Nevada may be forced to have another special session this summer | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Nevada may be forced to have another special session this summer

Geoff Dornan
Tribune Capitol Bureau

CARSON CITY, Nev. – State Director of Administration Andrew Clinger said Tuesday last minute amendments to legislation approved by the House of Representatives Friday will create a nearly $100 million hole in Nevada’s budget – a hole which could force a special session of the Legislature this summer.

Clinger and Lynn Hettrick, deputy chief of staff to Gov. Jim Gibbons, say that hole can’t be fixed by simply cutting back the programs involved because of other federal laws.

Hettrick said the state is on hold “until we see what they are actually going to do.”

The issue is the House’s last minute decision to eliminate renewal of the increased Medicaid match rate – which cuts a total of $88.5 million lawmakers and the governor included in the budget during February’s special session.

In addition to that, Clinger said, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families emergency contingency funding was amended out of the bill – costing Nevada an additional $9.3 million.

Unless those funds are put back in the legislation, the state budget is $97.8 million out of balance.

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A spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the majority leader is aware of the problem and how important it is to Nevada.

“That’s why he fought to make sure an extension of (Medicaid) funds was included in the original package we negotiated with the House,” said Tom Brede of Reid’s staff.

He said Reid will now fight to add the money back when the Senate takes up the bill this week but that, “it will take help from Republicans who are willing to help their states avoid even deeper program cuts or job losses.”

Clinger and Charles Duarte, administrator of Nevada’s Medicaid program, said federal Maintenance of Effort requirements don’t allow the state to cut back welfare or Medicaid benefits and provider payment rates.

Hettrick said the same MOE rules would prohibit the state from taking money out of other programs to fill the hole – particularly in public and higher education.

He said the changes to the American Workers, State and Business Relief Act of 2010 make no sense to him – especially since that legislation, the original American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the health care package approved by Congress fund so many things he doesn’t believe should get federal money.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “They throw money at some things and then turn around with mandated Medicaid and cut.”

Hettrick said the timing of the cut was especially bad because those things had been in the proposed legislation for months, convincing 30 states to count on the funding in their budgets.

“It was clearly anticipated by more states than just Nevada that the (Medicaid) renewal would take place,” he said.

Cutting the funding would reduce the federal Medicaid match from nearly 64 percent to just 50 percent.

Hettrick said cutting that much money from other programs to keep Medicaid whole with just six months left in the fiscal year would be “devastating” to whatever programs it was taken from.

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