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February 27, 2015

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Legislature will accept jobless funds despite governor’s concerns

Gibbons says state would be committed to additional money after stimulus ends


Sam Morris

The Nevada State Legislature building in Carson City.

The Nevada Legislature will accept the full amount of federal economic stimulus money for the unemployed despite the misgivings of Gov. Jim Gibbons about taking the funds, Speaker Barbara Buckley said on Monday.

The federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriated more than $40 billion for states in unemployment assistance.

Gibbons has balked at a provision that would allow more Nevadans to qualify for unemployment, because it would require a change to state law. Gibbons worried that Nevada would be committed to spending additional money on unemployment benefits after the federal stimulus ends.

Buckley said during her Monday press conference that the federal stimulus allows legislatures to accept money even if governors don't approve it.

"I don't believe the governor will veto the bill," she said. "It would be a slap in the face to anyone who is unemployed, and right now that is 1 out of 10 Nevadans."

Two measures will be introduced in the Assembly on Monday, she said. The first would allow unemployment benefits to last for 79 weeks, instead of the current 73 weeks, said Assemblyman Marcus Conklin.

That measure will release an estimated $200 million in federal money to the state, he said.

The second, and more controversial piece of legislation would allow an estimated 4,137 additional Nevadans to qualify for unemployment by easing restrictions, Conklin said. The additional people to qualify would come from the construction industry and those who had low-wage jobs, according to Conklin, who chairs the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee.

That bill would qualify Nevada for an additional $77 million.

The first measure will sunset when the federal money goes away. The second measure won't, and Gibbons has expressed concern that it obligates the state to spend more money when the federal stimulus goes away.

Studies have found that unemployment dollars are reinvested back in the economy at extremely high rates compared to other government spending or tax cuts.

"We need to stimulate the economy now," she said.

She added that a future Legislature could reevaluate the extended benefit.

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