Posts Tagged ‘Dan Klaich’

Higher Education Budget Could Be Cut Further Under Legislative Proposal

By Andrew Doughman | 3:40 pm May 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The budget situation for Nevada’s universities and colleges may have worsened today as legislators voted to both cut and restore funding for higher education.

Democratic legislators first voted to restore $100 million to the higher education budget, but Democrats also continued to oppose a shift of Washoe and Clark County property tax money from county governments to the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

That property tax shift represents $120 million that the universities were counting on in the governor’s recommended general fund budget.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said legislators fully intend to replace that money with general fund dollars.

But Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, was not so sure.

“That decision has not been finalized,” he said.

Horsford said backfilling that $120 million hole is “one of the options” the Legislature may consider.

If the Legislature does nothing, Nevada’s higher education world may be worse off than it was under Gov. Brian Sandoval’s recommended general fund budget.

“If they don’t replace the property tax money they took out, we’re in very bad shape,” said Jim Richardson, a lobbyist for the Nevada Faculty Alliance.

Richardson said he had thought the Legislature would either apply the property tax shift to all 17 counties or use general fund dollars instead.

Legislature Votes To Reduce Tuition Increase By 13 Percent

Students, however, might feel a little better after legislators on two money committees voted today to support a 13 percent tuition increase spread over the next two years rather than a 26 percent increase, as was proposed earlier.

That would mean the universities would have to find more money because many colleges and universities assumed a 26 percent increase.

“That money has to be cut from somewhere and it would appear that means program cuts and layoffs,” said professor Gregory Brown of the UNLV Faculty Alliance.

The 13 percent tuition increase would bring Nevada’s colleges and universities about $42.4 million during the next two years.

The problem is, higher education administrators were counting on the $120 million worth of property tax diversions in addition to revenues collected through tuition.

The votes, however, all hinge on the Legislature passing new taxes or extending current ones, which are scheduled to sunset June 30. If that does not happen, legislators would have to re-examine these actions.

“We closed the budget, but the funding has not been identified so you can’t get too excited yet,” Smith said. “All you can count on is what we did today, and that’s contingent on us finding the revenue …It’s a budget in motion.”

Sandoval has recommended a two-year, higher-education budget that was $254 million less than the amount of money the Legislature approved during the 2010 special session.

That would be reduced to a $112 million cut if the Board of Regents approves the tuition increases and the Legislature finds $100 million to give to colleges and universities. The Legislature would also have to find $120 million to replace the funding that would have gone to higher education through the local property tax diversion.

Before today, legislators had anticipated following Klaich’s four-point plan, which would have called for $80 million in new revenue and a 26 percent tuition increase.

Students had testified before a legislative committee about keeping tuition low before legislators voted to recommend a 13 percent increase to the Board of Regents, which makes the final call on student fees.

Republicans largely objected to the $100 million in new revenue.

“I don’t know where we’re going to get the money to pay for this,” said Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno. “I just think we don’t have the money. At this point in the game, this is kind of where I have to stand.”

At this point in the legislative game, legislators are debating taxes.  Sandoval included spending $6.1 billion in his 2011-2013 general fund budget. Democrats want to spend about $7 billion, with $626 million coming from extending taxes set to expire June 30 and the rest from new taxes on business and services like haircuts, attorneys and brothels.

“Bottom line is: there are taxes being paid that if continued would cover this [$100 million],” said Horsford.

Legislative committees also earlier supported a 4.8 percent salary cut to university employees, adding between $7.5 and $10 million in extra spending because the governor recommended a 5 percent cut.

“The reality is, the work is not done because we still need to get folks to pay for it,” Horsford said.

Lieutenant Governor Criticized At Board of Regents Meeting

By Andrew Doughman | 5:26 pm March 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – It was not a friendly crowd for Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki as he spoke of economic development at Western Nevada College.

The bleachers in Sarah Winnemucca Hall were packed with students and staff concerned about Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed $162 million reduction in state support for Nevada’s colleges and universities.

James Dean Leavitt, chairman of the Board of Regents, criticized the governor’s proposal. He said that Nevada’s higher education system has never been properly funded and that economic diversification should be coupled with diversifying revenue.

Leavitt had earlier called for tax increases to mitigate cuts to higher education.

“I’m not preaching to my audience right now, but the Legislature and the governor are making an unbelievably difficult decision,” Krolicki said in response to Leavitt. “…The best way to get out of these budget woes is to crank this economy and let it go. That’s what we need to do.”

Leavitt and the other dozen regents were gathered at Western Nevada College for a board meeting. The board is responsible for approving cuts like those drafted by UNLV and UNR earlier this week, as well as tuition increases.

Krolicki addressed ways universities can help create jobs during his speech to the board.

Apart from his job as lieutenant governor, Krolicki is the chairman of the Nevada Commission on Economic Development. That means he works with higher education institutions to do things like commercialize research.

Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, played the conciliator after Leavitt and Krolicki had their back-and-forth.

