Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 | 6:03 p.m.
CARSON CITY — Gov. Jim Gibbons attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s health care bill today, saying that it will bankrupt Nevada state government and accusing the Nevada Democrat of putting “his national political ambitions ahead of Nevada, this time on Christmas Eve.”
In a strongly worded press release, Gibbons took aim at the bill being shepherded by Reid, which cleared a key hurdle to passage this weekend.
“Senator Reid is wishing Nevadans a Merry Christmas with a smile on his face and a knife in our backs,” Gibbons said in the press release. He called it “irresponsible legislation,” “shameful,” and accused Reid of “cooking the books.”
Gibbons said the bill will cost Nevada state government $613 million in state general fund dollars because of the expansion of Medicaid and mandate that people have health insurance, which state officials expect to increase the number of people on public health insurance.
Earlier this month the state Department of Health and Human Services estimated the Senate health care bill would cost the state general fund $613 million over six years, beginning in 2014. The bill as written now would cover increased costs to states for the first three years, and cover 85 percent of costs after that. But in an effort to secure the vote of Democratic Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, Reid offered the senator’s state full 100 percent funding for the Medicaid expansion for the indefinite future.
Gibbons took issue with that deal. “Maybe he should move to Nebraska where he can do less harm to Nevada.”
Reid defended the compromise this weekend after he unveiled the bill. “That’s what legislation is all about. It’s compromise,” he told reporters.
Jon Summers, Reid’s spokesman, attacked Gibbons’ credibility and accused him of “using his official office to parrot national Republican talking points.”
“Based on how Jim Gibbons has run this state, whatever he is against is probably good for Nevada,” Summers wrote in an e-mail. “This bill lowers premiums for Nevadans by as much as $1,600 a year, provides tax credits for 24,000 Nevada businesses, extends the life of Medicare by nearly a decade, and provides access to health care for more than half a million uninsured Nevadans.”
Both Reid and Gibbons are up for reelection, and both suffer from poor poll numbers. But while Reid has a sizable campaign war chest, Gibbons has seen most of Nevada’s Republican establishment abandon him. Harry Reid’s son, Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, is running to replace Gibbons.
Reid’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.