Horsford: Lawmakers will protect millennium scholarship
Tribune Capitol Bureau
CARSON CITY, Nev. – Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said Thursday he is planning a special session of the Interim Finance Committee to “shore up” the Millennium Scholarship program.
But he denied that the scholarship was in financial trouble because of legislative actions, despite the fact lawmakers diverted more than $32 million from the program over the past two years.
Horsford said Millennium, which provides Nevada high school graduates with up to $10,000 toward their college education, was funded through 2014 until tobacco settlement revenues came in 10 percent short in April.
Mark Winebarger of the treasurer’s office told the Interim Finance Committee earlier in the day the scholarship program, created by Gov. Kenny Guinn in 2001, would be about $4.2 million short by the end of fiscal 2011.
Deputy Treasurer Steve George said there is enough money for full funding this summer and probably the fall semester as well.
“In the spring is where we would start developing a problem,” he said.
Karen Duddleston of the treasurer’s office said any shortfall would simply reduce the individual checks received by students by the percentage of the shortfall. If funding was 10 percent short, each check would be 10 percent smaller.
“All students who meet the criteria would be treated on an equal footing,” she said.
George said the projected shortfall was not just a question of less tobacco money than expected.
He said it is his intention to find ways of ensuring that students and parents relying on the scholarship to help them through college get that help.
Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said he wanted to “correct the perception by students and parents” that lawmakers took tobacco money from the program.
George agreed, saying the money redirected to the General Fund by lawmakers wasn’t tobacco money but money from the unclaimed property account that was budgeted to support the scholarship program in 2007 and 2009.