Candidate for governor, Brian Sandoval, lays out budget plan | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Candidate for governor, Brian Sandoval, lays out budget plan

Geoff Dornan
Tribune Capitol Bureau

CARSON CITY, Nev. – Nevada gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval on Wednesday laid out his plan to handle the state’s budget shortfall, including temporary 4 percent pay cuts for state workers, cuts to benefits and privatizing some services.

He said the plan would result in savings of $200 million to $500 million in this biennium.

“The proposal is not easy but it’s better than raising taxes, massive layoffs or any deficit spending,” he said.

A Republican and former attorney general who resigned a U.S. district judge’s seat to run, Sandoval said raising taxes would be irresponsible.

“This plan does not raise taxes,” he said. “Instead it focuses on salary and benefit reductions, programmatic budget cuts and privatization.”

“The plan was obviously developed by someone who doesn’t know the state budget system,” said Lynn Hettrick, deputy chief of staff to Gov. Jim Gibbons, who is running for re-election in 2010.

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Sandoval said his 4 percent salary reduction would apply to state workers and all K-12 personnel. To accomplish that, he called on K-12 personnel including teachers to amend their negotiated contracts to make the cuts. Together, those cuts would save an estimated $212 million.

“Teachers are 70 percent of the payroll for the state,” he said. “They don’t have to but I’m hoping the teacher’s union would come to the table. Everyone has a shared responsibility with the massive deficit.”

Sandoval said it wouldn’t be fair to ask the 30 percent of state workers to shoulder the entire cut, which would mean up to 12 percent pay cuts for them.

Hettrick said he doubts teachers would go for that. And he said since those cuts can’t be made for the first year of the biennium, the actual savings would be a maximum of $123 million.

Another $110 million would come from implementation of the SAGE Commission recommended benefit cuts – the biggest of which is reducing the state share of premium contributions from 95 percent to 75 percent. It would also eliminate subsidies for Medicare retirees and the subsidy for all retirees leaving state service after next July.

Hettrick said that state share is 85 percent, not 95 percent, and, again, it can’t be done this year, so the total savings would only be about $28 million

Sandoval calls for privatizing prison medical services, the motor pool and buildings and grounds maintenance, purchasing, personnel and mail services to save $20 million. That assumes contractors would bid an average of 10 percent below the state’s costs.

“If it’s proven the state can do it cheaper, I don’t want to cost the taxpayers more money, but everything has to be on the table,” he said.

Hettrick countered that half the motor pool is funded by non-general fund users so that won’t save as much as Sandoval claims. He said a study two years ago of mail services showed privatizing would save just $100,000 and the previous attempt to privatize prison medical care “was a disaster.”

The final large piece of Sandoval’s proposal would strip Clark County School District of the $110 million in class size reduction money it is budgeted to get in fiscal 2011, telling them to make up the loss with funds from their capital reserve account. Other school districts would not lose class size money.

“My understanding is there is a little over $1.1 billion that sits in their capital reserve account,” Sandoval said. “Because enrollment has decreased there won’t be any new schools built for some time.”

Gibbons responded to Sandoval’s plan, saying, “His ideas lack new vision and jeopardize the future and safety of our citizens, especially our children.”

He said workable aspects of the Sandoval plan have already been included in his proposals.

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