Nevada Interim Finance Committee nix’s travel plans for Department of Agriculture

The Interim Finance Committee voted Wednesday to eliminate the Department of Agriculture’s proposed funding for overseas trips with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The funding was contained in an item shifting money in a number of accounts for both in-state and out-of-state travel. The items specifically asked for $5,000 for a trip to France and $4,500 for a trip to Brazil, ostensibly to sell buyers in those countries on purchasing Nevada agricultural products.

“I understand the in-state travel but I do not support out-of-state travel,” said Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, Ways and Means chairwoman.

She was joined by Assemblyman Andy Eisen, D-Las Vegas, who agreed describing the out-of-state trips as “a whole other ballgame.”

Several other lawmakers also weighed in on opposing the Brazil and France trips. Agriculture Director Jim Barbee said he could give up those trips but he needed more funding for the rest of the fiscal year for in-state travel that wasn’t budgeted in the 2013 Legislature.

The panel also levied sharp criticism for the department’s decision to sign a five-year lease for Carson City offices.

“The money wasn’t in your budget when you signed the lease,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.

“I would agree with that,” said Barbee, adding it would never happen again.

Assemblyman Rancy Kirner, R-Reno, said even after seeing the department didn’t have the money, “you went out and signed a lease anyway.”

After negotiations with staff, Agriculture officials cut back their in-state travel request as well to deduct some $5,000 from the $18,000 addition originally requested and lawmakers approved the transfers.

In addition, the board approved a $1.37 million budget for the Nuclear Projects agency for what Administrator Bob Halstead said is hoped to be the final battle to stop Yucca Mountain from becoming the nation’s nuclear waste dump.


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