“Brian [Krolick] has included NSHE in every conversation that has been had,” he said “…I think that the board has said exactly what it needs to say, but I would like to recognize a true partner who has been with us through every step of the way.”

Officially, Krolicki was supposed to talk only about economic development, but his ties to the governor and the proposed state budget could not be ignored.

The state budget weaved its way through everything the Regents talked about. Students exclusively addressed it during public comment. The hallways were alive with chatter about the proposed cuts; one young woman cried watching the testimony of Western Nevada College students whose program for the deaf could disappear with its funding.

The Board of Regents reconvenes at Western Nevada College tomorrow, when they plan to officially address the governor’s proposed budget.

 

Business Leaders Say Low Taxes Not Enough

By Andrew Doughman | 5:47 pm February 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Business leaders from several large technology companies said today that Nevada lacks the skilled workforce necessary for them to locate in Nevada over the long-term.

When asked whether they favored low taxes or a solid educational system when choosing where to locate their business, a executive from General Electric said both are equally important.

The remarks contradict what Gov. Brian Sandoval, who was also at the meeting with business leaders, said earlier. Sandoval had said that the state’s education system rarely comes up in conversations with business executives.

“Most of the skills we’re looking for we’ve had to bring outside of the state,” said Kevin Doyle of Capgemini, a French-based, information-technology company with business interests in Nevada. “However, frankly, in order to start our business here we need to bring some folks so we know it’s not sustainable long term. Having technology skills is absolutely paramount.”

The businesses said what has been aired in the public sphere before: the lack of educational attainment hurts the state. Legislators said, however, that the meeting was helpful.

“Well, what it helps to do is reinforce that there is commitment on behalf of companies to come and locate to Nevada,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas. “They want a trained and educated workforce. They need people with the skills to perform certain functions.”

The elected officials gathered at the meeting stressed a renewed bipartisanship as a good sign that they’ll make progress with economic development this legislative session.

The Valentine’s Day meeting brought both political parties to the table.

Horsford and Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, convened the roundtable meeting with business representatives, legislative leadership from both parties and the governor and his staff.

“I challenge any state to bring in a lieutenant governor, a governor, a majority leader, a speaker, the chairmen of the various commissions, the heads of both parties here all in one place to talk about these issues,” Sandoval said. “I think it reinforces some of the things that we all understand, that we have a great business environment in this state.”

Republicans and Democrats seem to be flirting with bipartisanship, but they haven’t yet taken up electoral redistricting or the possibility of tax increases.

For now, however, the consensus among legislators of both parties is that the community colleges should be partnering with businesses. Businesses would ask that students learn certain skills and the colleges would then tailor certification courses to the needs of businesses.

Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education that oversees universities and community colleges, said that this is what community colleges already do.

“The community colleges are the most nimble of the institutions in the system,” he said. “They have programs that they regularly tailor to the needs of a particular business.”

He said the governor’s proposed budget cuts, which total about $162 million during the next biennium, could curtail the ability of the community colleges to create new programs for high-tech industries.

The question of funding for education came up again during a Senate committee hearing. Devin Whitney, a government representative from the membership organization Tech-America, had attended the meeting with the governor and legislative leadership, but stressed his points on the record at the hearing.

He praised Nevada’s low taxes, but said they weren’t enough to attract the businesses he represents.

“What is still lacking is the skilled workforce,” he said. “That requires the appropriate investment in the education system to make sure they are churning out graduates.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, asked Whitney to further describe how certification programs at community colleges would work.

Whitney replied that, in some cases, the programs are simple.

“You do the training, you take the course, you pass a test at the end and you are ready to work,” he said.

Whitney brought up information technology centers as an example. Companies may be drawn to Nevada’s low taxes, but they need educated people to staff such a center.

“If they can’t get the people to manage that center, then they’re going to have to import them from out of state even with the good regulatory and tax environment,” he said.

Senate and Assembly education committees will take up the issue of higher education this Wednesday. The Senate committee on economic development before which Whitney testified also has a day scheduled exclusively for debate about high-tech industry.

The Case For Cuts: After Criticism, Many Defend Governor’s Budget

By Andrew Doughman | 4:00 am February 7th, 2011

CARSON CITY – They speak of limbs hacked off, death and guts.

In a war of words, critics of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $5.8 billion budget have lambasted his proposed cuts to K-12, higher education and health and human services.

Conservatives have largely stayed silent while the critics lashed out. Now, two weeks after the governor released his budget and on the first day of the 120-day legislative session, they’re ready to defend it.

The “live within our means” crowd has said the governor’s budget, along with any legislative tinkering to iron out compromises, puts Nevada where it needs to be. Advocates for health and education have equated it to a starvation diet. The governor and others say each state dollar can do more.

When you’re at home, and you know you can’t afford something, you just don’t get it,” said Sen. Barbara Cegavske, one of the few Republican lawmakers to raise her voice during the past two weeks of legislative budget-overview hearings.

