Governor Gibbons Revamps Budget Cut Plan - 8 News NOW

Carol Wilkinson, NewsOne Reporter

Governor Gibbons Revamps Budget Cut Plan

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As word of the looming cuts spread throughout the state, Nevada Senator Bob Beers was paying close attention. As word of the looming cuts spread throughout the state, Nevada Senator Bob Beers was paying close attention.
The governor says the $95 million cut won't harm education, and that he's found nearly $300 million that could be trimmed from state education budgets. The governor says the $95 million cut won't harm education, and that he's found nearly $300 million that could be trimmed from state education budgets.
Clark County School District Superintendent Walt Rulffes says the cuts came as a total surprise. Clark County School District Superintendent Walt Rulffes says the cuts came as a total surprise.

Nevada's budget is bleeding red ink. Late Friday afternoon, Governor Jim Gibbons announced that the deficit is getting bigger.

The budget hole now sits at $440 million. It's growing because of falling tax revenue.

The governor has said certain areas of state government, including education, will not face cuts. But Friday, Gibbons changed his course. He now says more parts of the state budget will see cuts, including lower education.

The governor wants most agencies, including schools and prisons, to cut budgets by 4.5-percent. Gibbons says that if everyone helps out, Nevada's budget shortfall will be more manageable.

Read Gibbons Budget Proposal

As word of the looming cuts spread throughout the state, Nevada Senator Bob Beers was paying close attention.

"Things are difficult right now in our economy. Now they're going to be difficult for government as well," he said.

Beers, a Republican, says the governor had few choices available in the face of the shortfall of sales tax and other revenues.

"I think he didn't have a lot of choices. He made statements when we first decided there was a potential shortfall. And since he made those statements the potential shortfall has worsened," said Beers.

In announcing his decision, the governor said, "While the state must prepare for revenue shortfalls, I remain committed to ensuring that we do everything possible to reduce the impact on services and programs for our most vulnerable citizens."

Clark County School District Superintendent Dr. Walt Rulffes expressed shock at what he described as the governor's failure to keep a pledge to protect lower education.

"All of a sudden we're looking at statewide in K-12 education -- cuts of about $95 million," says Rulffes. "If the districts are cut 4.5-percent, education is going to hurt. We'll have to stop hiring teachers. We won't be buying school buses. We'll be freezing hiring of custodians and security officers and those kinds of things. That's the only way you can save big dollars, and 95-million dollars statewide is a tremendous amount."

But the governor says the $95 million cut won't harm education, and that he's found nearly $300 million that could be trimmed from state education budgets.

Gibbons Letter to Superintendent

Many are asking if the cuts will increase efforts to boost the gaming tax to pay for education.

Alan Feldman, senior vice president of MGM Mirage, thinks Nevada needs to broaden its tax base. "We are so reliant on taxes that are inherently unpredictable. We try to make these projections -- we try to set our budget. Low and behold, the predictions don't pan out, and so we end up cutting," he said.

The governor is keeping certain programs exempt from cuts -- they include child welfare and juvenile justice programs.

Gibbons is also doing an about face and tapping into the state's emergency fund. He told NewsOne's Jeff Gillan on December 5th that he was against using the rainy day fund to bail out the budget.

"Nobody with a crystal ball that I know of can come in and tell me what emergency we're going to have in the next interim that is going to require the state to spend out of that emergency fund. That's your emergency savings account. That's your emergency account," he said.

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In quantifying the governor's plan to ease the challenges facing Nevada's economy, Senator Beers says "It's not like this is the end of the world. I don't believe that this will harm our quality of life -- long haul or short haul. The bottom line is, from all indicators it appears that our population is not growing as we've expected. And therefore, we don't have as much demand on government services."

Meanwhile, Superintendent Rulffes tells us that the cuts announced Friday came as a total surprise.

Rulffes says he's never talked with the governor, but a representative from the governor's office called Friday afternoon to say they were cutting 4-percent. He says that's the first time the Clark County School District heard the news.

  • Online Poll

  • Do you agree with Governor Gibbons plan to include education with the budget cuts?

  • Thank you for participating in our poll. Here are the results so far:

    Yes, education should pay.
    24%
    33 votes
    No, education funds should not be cut.
    72%
    100 votes
    I'm not sure.
    4%
    6 votes
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