Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 4 of special session

NFA member-representative Jim Richardson's report is reproduced below. Among the highlights:

1. Legislators have agreed to a budget outline that puts the cuts for NSHE in the range of 5 to 7.5%, which would still put our total cut since 2008 at over 30%. Yet its much better than where we thought we were a week ago.

2. However it is predicated on revenue from small increases in business fees. Most of yesterday's Senate session was devoted to representatives of nearly every industry in the state refusing to agree to modest fees. Keep in mind the fee increases being proposed are only a fraction of the fee increases that our students have borne over the past two years. Even the most pro-business republicans in the Senate spent considerable time pointing out the moral failings of business leaders, whose refusal to discuss a different revenue structure has led us to this situation.

3. On the issue of furloughs/ pay cuts, the bill is still in the works. It may include a 1.15% additional furlough/pay cut for all NSHE employees -- classified and professional -- or it may include no pay cut.

4. The idea of a "premium holiday" for our health insurance program PEBP (ie the state would not pay one month premiums) was dropped, which is very good news because that skipped payment would have had to be made up in next year's budget, which would have meant even higher premium increases than will already be likely due to medical inflation.

Here's the report in full.

Yesterday was totally different from past days of the special session. Governor Gibbons came to the legislative building and engaged in lengthy discussions of the budget measures that are being discussed. Speaker Buckley indicates that a deal may be close, and perhaps announced this morning. However, she also says that if a deal cannot be reached with the governor, then a budget package developed by legislators will be passed. [At that point, its anybody's guess what happens next.]

Let’s hope that any deal reached does not harm NSHE institutions, their students, faculty, and staff more than what has been talked about. The cuts of 5% in the Assembly Democrat plan and the cuts of 7.5% in the Assembly Republican plan - cuts that were talked about yesterday - are much better than the total 12.3% cut recommended by the Governor but will almost certainly still lead to major cuts in programs and loss of jobs at NSHE institutions..

[T]he Senate, led by Majority Leader Horsford, forced representatives from various industries to come to the table and explain their position on various revenue measures. This was done in Senate Chambers, and led to some of the most direct and public communication [and] conflict that I have seen in all my years of being involved in the legislative process. The news stories do not do the confrontation justice, and I recommend that readers go to the legislative website and read the record of proceedings that should appear there very soon. The Sun article directly below does the best job of capturing the exchanges that occurred, and demonstrates how Nevada tax policy is usually made. ...Senator Townsend was a major champion of the need for more revenues, and he made this clear in some quite eloquent comments, as did Senator Horsford and others.

The other major issue that was much discussed yesterday is the furlough bill – SB 3 – on which hours were spend in the Senate, and then late last night in the Assembly ...This bill may be adjusted further, that the governor and legislators might have agreed to not extend the furlough program by two hours per month. ...The furlough bill as written uses the structure adopted in the last session, which means the regents still have authority to decide how furloughs will be handled for professional employees, but the classified employees in NSHE will be governed by legislation passed for all state classified workers. If the two extra hours are dropped from the bill, this has major implications for all NSHE employees. If the “four-tens” idea is retained, however, this will mean significant disruptions in how NSHE offices operate. Many are one person offices, so keeping them operating using a four-tens schedule will be very difficult.

As noted yesterday, the PEBP premium holiday idea has been dropped from consideration, a decision that is now firm. So, that was some major progress which will keep the plan from being forced to rebuild reserves. (But note that medical inflation may still force some rate increases effective next year, regrettably. Things could have been much worse on that front, however, if the premium holiday idea had remained part of the budget resolution.)

The session could end tomorrow if a deal is struck with the Governor today. However, the deal could still break down over the need for additional revenues. The gaming industries reluctance to offer to pay more is a major stumbling block, but ...the mining industry did make an offer to furnish about an additional $100 million. ...Today should be very interesting indeed. Let’s hope it is not a sad day also.

No comments:

Post a Comment