Lawmakers to See Budget Cuts

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons will submit a package of budget cuts to lawmakers for their approval to satisfy the requirements of state law, his attorney says.

Josh Hicks, general counsel to Gibbons, said Wednesday the decision to forward the cuts to lawmakers for their formal OK was made following advice received from the attorney general's office.

The spending reductions won't be voted upon by the Legislature's
Interim Finance Committee, however. The cuts will take effect automatically 15 days after they're submitted if lawmakers don't choose to act in a formal meeting to approve them. The panel is not scheduled to meet again until June 26, well after the 15-day time frame.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said she was pleased the cuts were being forwarded to the committee, adding, "I
think that is what the law was intended to do."

The decision to get lawmakers' approval of the cuts should end an impasse with state Controller Kim Wallin, who has not yet implemented the spending reductions in her office because of the suggested need for legislative approval first.

The opinion to Gibbons from Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, written by Chief of Staff Jim Spencer, notes that in the past, there has been a long-standing practice of not requiring lawmaker approval to reduce spending.

Gibbons, in announcing operating budget cuts of 4.5 percent for most state agencies and education in January, effectively reduced spending in those dozens of different budget accounts.

Spencer said that because the question had been raised, a resulting analysis of Nevada law made it clear that lawmaker approval of the spending reductions was necessary.

The law in question states that lawmaker approval is required for changes to budget accounts increasing or decreasing spending by 10 percent or $50,000, whichever is less.

Citing that statute and her own attorney general's opinion, Wallin so far has not accounted for the 4.5 percent budget reductions. As a result, agencies have not seen their funding reduced by those amounts.

The cuts were announced by Gibbons because tax revenues have come in well below the estimates that were used to build the current two-year budget. Gibbons and lawmakers have so far come up with $913 million in cuts and other actions to keep the budget in balance.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)