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October 22, 2014

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Legislature finally approves Gibbons’ budget cuts (UPDATED)

Legislators approved Gov. Jim Gibbons' January budget cuts after a two-hour hearing today.

Democratic leadership said they reluctantly voted for it.

"Many of us probably would have made different choices on the 4.5 percent cuts we weren't consulted on," said Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley. "But since these have already been approved by agency heads, there's not much we can do."

Restroom in state parks won’t be replaced, medical services for low-income pregnant women will be limited and families with developmentally disabled children in their home won’t get as much financial assistance.

Mental health facilities will dispense more sample prescriptions of drugs to save money; rural counties won’t get grants to help them buy emergency equipment such as ambulances and State Route 160 – the Blue Diamond Road – won’t be improved in Southern Nevada.

Those are some of the cutbacks imposed by Gibbons to save more than $236 million to help the state get through its money problems.

Past governors have not had to go in front of legislators for past budget cuts. But Controller Kim Wallin, a Democrat, refused to process the cuts without legislative approval, citing state law.

Eventually, the governor's staff agreed and submitted the cuts. Interim Finance Committee Chair Morse Arberry, the Las Vegas Assembly Democrat, called Friday's special meeting to review the cuts.

For a time, it was unclear how eager Democrats were to take up the issue.

If you want to know why they were reluctant, the Governor sent out a news release moments after the IFC's vote with this quote from the governor: “I’m glad that the Legislative panel members agree with these reductions,” the Governor said.

Democratic Sen. Bob Coffin, and Assemblywoman Ellen Koivisto were the lone votes against approving the budget cuts.

"I will not carry water for the governor," Coffin said. "And that's what we do if we surrender our authority to the governor."

Coffin tried to spare mental health and parole and probation from the budget cuts but lost on a 16-5 vote.

The governor has asked agencies to prepare possible budgets calling for a 14.1 percent reduction in spending in the 2010-2011 fiscal years. But he stressed this is just to see what the impact would be and these were not final decisions.

Under the 4.5 percent cuts already made, the Commission on Tourism won’t spend $500,000 this fiscal year to help small airports lure expanded regional commercial air service.

The university system sliced $29.6 million for this fiscal year and $16.8 million in the next fiscal year.

The community based services program will reduce its budget $163,150 and that will mean eight less people will be served in the traumatic brain injury program.

In Health Care Financing and Policy, medical services for low income pregnant women will be capped at 200 this year and 100 recipients for subsidies to help employees of small business afford health insurance.

The Health and Human Services Department will eliminate $101,631 this fiscal year that was additional funding for fetal alcohol specialty clinics.

Another $300,000 will be saved by not giving grants to rural counties to buy emergency equipment such as ambulances.

The mental health budget in Northern Nevada will save $218,332 in pharmacy costs in Northern Nevada by giving sample medications to recipients or using patient assistance programs to pay for the drugs. And $447,000 will be saved with the closure of the clinic in North Las Vegas that has lost its lease. It hopes to open in two months at a new location.

Monthly allocations will be reduced that help families with a developmentally disabled child at home in rural Nevada.

The $16 million set aside for expanding State Route 160, the Blue Diamond road won’t be spent because the state could not get a developer to up another $2 million.

The state Department of Education will save $13.6 million next fiscal year by not expanding the number of full-day kindergarten classes. And it will save $9 million by reducing the teacher performance pay program.

Almost $2 million will be saved by the state Division of Parole and Probation by holding off hiring 27 officers in Southern Nevada this and next fiscal year.

Replacements of restrooms and repair of sidewalks will be eliminated by the state Division of Parks to save $233,166.

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