CARSON CITY — Gov. Jim Gibbons and state lawmakers took steps today to prepare for a probable special session of the Legislature to deal with a $60 million revenue decline and change the law to qualify the state for a possible $175 million education grant.
Also today, Gibbons directed all state departments, the public schools and the higher education system to prepare lists to show how they would reduce spending by 1.4 percent and another by 3 percent if needed because of declining tax revenue. Such across-the-board cuts would reduce state spending by $70 million to $150 million over the next year and a half.
Tax revenue was down about $60 million from projections in the July through September quarter, but Gibbons has not tapped into a $160 million line of credit authorized by the Legislature.
The governor also announced that he will replace Cathy Santoro, a member of the state Economic Forum, the group that determines how much revenue is available for state government to spend. Santoro has moved out of the state and the governor needs to replace her before requesting the forum meet and make a new forecast.
Before calling a special session last year, Gibbons also convened the Economic Forum.
“The governor is being prudent,” said Daniel Burns, his communications director. “This is the same thing that happens at kitchen tables across the state. You look at your spending, what can you reduce and what to you expect to make in the future.”
Legislators announced they will hold special committee meetings Dec. 11 and Dec. 17 to prepare language that would repeal a 2003 law that prevents the state from applying for Race to the Top education grants from the U.S. Department of Education. There is a Jan. 19 deadline for applying for a grant.
“It is our moral responsibility to do what is best for Nevada’s schoolchildren,” said state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, chairwoman of the Interim Committee on Education. “The federal government is offering Nevada $175 million and our schools, and our students, could use that money for new buildings, new books and new supplies to make their learning experience better.”
But Stacy Woodbury, Gibbons’ deputy chief of staff, said there is not enough time left to apply for the grant even if the Legislature goes into a special session before Jan. 19.
Only a handful of states will qualify for the first round of grants from the U.S. Department of Education, Woodbury said.
But she said legislators could change the law and qualify the state for the second phase of Race to the Top applications, which are due June 10.
To make Nevada eligible for a grant, legislators must repeal a law that bans using student test scores for purposes of evaluating teachers.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.