Las Vegas Sun

September 23, 2014

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state budget:

Without funding hike, $510 million could be left behind

State could lose federal funds unless it increases education spending

WASHINGTON -- Nevada stands to leave as much as $510 million in federal funds from President Barack Obama's economic recovery package untapped unless it can prevent state education spending from sliding below 2006 funding levels, officials said today.

Obama’s stimulus package moving through Congress includes a requirement that states will only qualify for discretionary funds if they maintain education funding at a level Nevada cannot meet under Gov. Jim Gibbons’ proposed budget.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the requirement is a way to ensure “some parameters of responsibility.”

“You can’t just throw that money out there, and have people do what they want with it,” Reid said following a teleconference with Nevada officials. “I don’t think we’re asking for too much.”

But state Sen. Minority Leader Bill Raggio, a Republican, said during the call that requiring the state to fund schools at the 2006 levels is “not doable.”

“We do not have the funds to do that,” Raggio said.

The state faces a massive budget shortfall, and the governor has proposed a 6 percent pay cut for teachers and other state workers to help fill the gap.

Obama's recovery bill contains a provision that would allow the Secretary of Education to waive the requirement if states are close to achieving the 2006 funding level.

It wouldn’t be the first time Nevada has left federal funds on the table because it couldn’t meet the required match. The Sun reported earlier this week that federal money for children’s health care is routinely left behind because the state does not provide an adequate match.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, a Democrat, agreed that funding education to meet the requirement “is going to be very difficult for us.”

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