Joined by Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, about 50 state workers gathered outside the Legislature on Monday to protest staffing and pay cuts in Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed budget.
The budget plan imposes a 5-percent pay cut on workers and eliminates state jobs across most executive branch agencies.
Tracy Dupree, a 17-year employee in the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said the cuts to state workers have gone on far too long.
"Ever since I started, somebody has said you've got to do more with less," he said.
Dupree said that has meant longer and longer lines to get services to people, which makes those customers waiting for services complain.
"They're waiting in line too long because there aren't enough of us."
He said it's time for political leaders to work with employees: "We want to be partners in this, not targets."
Charlie Muller, the incoming president of the state retirees covered by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the state needs to raise more revenue.
"How they go about doing that, I'm not sure I know?" he said.
Muller said 30 years ago, lawmakers and then Gov. Bob List, shifted the state from property taxes to sales and gaming taxes arguing "we'll let the tourists pay our bills." He said that model isn't working anymore and has to change.
"We need to change the tax base," Muller said.
Horsford made a similar comment in his remarks saying Nevada must update "our 1950s tax code to fit today's economy."
He said slashing the budget isn't the answers.
"We need real solutions that address long term problems," he said.
Mike Cannon, a human services worker who flew up from Las Vegas to attend, said he is concerned with the diminishing services his agency is able to provide to the intellectually disabled.
"I feel they deserve better than what they're getting right now," he said. "In the last five years, I've seen a slow and steady decay in the amount of money available for services."
Those services, he said, include such basics as food and clothing.
He added that there are some 300 of the intellectually disabled waiting for training that would put most of them to work contributing to their own welfare and the economy.
Danny Thompson, a former Assembly member now head of the Nevada AFL-CIO, told the crowd that for the past two sessions "the state's problem was solved on your backs."
"You can't balance this budget under terms of the constitution without more revenue," he said. "We don't have a spending problem. The budget has been cut to the bone. We have a revenue problem."
Dale Erquiaga, senior policy adviser to Sandoval, said some parts of the budget plan should be popular with state workers, including the fact that K-12 and Higher Education were asked to take the same 5 percent pay cuts as state workers. He pointed out that reduction is "a fraction larger" than the 4.6 percent furlough cuts state workers already have.
"You can't ask state employees to take it all," he said.
But he emphasized that Sandoval is standing firm on his pledge not to raise taxes.