the economy approves, then Raggio said the pay increases could be restored when the Legislature begins its regular session in February.

But Assembly Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, said he is "dumbfounded" that Gibbons would call a special session without advance agreement of legislators from both parties.

Arberry said he opposes doing away with the pay increase and fears the five-day special session could be very contentious.

A five-day special session would cost at least $250,000, but could go higher.

Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, estimated that a one-day special session, if it dealt with only a couple of simple topics, would cost about $100,000. Most of that would be the expense of lawmaker pay, per diem and travel. Each additional day would cost about $50,000.

This estimate assumes no committee hearings with the need to staff them. If hearings at the committee level are required, then costs could go higher, he said.

Asked if lawmakers can be ready in a week, Malkiewich said: “Failure is not an option. We have 10 days to prepare. I’m glad we got the word (Friday) rather than (Monday)."

Even though she is in the midst of a campaign for Congress, state Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said she will represent her district at the special session.

“I’m not going to resign,” she said. “I can’t abandon the district when there are hard decisions to be made.”

But Titus said the call for a session is more about “politics than policy.”

“It’s another example of lack of leadership,” she said. “The governor is just going to kick the can down to someone else to solve the problem.”

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