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state government:

Gibbons rejects lawmakers’ demand to participate in budget review

Updated Friday, July 2, 2010 | 6:18 p.m.

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Gov. Jim Gibbons

Gov. Jim Gibbons told legislative leaders today that his executive staff would not be participating in their budget hearings despite the Legislature's threats of subpoenas and imprisonment last week.

"This is not my first dance!" Gibbons wrote in a letter to Republican and Democratic leadership, where he pointed out his experience as a Nevada Assemblyman and U.S. Representative. He attached a copy of portions of the Nevada Constitution.

He also called Legislative efforts to examine executive budgets a "witch hunt."

The Legislature's Interim Finance Committee re-started the "Committee for Fundamental Review of Base Budgets of Agencies" to drill down to a deeper level on some agencies' spending.

The committee decided to examine the state's building lease programs, the parole and probation division, the housing division and Medicaid fraud. Gibbons resisted the effort, saying it wasted state employees' time, duplicated the executive branch's budget process and exceeded lawmakers' authority.

Last week, in a letter signed by Republican and Democratic leadership, the lawmakers pointed out they had subpoena powers.

Today's letter says definitively that executive branch employees that had been asked to attend next Wednesday's meeting would not. Gibbons also called their requests for information on certain budgets a "witch hunt." He said certain budget divisions were being singled out for political reasons. He accused Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford of having a conflict of interest in negotiations over training programs because he works for a union training company.

Horsford, who is chief executive officer at the Culinary Training Academy, called the attack on him by Gibbons "baseless."

He said the Culinary Training Academy is a nonprofit that is a joint venture by management and labor. He said it specifically trains workers for the hospitality industry.

"The Culinary Training Academy has absolutely nothing to do with the weatherization program," he said. "For them to say otherwise is flat-out wrong and unfounded."

He also sits as an unpaid board member of the nonprofit Nevada Partners, which does general training of workers. But, he said, Nevada Partners also has no role in the weatherization program.

He said if someone believes there's a conflict, they could file a complaint.

"I'm open to that as every other elected official is," he said.

This interim budget committee is specifically allowed by a law passed in 1995, he said. He challenged the governor and his staff to make state agencies available as a transparency measure.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, who sits on the budget review committee, said the meeting would go on as scheduled. "We will continue without the information they provided," she said. No decision has been made about whether to issue subpoenas.

She denied that departments were singled out for political reasons.

"We wanted to pick agencies that are large, have a lot of money going through them. We picked one agency within one department," she said. "To call it a witch hunt is shocking."

She said there's not enough time when the Legislature is in its biennial 120-day sessions to dig as deep as they'd like.

She noted that the Legislature's budget reviews would be open to the public. Gibbons invited legislators to meet with him "to enlighten me as to how the Interim Finance Committee ... represents a constitutional delegation of legislative power considering that the IFC is not the Legislature as contemplated by the Constitution."

Gibbons has called the Legislature's interim activities unconstitutional, and his staff has said it's contemplating a lawsuit.

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, called the letter "sad."

"I'm disappointed the governor doesn’t want to work together," he said. "I would think this is an issue he'd believe strongly in -- getting to the bottom of all these budgets, looking thoroughly, finding waste, opportunities for consolidation."

He said he didn't expect the Legislature to use its subpoena powers for next week's meeting. But, he said, "In the future, that’s certainly not an idle threat. We will do what we need to do to get that information."

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