Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 | 6:26 p.m.
CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons is promising to address the inequities in state government where some employees don’t have to take a furlough or a pay cut.
Some agencies escaped taking either the pay reduction or a furlough and Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said the governor recognizes this is unfair.
He made the comment after 10 legislators met with Gibbons to talk about problems in the budget and suggestions that could help cure the shortfall which is $67 million below projections for the first three months of this fiscal year.
The meeting was scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon but Gibbons left shortly after 11 a.m. before it was completed. Dan Burns, director of communications for Gibbons, said the governor had another engagement but declined to say what it was.
Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, said the governor is definitely opposed to furloughs for state workers in the future. Under the system, an employee must take off one day a month without pay.
Coffin said the governor favors a pay cut or shorter hours for government agencies as the state confronts future budget shortfalls.
Ten lawmakers attended the session – five Democrats and five Republicans. Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley and Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, both Las Vegas Democrats did not attend.
Coffin called the meeting “relaxed and cordial.” He said the governor was adamant about not calling a special session of the Legislature in January.
The Economic Forum is scheduled to meet Jan. 19 to predict how much the state will be taking in the next 18 months.
Coffin said he pressed the governor on a special session to remove the barrier that prevents the state from applying for $175 million in federal education money. Gibbons has already said he would call a special legislative session for that.
But Coffin wanted it called earlier. And he said he wanted the governor to move $160 million in contingency funds next fiscal year to this fiscal year to take care some of the emergencies.
Goicoechea said these meetings are to iron out all the differences so the Legislature can be convened in special session and handle business quickly.
Coffin said the governor has agreed to share with the legislative staff the information from the agencies on proposed future cuts up to ten percent. He said the fiscal staff of the Legislature needs this information to make its own assessments.
Burns called it an open discussion and another meeting will be held in two weeks. No final decisions were made. But he said the governor doesn’t have the authority to cut anybody’s pay.
The governor earlier this month asked state workers for suggestions to solve the budget dilemma and some 600 e-mails have been received. The governor’s staff is now reviewing them, he said.
The meeting was televised to Las Vegas and some lawmakers joined the session by telephone.
Democrats taking part were Las Vegas Assembly members Kelvin Atkinson, Marilyn Kirkpatrick and John Oceguera and Sens. Coffin and Joyce Woodhouse.
Republicans were Goicoechea, Tom Grady of Yerington, Don Gustavson of Sparks, James Settelmeyer of Gardnerville and Lynn Stewart of Henderson.