Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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State workers, teachers benefit from Guinn’s budget increase

CARSON CITY -- Gov. Kenny Guinn unveiled a $3.8 billion state budget for the next two years -- a 20 percent increase in spending that includes pays raises for state workers, a bonus for school teachers and some help for low income citizens.

The budget will not require any new taxes and if estimates are correct, there should be a $106.8 million balance as of June 30 2003.

The governor is including enough money to start construction and begin classes at the proposed state college in Henderson; create a $5 million fund to help Nevada fight and mold public opinion against a nuclear dump at Yucca Mountain and $10 million to start programs to boost reading programs for children in primary grades.

Marybell Batjer, chief of staff for Guinn, said the spending program addresses some areas that have been neglected for years. And Guinn, according to Batjer, feels Nevada needs to catch up in health and human service areas.

The total state spending program, which includes federal and other funds is $11.1 billion, up also 20 percent from the present two-year budget.

The breakdown of the budget shows 52 percent going for education to support the public schools and the University and Community College System of Nevada. That's down from 55 percent from the present biennial budget but state Budget Director Perry Comeaux said there will be increased money going to these programs from other taxes outside the state jurisdiction.

Human Resources will take 28.4 percent of the general fund budget, up from 24.4 percent currently. Public Safety will receive 11.3 percent, compared to 11.6 percent in the current two-year cycle.

The present 15,700 workforce in state government will be increased by 48 employees or three tenths of one percent during the coming two years. But the state will be transferring some 150 workers to Clark and Washoe counties to combine state and county child care services.

Of the total general fund, 90 percent will be spent to continue existing state programs; 4.7 percent will be for maintenance for such things as growth in school children or prison inmates and 5 percent will be for new programs or enhancements to the present ones.

Guinn plans to spent $57 million to give Nevada school teachers a one-time 5 percent bonus this year. Batjer said if tax collections are higher than expected during the next two years, the governor will call a special session so that added money can be pumped into education.

An extra $10 million is going for a new Nevada Early Literacy Intervention Program to ensure that all students read at grade level by the third grade. And extra $4 million is being provided for early childhood education programs.

Plans to start the state college in Henderson are getting a boost from the governor. He is providing $16 million to start construction on a classroom building; $1 million for start-up costs and $5.8 million to begin classes next year.

There is money for a $25 million Health Sciences/Biotech Building at the Community College of Southern Nevada and $19 million for additions and renovations to Wright Hall at UNLV.

The governor has set aside enough money for 2 percent pay raises for faculty at the University and Community College System of Nevada. He expects the regents to match that amount so the professors will be getting pay raises similar to state workers.

He is recommended a 4 percent cost of living increase each year for state workers in an attempt to reduce high turnover rates. There will be added pay raises of 10 percent for engineers and 5 percent each for correctional officers and parole and probation officers. Staff at the state Gaming Control Board will be getting extra pay also under the governor's plan.

An extra $11.5 million is included in the budget to expand services for Medicaid, the federal-state program for medical care for the needy. The governor wants to add services for children, group care, physically disabled and mentally retarded. He plans to eliminate the asset tests for children and pregnant women and speed up the case load processing for pregnant women. He is calling for coverage of breast and cervical cancer under Medicaid.

The Medicaid budget also include increases in payment rates to doctors, hospitals and nursing homes who care for these patients.

There won't be any increase in the monthly grants for welfare mothers who now receive an average $348 a month for a family of three. But the governor is increasing grants to foster parents. For children up to 11 years old, the rate is going from $13.28 to $19.50. For older children, the parent will receive $22.50 a day, up from the present $16.33.

The governor is establishing a $5 million fund to help needy Nevadans to pay their energy bills. The state has received $3.2 million in federal funds this year for this purpose.

There's a $5 million nuclear waste protection fund which will be used to file lawsuits to stop the federal government from choosing Yucca Mountain as a dump for high level nuclear waste. In addition, it will be used to alert other states that these radioactive waste will be coming through their areas and to invite them to join Nevada in its opposition.

Guinn wants to double the senior citizen property tax rebate program by adding an additional $8 million; increasing the Senior drug prescription program by $1 million and $2 million to assist the operation of HIV/AIDS clinics in Reno and Las Vegas.

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