State agencies face major cuts under Nevada’s newly balanced budget

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (KLAS) — Hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to state agencies are now finalized, as Nevada lawmakers finish the special session. 

Because of the coronavirus shutdown, Nevada faced a $1.2 billion budget shortfall. That’s about a quarter of the state’s budget.

But the cuts will fill that hole.

While lawmakers were able to slightly lower the amount of cuts to state agencies, some K-12 education programs and Nevada’s health care system and will still be negatively impacted.

A stressful special session came to an end for Nevada lawmakers. The last crucial budget bill passed in both chambers Sunday.

Despite restoring more than $130 million of funding, state agency budgets will still be severely slashed.

Around $160 million will be cut from K-12 education.

Although $50 million in federal cares act funding will be given for alternative programming to help students directly impacted by COVID-19, other cuts to programs for low-achieving students and the “Read by Three” program will impact thousands of children statewide.

“These were programs that we thought we important and that we as a legislature should have prioritized over some of the other restorations that are represented in this bill,” said State Senator Ben Kieckhefer

A couple hundred million dollars will also be cut from Nevada’s health care system.

Lawmakers were able to save $50 million in Medicaid programs, including dental, behavioral health and hospice services. But many of the nearly 500,000 Nevadans on Medicaid will still be affected.

“We must prioritize that funding for the Nevada Medicaid budget,” said State Senator Joyce Woodhouse. “Again, when Nevada’s economy improves, I implore my colleagues to consider providing the services that we were not able to add back.”

Lawmakers hope federal funding will un-do some of the cuts.

“We call on the United States Senate to take a vote to give aid to states,” said Speaker Jason Frierson. “We call on the White House to step up and lead.”

But until then, they’re relying on their actions now to help Nevada get by until the next legislative session.

“I think what we’ve done is we’ve accomplished a bridge,” said State Senator Julia Ratti. “The bridge is a little shaky, maybe isn’t as solid as we would like to be, but it’s a bridge that gets us from here today to February.”

Governor Steve Sisolak has already signed three bills so far from the special session. He’s expected to sign this latest funding bill, as well.

The governor had originally planned to call an immediate second special session to discuss criminal justice reform and unemployment insurance barriers, but because of the spike of COVID-19 cases in Nevada, he does not want to put lawmakers at risk.

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