Nevada Legislature OKs cuts to healthcare, education to wrap 12-day special session | nnbw.com
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Nevada Legislature OKs cuts to healthcare, education to wrap 12-day special session

Geoff Dornan

gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

Nevada State Senator Heidi Gansert on the fourth day of the 31st Special Session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Nev., on Saturday, July 11, 2020.
Photo: David Calvert / The Nevada Independent

CARSON CITY, Nev. — Having made substantial progress, lawmakers delivered the final piece of legislation to the governor’s desk about 7:15 p.m. Sunday.

AB3 is the bill that actually cuts and repurposes state General Fund spending. AB1 was originally the companion measure that included state worker furloughs, redirecting the Governmental Services Tax and other changes.

Instead of processing AB1, lawmakers amended the key provisions of AB1 into AB3. One section not amended in was the elimination of merit pay for state workers so they will apparently not have that money taken away from them. In total, just over $41 million of cuts to state workers was restored in the amended bill.

Senate Fiscal Analyst Mark Krmpotic told the Senate AB3 pumps $656 million into the General Fund.

It was approved 36-6 in the Assembly. It was unanimous, 21-0, in the Senate.

The original proposal was to furlough state workers one day each month this year. But lawmakers found enough money to cut the number of furlough days to six.

In addition, they moved the furloughs back so they don’t start this month in hopes of finding money somewhere to eliminate the unpaid days off altogether.

Other parts of the budget package including $72 million in cuts to the Capital Improvement Projects budget have already been approved.

The bills are designed to cover the projected $1.2 billion General Fund shortfall this fiscal year that was created by the economic shutdown to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Krmpotic also pointed out that the bill contains a number of provisions stating that, if more federal funding is granted to Nevada it will be used to offset some of reductions and restore budgets in departments including Health and Human Services.

Sens. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno and James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, all praised some of the governor’s cuts that were restored including programs for mental health, personal care services, prosthetics, immunizations, problem gaming and the restoration of K-12 funding in the form of a $50 million block grant program.

Sen. Julia Ratti, D-Sparks, said the plan doesn’t fix everything but that it’s a bridge that gets them to February and the regular 2021 session.

She along with Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, Kieckhefer and Settelmeyer all praised the opposition party for being willing to work through the bill and compromise to make it better.

While fixing a problem with the bill Sunday morning, the Assembly amended it to also include $50 million in CARES Act money for public education.

Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, said the money will go to the state Department of Education as a block grant so school districts can apply for cash to support programs that serve the state’s most vulnerable students. He said each district will apply for the money to support the programs they feel are most needed in their schools.

The language of the amendment specifically states the money cannot be used in arbitration or to increase salaries or benefits.

He and Cannizzaro also committed to making public education a priority for any other additional funding through the end of this fiscal year including the Read by Grade Three program that was eliminated in the bill.

Sisolak too applauded the delivery of $50 million in Coronavirus Relief Funding to help students most impacted by the loss of in-person instruction.

With those changes, AB3 paved the way to closing down the special session.