Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

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October 16, 2012
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Nevada departments seek $6.46 billion

The budget requests submitted by state agencies on Monday come to just about the same total as the current budget, balanced by continuing several revenue shifts imposed during the last two biennia, including the cuts to employee pay.

Director of Administration Jeff Mohlenkamp said Monday the total General Fund request by state agencies comes to $6.46 billion for the next two years.

While that is $279 million more than the $6.2 billion 2011-2013 budget, he said when caseload increases - primarily in Medicaid - inflation, and other things the state doesn't control are deducted, the total requested is just about the same.

"We've done through agency request exactly what we wanted to, and that is to create a flat budget," he said.

Health and Human Services accounts for $151 million of that increase with Medicaid alone making up $104 million in added state money. The Medicaid caseload is projected to grow to 334,000 by the end of the 2014-2015 budget cycle pushing the total budget for that program to just over $4 billion.

Another $18.1 million pays for the projected increase in public school enrollments and $886,000 for an expected increase in the prison population. Early Intervention services needs $27 million more, and the Division of Child and Family Services $11 more to handle caseload. Mental Health has an increase, but less than $1 million.

The rest is spread throughout the budget in smaller amounts.

Total requests from state, federal and other revenue sources come to just less than $19 billion, a $900 million increase from current spending, two-thirds of which is federal money.

One element not included in the agency requests is the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Mohlenkamp said the governor is holding off making that decision until the state gets further guidance from the federal government - specifically whether the state can better control who becomes eligible for services or must take the expansion all or nothing. The projected cost of opting in, he said, is $86.6 million.

In addition to the state worker pay cuts, the budget plan continues the Local School Support Tax portion of the sales tax at 2.6 percent instead of letting it sunset back to 2.25 percent. That generates an estimated $325 million over the two-year budget cycle.

"Those monies go directly into the (K-12 budget)," he said. "If the Distributive School Account doesn't get those funds, the General Fund has to make it up."

It keeps the room tax generated by Initiative Petition 1 coming to the General Fund instead of going to K-12 schools, saving another $303 million and continues the prepayment of the Net Proceeds of Mines tax for $35 million more.

Like the sales tax, the law requires the state to make up the mines money if schools don't get it directly.

While Mohlenkamp said the governor still is hoping to restore employee pay cuts, he said that will depend on revenue projections from the Economic Forum in December. Until then, he said Gov. Brian Sandoval has ordered agencies to submit budgets based on very conservative revenue estimates. Mohlenkamp declined to say how pessimistic those projections are at this point.

He said the governor's instructions were to make sure the budget is in line with revenue projections and "not build unrealistic hopes in employees."

"We first have to deal with what's required of us," Mohlenkamp said.

Mohlenkamp offered one piece of good news: State library employees - arguably the hardest hit agency since staff hours were chopped to 32 a week - will be restored to full 40-hour schedules.

The 2.5 percent state pay cuts and six unpaid furlough days a year would continue along with suspension of merit pay, step increases and longevity pay. Altogether, those hits to state workers save the state $160 million.

Combined, all those actions save the state about $823 million.

Agency requests are the first portion of the budget cycle. Now the governor's office and budget division must go through them to develop the governor's recommended budget, which is presented to the Legislature in the State of the State address.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Oct 16, 2012 12:55PM Published Oct 16, 2012 12:45PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.