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November 22, 2014

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Counties fearful of Sandoval’s budget

Proposal would force counties to pay for some of the health services

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Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas

CARSON CITY – It’s being called “A bucket of burdens” being dumped on Nevada counties by the budget of Gov. Brian Sandoval.

And state legislators don’t yet know how they will preserve health services in rural Nevada while still balancing the state’s budget.

An Assembly-Senate budget subcommittee reviewed plans Tuesday in the Sandoval budget to force the counties to pay for some of the health services they are receiving free or take over the operations.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said the state has been subsiding services in rural counties for a long time but he added, “We don’t want to pull the rug out of the rural counties.”

He said the state cannot afford to continue unless there are new funding sources, apparently meaning additional taxes.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Goicoechea, R-Eureka, predicted there would be deterioration in services in the rural areas if they are forced to pay the state for the present inspections of restaurants, tuberculosis care and the emergency management services program.

The Nevada Association of Counties estimates the Sandoval budget is shoving $325 million in costs down to the counties in all areas.

Mary Walker, representing Carson City and the counties of Douglas, Lyon and Storey, said the proposed budget shift would have a “tremendous impact” on the four governments.

In Lyon County, which has an 18 percent unemployment rate, it would mean 50 more county employees, including ten police officers, would have to be laid off.

Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, the chairwoman of the subcommittee, said it doesn’t make sense to have 17 counties each doing things different. “I fear that a statewide system will be chopped into little pieces and there will be lots of cracks for people to fall through.”

And county officials complained this “Bucket of Burdens” is being thrust on them starting July 1, giving them little time to prepare.

Goicoechea noted the counties must file their tentative budget by April 21 but there can be amendments later to be effective July 1.

One example of the shift is in consumer health protection. State health officers have been inspecting restaurants, sewer systems and septic tanks free of charge in the rural counties.

Sandoval’s plan would require these counties to pay more than $1 million to the state to continue this service.

Lawmakers wanted to know what would happen if the county didn’t pay up. A state official said the health service would continue.

Clark and Washoe counties and Carson City have their own health departments to do this inspection service.

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