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May 28, 2015

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Sandoval defends not releasing state agency budget requests

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Leila Navidi

Governor Brian Sandoval greets guests before delivering the keynote address during the Governor’s Conference on Small Business at the Orleans on Friday, November 2, 2012.

Gov. Brian Sandoval on Wednesday stood by his decision not to release millions of dollars in budget requests, saying that state agencies were still in the process of projecting costs and the amount he’d be able to fund has yet to be finalized.

Sandoval said it would be "irresponsible" to release those requests, called “items for special consideration,” which exceeded the state budget office’s spending cap.

"I won't go so far as saying it's speculative, but I can't answer what will be funded or not until I know exactly what caseloads are going to be or presented," he said.

The Las Vegas Sun on Wednesday morning reported that Sandoval's administration is not releasing millions of dollars in agency budget requests — called "items for special consideration."

That information has historically been released by the state's executive branch, and legislative lawyers said they believed that's the intent of the law.

Lawmakers say those budget requests, outside of a spending cap imposed by the state's budget office, are the only way to decipher the true needs of the state from executive branch workers on the ground.

He would not provide an estimate for the total amount of budget requests, or the cost to expand Medicaid.

"Why would I give you a figure that's not accurate?" Sandoval asked reporters after a Board of Examiners meeting in the Capitol. "I'll give you a number and if it's not right you're going to turn around a week later when I get a better number and say I was wrong."

Sandoval noted Wednesday that in 2009, before the last budget, he took office after those supplemental budget requests were released. He said his administration's budget process has been consistent.

Sandoval said the state's Department of Health and Human Services is still projecting "caseloads," or the number of Nevadans expected to seek services over the next two budget years.

The issue has been bubbling since lawmakers raised the issue to the state’s budget office in October. Nevada News Bureau first reported on the legislative and executive branch conflict.

Additionally, the state has requested information from the federal government on expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Much of that information has come after the election.

"It's not me trying to determine the deadlines for you guys," Sandoval told reporters. "I'm trying to make the most responsible decision I can for the state of Nevada. In order to make a responsible decision, I have to make sure I have the best information in front of me in order to do that."

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