Las Vegas Sun

July 29, 2014

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CARSON CITY:

A plan for green energy, off the budget

Gibbons would form nonprofit company to sell bonds for industry boost

Gov. Jim Gibbons is moving forward with plans to bolster the development of a renewable energy industry despite the state’s budget troubles.

As first reported on lasvegassun.com, the governor has proposed forming a nonprofit corporation to sell billions of dollars worth of bonds to fund construction of power transmission lines throughout Nevada. The expanded power grid would connect solar fields, geothermal plants and wind farms to population centers.

The corporation would sell bonds, which would be tax-free, after getting contracts with renewable energy producers.

“This is how to finance transmission lines without taxpayer money and with the lowest cost to end users,” Deputy Chief of Staff Mendy Elliott said.

Elliott said Monte Miller — a major donor to Gibbons’ campaigns and legal defense fund — would lead the Nevada Energy Assistance Corp.

The governor would have five appointments to the board; the Legislative Commission would have two; the Nevada Association of Counties would have one; and the Nevada League of Cities would have one.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said Gibbons’ concept deserves a hearing, but it would give too much control to board members. She favors giving the state more control over the board and plans to introduce a bill to create a Nevada Transmission Authority, staffed by state employees.

“If the state is going to use its bonding leverage, why cede so much authority to a nonprofit?” she said. “Rather than rushing to set this up, it would be better public policy to have this debate in the Legislature.”

•••

University Medical Center has not been paid for nearly $160 million of the patient care the hospital provided in 2008, equaling 31.7 percent of its billings, according to a report delivered to lawmakers.

Other Southern Nevada hospitals are facing similar struggles.

The state Health Care Financing and Policy Division presented a report to the legislative money committees this week showing hospitals in Clark County are unable to collect 9.9 percent of their bills.

Bill Welch, director of the Nevada Hospital Association, says the 31.7 percent of uncollected bills at University Medical Center isn’t unusual considering it’s the largest urban hospital in the state and has a Level One trauma center that treats many people who are uninsured or underinsured.

The uncompensated care figures were compiled before September, when the state’s Medicaid program cut by 5 percent its payment rates to hospitals for the care of low-income patients.

Gov. Jim Gibbons’ budget calls for another 5 percent reduction in Medicaid rates and using $25 million from a fund for uninsured auto accident victims on other expenses.

Gibbons’ proposals would cause uncompensated care to go “significantly higher” if the Legislature enacts them, Welch said.

Uncompensated care as a share of billings at other hospitals in Clark County was: 15.8 percent at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center; 17.2 percent at St. Rose Dominican Hospital, San Martin; 17.5 percent at Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center; 16.6 percent at North Vista Hospital and Medical Center; and 16.7 percent at St. Rose Dominican Hospital, de Lima campus.

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