CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today released budget data that had been sought by state lawmakers after a weeks-long disagreement over whether the information was public.
The state Budget Office posted the “items for special consideration” data on its website at noon. The items are requests made to Sandoval by state agencies for spending over and above their base-budget submissions. The base budget data was released by the Sandoval administration in October.
Included in the requests is a proposal to expand the Medicaid program to a new group of Nevada residents as provided for under the Affordable Care Act. As first reported by The Associated Press, Sandoval announced on Tuesday that he will propose expanding the program to provide health care coverage to 87,000 Nevadans, the cost of which will initially be paid for by the federal government. The 2013 Legislature will consider the recommendation.
Sandoval initially did not provide the additional budget information to the Legislature when it was expected on Oct. 15.
The decision prompted members of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee in late October to question state Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp about the decision.
Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Rick Combs told lawmakers that the information has been provided to lawmakers by past governors.
Mohlenkamp said the base budget data provided to the Legislature met the requirement of the state law on budget disclosure and Sandoval also defended the decision.
“There is no violation of law,” Sandoval said in October. “We’re perfectly consistent and in accordance with Nevada state law.”
The budget dispute was first reported by the Nevada News Bureau. The Las Vegas Sun also reported on the impasse earlier this month, which led to several calls in the media and by others for Sandoval to release the data.
Sandoval then announced last week he would release the budget data this week, which happened today.
Given the limited amount of state tax revenues, many of the special consideration items are not likely to see funding in Sandoval’s 2013-15 budget, which will be released next month ahead of the start of the Feb. 4 legislative session.
Many of the requests are for new positions. A total of just over 518 positions are in the agency wish lists for the first fiscal year, with about another 100 proposed to be added in the second year.
But there are other types of requests, such as the $20 million being sought from the general fund by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to provide more money for the Catalyst Fund, which will be used to attract new businesses to the state. The Legislature created the fund in 2011 and appropriated $10 million for its operation in the current budget.
The total requests from the general fund by the various agencies total $419 million.
The Nevada Policy Research Institute congratulated Sandoval on releasing the budget information, but said the requests should be ignored because they are meaningless.
“That’s because they assume that every government agency should be given a substantial funding increase through costs – including pay increases – that automatically roll up,” said NPRI Deputy Policy Director Geoffrey Lawrence. “This outdated and broken budgeting process, commonly referred to as ‘baseline budgeting,’ failed to exact any accountability over the use of public resources.”
The adoption by the 2011 Legislature of a new process, called performance-based budgeting, which was advocated by NPRI, among others, will ensure the state’s highest priorities are funded, he said.