Counties fight unfunded mandates | RecordCourier.com

Counties fight unfunded mandates

by Susie Vasquez

The Nevada Association of Counties filed an initiative petition Thursday designed to constitutionally ban unfunded mandates.

“The Legislature forces the expenditure of county funds to cover the Legislature’s spending habits. They get the credit, we get the bill,” said association president Norman Frey. “The property tax cap legislation (AB 489) cut state and local government revenue, and there is nothing to prevent the state from offsetting their lost revenue by shifting service requirements to local governments.”

The mandates are regulations imposed by federal or state governments on lower levels of government without providing the needed funding.

County Manager Dan Holler said the new statewide voter registration system could end up being very costly for Douglas County taxpayers.

County officials don’t know how much the administration of a new state-mandated medical billing program will cost.

“Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, ran it through the Legislature. She didn’t care if it affected us or not,” Holler said of the assemblywoman. “It could have a substantial impact on our operations and we might have to hire another employee.”

The program should start in July.

Nevada has a statute prohibiting unfunded mandates with a cost greater than $5,000, but new laws are routinely exempted. Nevada law also requires analysis of legislation determined to have a fiscal impact on local governments, but this process has not been reliable when the proposed legislation is complex or substantially amended late in the legislative process.

Douglas County commissioner Jim Baushke said this initiative should work because it is a constitutional amendment.

“The other provision doesn’t have any teeth to it,” he said.

An initiative petition is introduced to the general court for approval after enough signatures have been collected to support the issue. If approved, the proposed constitutional amendment will be submitted to the people for a vote during the November election.

The measure is not a cure-all.

The proposed initiative would not impact unfunded mandates imposed by the federal government, Baushke said.

n Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.