LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada lawmakers are gearing up for a special session to tackle next year’s budget, and with the shortfall, they’ve got some tough decisions to make.
The Nevada State Legislature will hold its special session Wednesday in Carson City, Nevada. Nevada lawmakers are trying to fix the state’s $1.2 billion budget hole due to the shutdown caused by COVID-19.
8 News NOW has learned that the state is forced to make deep cuts in services and programs, to balance the budget. The three areas that will likely experience the most significant impacts are health and human services, K-12 education, and higher education.
On Tuesday, Governor Steve Sisolak released a list of his budget proposals that will be discussed during the special session this week.
They include each state agency’s budget taking up to a 14 percent cut, which would make up about half a billion dollars. It also reduces funding for education programs, such as Read by 3, and transfers money from other funds into the general fund.
Lawmakers 8 News NOW spoke with say the cuts are tough but necessary.
“Going into the process and understanding that everyone is going to have some of this pain and shared responsibility is I think the realistic approach and then setting the priorities from there, over which programs need to be most protected, which populations are most vulnerable,” said State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Carson City County, District 16.
How the special session will be conducted is just as unprecedented as why lawmakers are having one. 8 News NOW got an inside look at the Nevada Assembly and Senate Chambers Tuesday, and plexiglass has been installed in-between the seats in an effort to continue social distancing during this time of COVID-19.
Another change is that the public will not be allowed inside the building right now, but the legislative counsel bureau says there will still be ways to chime in.
Along with the budget, there is talk that the Nevada Legislature will address police and criminal justice reform during the special session as well.
Sisolak mentioned a subsequent proclamation regarding these issues in a Tweet Tuesday evening:
After the Governor formally proclaimed the July 8 Special Session, some State leaders and parties issued statements, including Nevada Speaker of the Assembly Jason Frierson. His statement reads:
“We are in uncharted waters as we soberly head into our state’s capital to do the business we have been elected to fulfill. While the White House’s response to this pandemic has been unpredictable, our state’s response has not. Over the last few months, we have worked with our Governor and community leaders at the federal, state, and local levels to get Nevadans the help they need. In a special session, we will provide more opportunities than ever for the public to engage and be heard on the many difficult decisions we have to make in the face of this global pandemic and economic crisis.
Just like many Nevada families, we operate our state with a required balanced budget, and we must make some painful cuts to get through this period. We are doing so with an eye towards protecting vital services, including access to health care and education. We believe that Nevada families deserve more and we again call on the U.S. Senate to pass critical state aid.
Again, we do not enter this special session lightly. We do so with a heavy heart for Nevadans, because we are Nevadans too. We are a citizen legislature of 63 members who, like many of our constituents, are juggling work responsibilities, worrying about our children’s access to education, have family members who have been laid off, know neighbors who are hungry, and have friends who are worried about getting sick. But we know that Nevadans are strong and we will get through this, just as we have so many times before, by working together.”
Nevada Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro wrote a statement on behalf of Nevada Senate Democrats:
“Over the past few months, Nevadans have displayed admirable resilience in the face of unfathomably challenging circumstances. Under Governor Sisolak’s leadership, the State moved decisively to protect Nevadans’ health and safety, and we are grateful to Nevadans in communities large and small who have treated this global pandemic with the seriousness it deserves. Tomorrow, the Legislature will convene in a special session that marks the beginning of a multi-stage process to set Nevada on the road to recovery. Difficult decisions lie ahead, but Nevadans should know that we approach this task with their continued health, safety, and economic stability at the forefront of our minds. Together, we will weather this crisis and reinvent Nevada into a stronger state than it was before.”