Posts Tagged ‘Burns’

Gov. Gibbons Announces Plan To Phase Out And Close Nevada State Prison In Capital

By Sean Whaley | 3:35 pm June 17th, 2010

(Updated at 5:55 p.m. on June 17, 2010)

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons today approved a plan to phase out operations at the Nevada State Prison in the capital. The decision by the lame duck governor comes even though the Legislature has rejected past attempts to close the facility.

“It costs taxpayers an extra $4,000 to $6,000 per inmate for prisoners at NSP because the facility is so old and poorly designed,” Gibbons said. “Additionally, NSP is not as safe for prison staff as other facilities.”

Right now, more than 650 inmates are being held at NSP.

Dan Burns, communications director for Gibbons, said the governor and his Corrections Department director have the authority to close the facility, which should be completed over the next six to eight months.

Transfers of inmates have already begun, he said. The plan is to close the prison in phases to ensure the 208 state positions, mostly correctional officers, can be accommodated at other facilities, whether it be at Lovelock or at other facilities in the capital, Burns said.

“When it’s all said and done, it will be empty,” he said.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said legislative legal staff is reviewing whether Gibbons has the legal authority to close the facility. The other question is whether the closure makes fiscal sense, she said.

The plan presented to the Legislature at the February special session, which was rejected, did not make financial sense, Leslie said.

“It was not well thought out,” she said.

Howard Skolnik, director of the Department of Corrections, developed the phase-out plan which will begin July 1.

Secretary of State Ross Miller criticized the decision, saying it was premature and made without consulting the Board of Prison Commissioners charged with overseeing prison operations.

“There has been nothing presented at a Board of Prisons meeting in support of closing NSP, and consequently no discussion of such a move,” said Miller, who is a member of the three-person board, along with Gibbons and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. “While the governor makes assertions regarding savings, he’s provided the board with no evidence of such, nor has he or his prison director addressed the board regarding the potential public safety aspects of closing NSP. A decision of this magnitude rightfully deserves a public hearing.

“Governor Gibbons has clearly overreached his limited authority to manage the state prisons,” said Miller, who has called for a prisons board meeting for June 23 at 1 p.m.

The Nevada Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission recommended closing the prison more than two years ago. The Nevada Legislature, which the Gibbons administration says has been heavily influenced by labor unions, has refused to allow the prison to be closed.

“We need to stop bowing to labor unions and do what is best for the taxpayers of Nevada,” Gibbons said. “Parts of the NSP are more than 100 years old. The inefficiencies are a waste of taxpayers’ money and the safety issues put staff, inmates and the Carson City community at risk.”

Portions of the prison facility, built more recently, will remain open, including buildings housing a print shop, license plate fabrication and the execution chamber.

The move by Gibbons comes just days after he lost in the GOP primary to challenger Brian Sandoval. Gibbons will leave office in early January after one term.

Audio clips:

Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns on authority to close prison

061710Burns1 :21 of the Legislature.”

Burns on Legislature’s failure to act

061710Burns2 :10 afford it anymore”

Assembly Speaker Says Governor’s Education Reform Plan Not Likely to Get Hearing in Special Session

By Sean Whaley | 12:37 pm February 26th, 2010

(Updated at 2:37 p.m. on Feb. 26, 2010)

CARSON CITY – Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley said “probably not” when asked this morning if the Legislature will have the time to consider education reform and the other measures included in Gov. Jim Gibbons proclamation for the special session now entering its fourth day.

Gibbons on Wednesday amended the proclamation to include a number of issues he had previously asked the Legislature to consider at the special session, including amendments to the state’s collective bargaining law, a school voucher, or scholarship, program and elimination of the state mandates for smaller class sizes in the lower elementary grades of the public schools.

Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns said the governor would be disappointed if the Legislature did not make an effort to take up at least some of the proposals included in the proclamation.

“The governor would like to see some effort by the Legislature to consider all of the education reform measures,” Burns said. “But he would like to see at least some effort to consider some of the proposals he has made, to have the Legislature show they have some level of interest in modernizing the system of public education in this state.”

Burns acknowledged that Gibbons has called on the Legislature to finish its work by the end of the day Sunday. But the pace of the Legislature up to now, described by some as “glacial,” already has afforded some time to consider education reform, he said.

“We’re in the fourth day,” Burns said. “How many bills have come to the governor’s office?”

Gibbons still has not received the bill to change Nevada law to allow the state to compete for federal Race to the Top funds, passed by the Legislature on Wednesday, he said.

While pleased that lawmakers are now picking up the pace, and that lawmakers are actively working on solutions to the $900 million budget shortfall, Gibbons will be surprised and disappointed if the Legislature can’t take the time to consider one single idea to improve education, Burns said.

“All we’re asking for is a fair shake,” he said. “The governor has said he will bring the issue up again.”

While hearings on education reform do not appear likely, the Assembly today did introduce a bill to allow for the temporary increase in class sizes in the next school year to deal with the impending public school budget cuts.

Assembly Bill 4 would allow school districts to add two students to class sizes in grades 1, 2 and 3. Those classes are now limited to 16 students per teacher in grades 1 and 2 and 19 students in grade 3.

