Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009 | 12:42 p.m.
CARSON CITY – The Nevada Legislature will be called into special session before June, according to a top aide to Gov. Jim Gibbons.
Lynn Hettrick, deputy chief of staff for the governor, said a special session will be convened if for no other reason than to open the door for Nevada to apply for $175 million in federal funds for schools.
The state’s ongoing budget struggles could also be dealt with in a special session.
The governor has asked agencies to draw up plans for budget cuts of 1.4 percent or 3 percent.
In the first quarter of the fiscal year, state government’s tax collections were $55 million below predictions. Gibbons will meet Tuesday with legislative leaders to discuss the economy.
During the 2009 legislative session Gibbons proposed a 6 percent reduction in state employee salaries. The Legislature instead implemented a furlough plan for state workers, achieving a 4.6 percent reduction.
Each 1 percent of salary reduction amounts to more than $35 million a year.
Hettrick and Dan Burns, the communications director for Gibbons, say the administration is examining further cuts because it doesn't want to lay off state workers.
“The last thing we want to do is cut jobs,” Hettrick said.
The agencies, including public schools and the university system, must report back by mid December on the impact of the alternative cutbacks. Hettrick emphasized no decision has been made yet on any reductions.
But he said “absolutely” there will be a special session of the Legislature to make Nevada eligible to apply for the federal “Race to the Top” money.
Because state law prohibits evaluating teachers based on student test scores and achievement, Nevada is among a handful of states unable to compete for the funds.
As Sun political commentator Jon Ralston reported this morning, state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith have called for a special education panel meeting next week to consider changes in state law needed to compete for Race to the Top funds.
“It is very important that we bring everyone involved in this issue together to develop language that meets the Race to the Top criteria. By doing that the legislature will be prepared to act quickly when the opportunity arises,” Smith said in a statement.
Only the governor can convene a special legislative session. The governor also sets the agenda.
Gibbons already has said he wants to repeal that law to allow the state to qualify to apply for the federal money. The Nevada State Education Association, the union of teachers, has endorsed repealing the law.
Burns said the governor is also considering convening the Economic Forum, the group that predicts how much tax revenue will be collected by the state. The state must build a budget based on those figures.