Sandoval to lay out budget in address tonight | RecordCourier.com

Sandoval to lay out budget in address tonight

by Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

Tonight Gov. Brian Sandoval will lay out an austere budget plan he said contains no tax increases and doesn’t even continue the taxes raised by the 2009 and 26th special legislative sessions.

He has repeatedly said his focus isn’t on existing spending but on the amount the Economic Forum projected for the state general fund over the coming biennium – $5.334 billion.

That is $3 billion less than the current budget. It’s also $3 billion less than the $8.3 billion state agencies requested to maintain current services.

“You’re going to see a different approach,” he told reporters last week.

Sandoval has been tight-lipped about most of the cuts and other changes he will propose, but a few tidbits have been released, including that all state workers will take a 5 percent pay reduction in place of the day-a-month furloughs they now face. That pay cut will save the state budget an estimated $591.5 million over the biennium.

He said this week his budget restores some of the programs reduced or eliminated by his predecessor Jim Gibbons including the funding for personal care attendants who enable severely disabled people to remain out of institutions and in their own homes.

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“We’re looking at where services are most appropriately provided,” Sandoval said, adding that consolidating agencies “will result in the elimination of some positions.”

He also confirmed that the Department of Cultural Affairs will be broken up – but said that will enable him to save its various programs.

Cultural Affairs is far from the only agency being reduced, reorganized or consolidated into another agency. Sandoval has kept that list confidential but it is expected to involve as many as a dozen departments.

In addition, some state responsibilities are expected to shift to local governments in Sandoval’s plan, reducing state costs but increasing local government costs.

Monday’s State of the State address is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers but will be broadcast statewide on television and via the Internet.

It is the first chance lawmakers and the public have to see what the new governor is recommending since, by statute, the governor’s recommended budget is confidential until the address.

In it, Sandoval will not only highlight major changes in state agencies and the high points of his proposed budget, but other initiatives he plans during the coming two years.

The address kicks off a series of budget hearings that will prepare the money committees for the start of the 2011 Legislature on Feb. 7. The first hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and will feature an overview of the budget by Director of Administration Andrew Clinger and a discussion of the proposed Capital Improvement Projects budget.

Wednesday moves into the largest budget category in state government – spending on K-12 education, which accounts for 37 percent of the General Fund in the current budget. That will be followed by the budget’s second largest category, Health and Human Services budgets, beginning with Medicaid, where the state is facing a shortfall of more than $200 million because of the increase in caseload during the recession and decrease in federal matching funds caused by the end of the stimulus program.

The budget for the Nevada System of Higher Education will be presented to the money committees Thursday. The university system and Board of Regents chose not to participate in the cuts recommended by the governor’s office, saying instead they would live within the funding they receive and decide how best to do that after getting the appropriation.

Also on Thursday, lawmakers will be briefed on budgets for the Welfare and Health Divisions.

The budget committee will take a break until the following Tuesday, Feb. 1, before resuming their briefings. They will close out Feb. 3 with a discussion of the judicial branch budgets. The courts have declined to include such reductions as the state employee furloughs, arguing money equal to those reductions was taken out of their appropriation by the 2009 Legislature so they have already complied with that cut.

The briefings are designed to give lawmakers and the public a solid overview of the proposed budget in time for the start of the 2011 Legislature Feb. 7.