Lawmakers Criticize State Agencies For Seeking To Move Funds From Positions To Equipment

CARSON CITY – Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford said today he is disappointed that a number of state agencies are seeking to divert funds intended to fill vacant jobs to other purposes, including the purchase of vehicles, computers and furniture.

He accused them of “gaming the system” by seeking to shift their budget priorities one year after the Legislature adjourned and as the 2012 fiscal year comes to a close June 30.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

“Now, a year later from us adjourning, we have agencies here requesting to move money from the personnel category, because you have been unable to fill the vacancies, for whatever reason, and now you want to spend it on furniture, on computers, on vehicles that you did not request or that you did not justify during the budget process,” Horsford said. “And I have to say, I take offense to that.”

Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said he would be voting against all of the requests. He made the statement as the meeting of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee began. The committee meets in-between legislative sessions to approve changes in state agency budgets.

Horsford was joined in his concerns by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, a lawmaker who has typically been on the other side of issues with the Democrat during their years together in the state Senate. Horsford is running for the 4th Congressional seat that Cegavske had also sought as a Republican. She lost in the June 12 primary to Danny Tarkanian.

“And I am in whole-hearted agreement with you; will be voting against anything that is reverting those funds from what was positions that were asked for and they are saying they can’t fill,” Cegavske said. “One of the areas I’m really concerned about is whether or not they really tried to fill them.”

Horsford said if agency administrators knew they could not or chose not to fill positions reviewed by the Legislature in the 2011 session, the money could have been put to other critical needs.

“Because had we known that you didn’t need some of these positions, we could have made the decision to eliminate them at that time and then use that money in other priority areas of state government,” he said. “We have teachers being laid off, we have children not being served in developmental programs like early intervention services, we have people being turned away from our mental health hospitals, and we could have used this money.”

The first agency up for a request was the Taxicab Authority, which sought nearly $319,000 to relocate its Las Vegas office and purchase new furnishings and equipment.

Lawmakers asked why, if the agency knew its lease was expiring last fall, the idea of a move was not brought to the 2011 Legislature.

The Taxicab Authority staff testifying at the meeting have only recently joined the agency and had no information on why it was not addressed in the session. Charles Harvey took over as administrator of the agency in May, 2011. The session ended in early June, 2011.

The request was deferred to the next IFC meeting.

Horsford said he hopes that the new performance-based budgeting process being used to develop the next two-year budget for consideration in the 2013 session will address these issues.

“Because you should not automatically get funding for positions that you didn’t even fill in the last biennium as agencies,” he said.

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Audio clips:

Sen. Steven Horsford says he is offended at the attempt by agencies to move funds from personnel to equipment purchases:

062112Horsford11 :30 offense to that.”

Horsford says if the positions were not needed the money could have been put to critical state needs:

062112Horsford2 :26 used this money.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske says she questions if agencies even tried to fill the positions:

062112Cegavske :17 to fill them.”