Acting in effect as his own executioner, Director Mike Fischer on Wednesday laid out the proposed budget that would dismantle his Cultural Affairs Department, including elimination of the director's office.
The plan doesn't eliminate any of the Cultural Affairs divisions. But it breaks up the department, sending Libraries and Archives to Administration, Museums and History and the Arts Council to the Commission on Tourism, and the State Historic Preservation Office to Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Breaking up Cultural Affairs saves just $670,000 this coming two-year budget cycle but an estimated $6.4 million in future years.
Fischer told the joint Senate and Assembly finance committees the plan "moves the divisions to where they can be better funded."
It avoids shutting down any of Nevada's seven museums, unlike the original proposal by outgoing Gov. Jim Gibbons, which closed four of them. But it doesn't open the new and nearly completed $50 million Springs Preserve Museum in Las Vegas.
Fischer said that would require added staff the state can't afford.
Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, questioned the proposed closure of the state's Imaging and Preservation Service, which microfilms important state records for posterity.
Fischer agreed that is a problem, saying that office makes permanent records of everything from historic documents to payroll records, newspapers and other printed matter that must be kept long-term.
"Proper record keeping is the state's best protection in litigation," he said.
Assemblywoman April Mastroluca and Sen. Moe Denis, both D-Las Vegas, objected to the dramatic reduction in bookmobile funding. Again, Fischer agreed the cuts will further limit library services to under-served rural Nevada.
Denis added that the budget for adding to library collections around the state was chopped back 63 percent.
"We're talking about kids being able to read by third grade and the library funding is zeroed out," he said.
"I am concerned about this particular budget reduction," said Assembly Ways and Means Chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks. "We're diluting the significance of culture and cultural affairs in our state."