Guinn backs better benefits to state staff

Besides modest pay raises he'll propose for state workers, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn will support a plan to restore benefits in the health insurance program for the workers.

The Public Employees Benefit Program has recommended in its budget to restore some of the benefits that were reduced when the insurance program was in financial trouble, and the Republican governor said he'll include that suggestion in his proposed budget.

Forrest "Woody" Thorne, the program's executive director, said the recommendation is to lower the minimum deductible before policy payments kick in from $500 to $250, and to make some improvements in dental, eye and prescription drug benefits.

Thorne also said a modest increase in premiums was proposed for the estimated 55,000 individuals, including state workers, their dependents, retirees and some employees of local government covered by the plan.

While Guinn hasn't disclosed details of the pay raises he'll seek for state workers, he has listed the raises as a priority.

University violated contract policy

A legislative audit showed Nevada's state university system violated state laws and policies with no-bid contracts for costly energy-saving campus projects, but auditors aren't referring the case to prosecutors for legal action.

Chief legislative auditor Paul Townsend said Monday his office routinely sent a copy of the audit to Attorney General Brian Sandoval's office but there was no formal referral for possible prosecution because "we didn't find any evidence of fraud."

Fourteen no-bid contracts for $8.2 million worth of energy retrofit projects at the University of Nevada, Reno led to bid-rigging allegations, but Townsend said the audit, released Friday, turned up no evidence to support those claims.

Under state law, a formal referral to the attorney general, governor and all lawmakers is mandatory if auditors find evidence of "illegal transactions."

The audit states the projects didn't comply with state laws and university regent policies requiring competitive bidding - and energy savings from several projects didn't meet expectations or couldn't be verified.


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