All 21 Senators get budget briefing

All 21 members of the Nevada Senate got a two-hour overview of the proposed state budget Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said only seven members are on the Finance Committee and that both he and Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, thought it would be important that all members get a thorough budget briefing so they understand the impacts of the budget cuts and policy decisions they will be voting on.

In a normal budget cycle, Horsford said the money committees make the budgetary decisions and the other members really don't see the package until it's finalized in the last days of a session.

He said there are going to be budget cuts and policy changes that shift responsibilities for certain functions from the state to local levels. But he said there also will be a need for revenues to balance the budget.

Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said there is agreement some of the governor's proposed cuts can't be done, even by some of the most conservative members of the Senate.

Horsford cited as an example the governor's plan to take Governmental Services tax revenue from all 17 school districts.

"In White Pine, that meant the only money they had to fix the roof, they won't have," he said.

Leslie said those revenue proposals will start to show up in the Legislature shortly. But any final package, she said, will depend on how much lawmakers need to restore to proposed spending.

"We want to know what that margin is," she said. "What the gap is."

Both objected to some of the governor's proposals saying they will just create an even bigger hole for the state to face in the 2014-2015 budget cycle. Horsford estimated that hole at $1.1 billion.

Director of Administration Andrew Clinger, however, said that estimate assumes no growth in state revenues, which he said isn't realistic.

During the Committee of the Whole floor session, Leslie told other Senators one piece of Sandoval's plan she doesn't understand is the idea of securitizing or selling off part of the insurance premium tax. That would generate a one-time payment of $190 million, but require the state to pay principal and interest totaling $216 million over a four year period.

Horsford said that's like taking a second on one's house to pay the monthly bills.

"We know what that's done to far too many of our Nevada neighbors," he said. "It put them in bankruptcy."

Several Republican senators said they wanted to hear more details on the budget amendment Sandoval's administration presented to lawmakers just 30 minutes before the floor session before making any decisions on the subject. Horsford promised there would be time for the administration to present its case and explain the changes in their budget plan.


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