Joyce Haldeman, representing the Clark County School District, supported the bill, saying the addition of two pupils to the classes in these three grades would save the district $30 million next school year.

Gibbons wanted the class-size mandate permanently repealed.

Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, said he believes the measures should be given some attention, even though lawmakers are under pressure to balance the budget and adjourn as soon as possible.

“We owe any governor the courtesy to at least look at these,” he said.

The two houses could divide the proposals to speed the process up, Hambrick said.

“Give him a chance in the batter’s box,” he said.

Millennium Scholarship Program Slated for $12.6 Million Hit in Governor’s Budget Balancing Plan

By Sean Whaley | 6:03 pm February 16th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Among the multiple proposals identified today by Gov. Jim Gibbons to balance a state budget that is out of balance by $890 million is a hit to the Gov. Guinn Millennium Scholarship program for Nevada high school graduates.

The program, established by former Gov. Kenny Guinn and the Legislature in 1999, provides a per credit payment to qualified Nevada high school graduates who go on to college at a state institution.

Gibbons is proposing to defer a transfer from the state’s unclaimed property fund to the scholarship program to the tune of $3.8 million a year. He is also proposing to take $5 million from the scholarship fund itself in the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Steve George, a spokesman for state Treasurer Kate Marshall, who oversees the fund, said the taking of such an amount could put the program in jeopardy. Scenarios are being run on the ramifications of the proposal and will be made available in the next few days, he said.

But the taking of the $12.6 million could put the program in a deficit situation, George said.

Dan Burns, spokesman for Gibbons, said the taking of the $12.6 million won’t kill the program or eliminate the scholarship for students who are now receiving it.

“The governor doesn’t want to do anything to destroy the program,” he said. “The governor understands that education is the intellectual infrastructure of the future. But we need the program to give a little bit to keep the entire state alive. That’s the reality of the situation.”

Burns said the scholarship was never expected to last forever, and it may be time to consider means testing as a qualification so that the money only goes to those who really need it to make college affordable.

“If you look at our list, the money is coming from just about everywhere,” he said. “No area is not pitching in. The Millennium Scholarship is one of those areas.”

George said the scholarship program is expected to receive about $18 million this year and next from tobacco settlement funds, which flow to Nevada as a result of an agreement entered into between cigarette manufacturers and most states earlier this decade. The fund is then augmented with unclaimed property funds to keep it solvent, he said.

But the fund is currently paying out about $25 million a year to scholarship recipients. So the transfer of $12.6 million to help balance the state budget shortfall is a concern, he said.

“It definitely could put the program in jeopardy in the future,” George said.

Eligible students receive $40 to $80 per credit hour depending on where they attend and the level of the course. Students must maintain eligibility as determined by grade point average. The scholarship cannot be used for remedial coursework.

George said that since its inception, about 59,000 Nevada high school graduates have taken advantage of the program, with about 20,000 earning degrees at one of the campuses of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Democrats Blast Gibbons on Stimulus Spending, Governor Fires Back

By Sean Whaley | 5:58 pm October 14th, 2009
CARSON CITY – The Nevada State Democratic Party today launched an attack on Gov. Jim Gibbons for failing to get federal stimulus transportation and infrastructure projects out to bid in a timely fashion.

“In his typical inept fashion, Gibbons has landed Nevada at the bottom of another list; the state ranks 46th in the number of transportation and infrastructure projects it has put out to bid,” the release says. “While most states have allocated more than 40 percent of their stimulus dollars allotted for transportation projects, according to a report released last month Nevada has put less than 27 percent of its funding out to bid. And the state has begun work on projects that totaled only 23 percent of the state’s transportation and infrastructure funding.”

Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns rejected the criticism, saying the information was inaccurate when it was brought up several weeks ago and it remains inaccurate now.

“We could have done one large project and spent all the money at one time,” he said. “Instead the state is doing a large number of smaller projects that will benefit more people and create more jobs. Even shovel-ready projects have to go out to bid, get equipment ready and get moving.”

The Nevada Department of Transportation reports that nearly $100 million of the $140 million it has received for transportation projects is now obligated. Of the 18 projects around the state under the control of NDOT, 15 are out to bid.

“The money is spent,” said NDOT spokesman Scott Magruder. “We feel we have met, if not exceeded, the expectation of getting these projects out.”

Other transportation projects are being handled by the counties, and Magruder could not speak to the status of those projects.

The Democratic Party release says Nevada’s Democratic delegation to Congress, led by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, worked to bring $1.5 billion in funding to Nevada through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

But Gibbons “foot-dragging” has put Nevada behind the rest of the nation in putting the stimulus money to use, the release says.

Burns said giving Reid credit for Nevada’s stimulus funding is “pathetic and laughable.” Nevada ranks 50th in per capita spending for stimulus funds, he said.

Burns said critics need to take a “Civics 101 class.”

“They have no idea how this government process works,” he said. “There are rules, regulations, stipulations and strings attached. We can’t do this overnight.”

Gibbons is trying to help as many Nevada residents as possible with the funding by creating as many jobs as possible across the state, Burns said.