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August 1, 2015

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Sandoval’s budget plan not winning him friends with teachers, other unions

Brian Sandoval

Brian Sandoval

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s decision to support extending taxes set to expire next year was intended to spare further cuts to school budgets, but it isn’t winning him friends in the education community.

The teachers union responded to the proposal today, saying Sandoval “has reaffirmed his dedication to preside over the demise of public education.” The Nevada State Education Association criticized the governor’s plan to propose no increase in spending for the budget that lawmakers will debate in 2013, citing the budget cuts to the public schools in the 2011 Legislature.

“The governor must put the education of our children first instead of the needs of his big business cronies,” association President Lynn Warne said.

The governor announced Tuesday that he will recommend the so-called “sunset taxes” be extended for two years to spare further cuts to education. But on state workers furloughs, imposed by the 2009 Legislature, the governor said his administration is working on a possible solution. “One consideration is to end the furloughs,” he said.

Similar criticism came from other labor groups in the state, including the state employees union, whose members take monthly furloughs because of budget cuts. The monthly furlough day equates to a little more than a 4 percent pay cut.

The governor “wants the state workers to work harder but for less pay,” says Vishnu Subramaniam, head of the Nevada chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4041, said.

Subramaniam said the economy is improving and it’s too early to predict a “doom and gloom budget.”

The federation is unhappy with the way the state health insurance program is being run. Subramaniam said Jim Wells, executive director of the Public Employees Benefit Board, recommended more than $80 million be cut from the budget during the last Legislature. That moved an employee deductible to $1,900 and a family’s to $3,800.

Now, he said, there are $46.7 million in reserves. He said he will ask the benefit board to put the $46.7 million back in the health package for workers.

“Having this kind of surplus in the benefits program is outrageous when so many of our workers are hurting,” Neil Lake, UNLV employee and president of the workers union, said.

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