Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2003 | 11 a.m.
CARSON CITY -- Gov. Kenny Guinn has tossed aside suggestions by Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, that he should consider nearly $530 million in cuts to balance the upcoming budget.
"It's way too late," Guinn said, to make use of the list of programs that Beers suggested reviewing for possible reductions or cuts. The list focused on programs that have been expanded since 1997.
"We're working on the governor's budget, not Beers' list," Guinn's Chief of Staff Marybel Batjer said.
Monday was the deadline for getting the budget to the state printer's office to be prepared for the governor's State of the State address on Jan. 20.
Beers' list was delivered Thursday night, long after most of Guinn's decisions had been made.
"I wish I could have gotten it to him sooner," Beers said. Guinn says he will need more than $700 million in additional revenue during the coming two years just to maintain current programs. He has already sliced millions of dollars in state spending to trim the budget shortfall.
The list was compiled by Beers and not the Republican Assembly caucus, Guinn noted. He added that Beers had voted for many of the increases in spending on the list.
Beers acknowledged he had voted for many of the programs as a member of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee for the past two sessions. That committee writes the budget.
Beers said some of those decisions should be reviewed.
"In my opinion we have accelerated our spending plan," Beers said. "It turns out we spent our savings down to zero and cleaned out our 'rainy day' fund."
Beers said that in California, which is also facing a deficit, the governor intends to make up 70 percent of the shortfall by cutting programs, leaving only 30 percent to be covered by new taxes.
Beers said his list will be reviewed by the Ways and Means Committee, of which he is a member for the third time.
One suggestion by Beers was to review the $12.5 million approved by the 2001 Legislature to expand the low-cost insurance program for children of the working poor. Guinn said the state spent $13 million to collect $30 million to $32 million from the federal government for this program.
The federal government covers 66 percent of the cost for the insurance. But if those children went on Medicaid, the federal government would pick up only 50 percent of the cost, Guinn said. The governor also defended a $12.5 million allocation to low-achieving schools. The money is intended to improve the skills of students in reading and writing who have fallen below the national standard.
Batjer said the caseloads for many of the social programs have risen because of the increase in population.
Meanwhile a group called the Children's Advocacy Alliance in Nevada issued a statement ripping the suggestions by Beers.
Toni Isola-Bayer, co-founder of the group, said: "I find it unconscionable that anyone would even consider the elimination of already inadequate funding for programs that truly help our children."
The organization is an umbrella organization of a number of groups including the Junior League and the League of Women Voters.
Isola-Bayer, who says she divides her time between Las Vegas and Oregon, pointed out the Children's Advocacy Alliance gave Nevada a grade of D+ for children's health; an F for health insurance; and an F for education.
She said Nevada ranked 43rd in the nation in providing health care for children. Nevada's student dropout rates are the second worst in the nation, she said. "Yet the Assembly Republicans, in a misguided effort to relieve the state's budget problems, are suggesting we can solve this problem by taking away critical funds from the one segment of our society that has no political power -- innocent children," Isola-Bayer said.