Nevada XGR leaders say gov’s budget concerns premature
CARSON CITY (AP) — Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn was premature in ordering state agencies to produce no-growth budgets for the 2003-2005 budget cycle, key Democratic legislators say.
Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, and Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said it’s too early to talk about flat budgets because the economy can turn around by the time lawmakers convene their 2003 session.
Citing the economic downturn since Sept. 11, Guinn last week ordered all state agencies to submit budgets for fiscal 2003-05 that mirror funding levels in the budget for the fiscal year starting next July.
Perkins and Titus said Tuesday that Guinn’s move comes long before the work of his Governor’s Task Force on Tax Policy in Nevada is done. The panel is looking at ways to stabilize the state’s tax structure, and its recommendations aren’t due until Nov. 15.
“If (Guinn) is going with the same budgets, he’s not planning on any innovative tax program to come out of his advisory committee,” Titus said.
Titus and Perkins also noted that with a lack of new programs, Nevada will continue to fall behind in national rankings on social services. The state ranks 44th in the nation in per-student spending on public schools and has consistently done poorly in the annual Kids Count study that grades the welfare of children.
Guinn said Tuesday one reason he ordered flat budgets was to have enough for a key priority: a pay raise for the teachers. He added that the no-growth formula “is a better way to plan for the unknown.”
The budgets also will allow for growth in enrollment at public schools, community colleges and universities, as well as a higher number of prison inmates and more Medicaid recipients, state Budget Director Perry Comeaux said.
State agencies must present their proposed spending programs to Comeaux by Sept. 1. The election is Nov. 5, and the Economic Forum, which predicts what state revenue will be, reports on Dec. 1.
Guinn said he must present a balanced budget to the Legislature, and doesn’t want to bet on lawmakers’ passing some type of a tax package.
He added he didn’t want agencies going to a lot of trouble preparing a wish list of items when there may not be any money to finance them.