Governor asks NDOT for priorities for surplus money

Gov. Kenny Guinn gave a strong hint Tuesday about his priorities for spending some of the state's revenue surplus, asking the Department of Transportation to develop a list of potential projects for some of the money.

Guinn, sitting as chairman of the transportation board, told NDOT Director Jeff Fontaine the state is likely to have up to $300 million after putting required amounts into the Rainy Day Fund and covering supplemental budget appropriations at the end of the fiscal year. He pointed out one way that money can be spent is on road projects.

"I'd like to have some priority listing from you to put into transportation," he told Fontaine.

He said he intends to do the same with the Public Works Board, the university system and prison needs in the upcoming budget cycle. University officials have already made it clear they could find uses for nearly all the money by themselves. And Guinn has said the burgeoning prison population will make expansion of one existing prison necessary along with, potentially, construction of a new prison.

Guinn said leveraging the money through bond sales could go a long way toward filling some of those needs - such as jump-starting badly needed highway projects. He pointed out the state is projecting a $3.8 billion shortfall in road construction money by 2015 and that highway construction is critically needed, especially in Clark County.

Fontaine informed him the transportation task force he appointed to look into ways of filling that shortfall is already setting out some of those priorities.

The surplus is an issue because Nevada is very likely to reach the statutory spending growth cap created 26 years ago by the end of this biennial budget cycle. The current general fund budget is just $85.3 million below that cap and most of that will be spent in supplemental appropriations needed to get the state through until June 30, 2007.

About $120 million of the surplus would, by statute, be transferred to the state's Rainy Day Fund, leaving a projected $300 million that can only be spent on a rebate, building projects or highway projects.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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