The governor has proposed 9 percent and 18 percent budget cuts to K-12 and higher education. But even those who have bemoaned the cost of the governor’s cuts have some concessions to make.

I think we have been guilty of hyperbole in the past where, you know, we get the first dollar of a cut and we would like you to believe that the sky is falling,” said Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, which comprises Nevada’s universities and community college. “Here we are a few years later and lo and behold the sky is right where it started out. It has not fallen in.”

Klaich made his comments at a meeting this past week between presidents of universities and community colleges and the Board of Regents, which govern the state’s higher education system. He warned the presidents not to overstate the cost of the cuts.

Later in the session, the extent to which advocates for school, university and human services programs justify their worth could influence how legislators choose what to cut and what to save.

Presenting worst case scenarios doesn’t do any good,” said Dale Erquiaga, the governor’s senior adviser. “Everyone knows they’re not going to try to fill that [budget] gap entirely with tuition [increases], including them. And so to say that they would is disingenuous.”

No new taxes

The governor has repeatedly said he will veto any bill with a tax increase. Democrats would have to rally their legislators as well as persuade some Republican lawmakers to cross party lines in order to have the two-thirds majority required to override Sandoval’s veto.

The governor’s staff remain confident that this is impossible.

They do not have two-thirds to raise a tax,” Erquiaga said.

Not all Democrats have pledged their support for tax increases either. Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, stressed the harmful effects of the cuts during legislative budget overviews during the past two weeks.

His counterpart in the Assembly, Speaker-elect John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, offered more compromising rhetoric.

As the Las Vegas Sun reported this past weekend, the two Democrats are approaching the session with different leadership styles, which could be a contributing factor to how the 120-day session is likely to play out.

Accountability

The admonishments from Horsford and others have not persuaded some legislators. Rather than watch agencies and programs starve, this is the camp that says that the state can get leaner, more efficient and do more with less at the level of spending the governor has proposed.

Freshman Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, said this weekend that people don’t mind some taxes.

They just want to know how is it being spent, are we spending correctly,” he said. “That’s the systemic problem we’re having, the transparency of each of these agencies that we have.”

Although not the single agenda of any one legislator, the no-new-taxes scenario could look like this: Legislators vote to consolidate state agencies, reduce salaries of state employees and revise the state’s pension and benefits plans. They also make it easier to fire bad teachers and reward good ones. That same accountability system and culture, somehow, migrates to state agencies so the state can better track the effectiveness of its spending. Finally, the Legislature decides to shift services downward to county governments, a move that isn’t a burden because the Legislature concurrently gives counties more leeway in how they pay their employees. Counties also add accountability measures at the local level.

If you’ve been watching the firefighters down in Clark County, yeah, somebody should be watching something,” Cegavske said.

County leaders have criticized Clark County firefighters for making liberal use of their sick days, oftentimes when they’re not sick.

Republican leaders Sen. Mike McGinness and Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea have also written a letter in support of the governor’s budget. They argue that taxes are unnecessary because the state can reform “how government should operate.”

Jobs and Business

That philosophy of government harkens back to the Reagan years, when the governor and his senior advisers first entered politics.

Sandoval said that keeping people employed is his “most important” priority in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun. In the same interview, he said a business-friendly, low-tax environment will be the key to economic growth.

It’s a message echoed by conservatives statewide.

The best way to get out of it for those people and everyone is allow people to work,” said Victor Joecks at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank.

The governor has, however, used about $1 billion worth of one-time budget shifts to balance his budget. He hasn’t completely relied on cuts. Instead he has proposed to move around local funds and open up accounts that are now locked-in for bond repayment.

But critics have called the governor out more for his cuts than his accounting. Some have suggested a sales tax on services or a business franchise tax as ways to avoid eviscerating the state’s social safety-net and broaden the state’s tax base.

The governor still has strong support going into the session. But, as the Las Vegas Review Journal reports, the record number of freshman legislators and the presence of some key players don’t entirely rule out a tax increase if Horsford and other can advocates are especially persuasive.

The games begin today as the Legislature convenes later this morning.

Board of Regents Chairman Calls For Tax Increases

By Andrew Doughman | 2:41 pm January 28th, 2011

A prominent education official has called for tax increases to offset the proposed higher education budget cuts in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget.

James Dean Leavitt, chair of the board that governs Nevada’s higher education system, said today that he would like the Legislature to use a “revenue enhancement” to offset every dollar the governor proposes to cut from the system.

He said that the Legislature should maintain the level of funds that it appropriated to Nevada’s higher education system during the 2010 special session.

Sandoval’s budget recommends a $162 million reduction in state spending for the next biennium. Chancellor Dan Klaich, who oversees the Nevada System of Higher Education, said yesterday at a legislative budget subcommittee hearing that a 73 percent tuition increase would be necessary to offset that decrease.

Leavitt said the universities and colleges of this state have already taken three successive years of cuts and any further cuts would have a “cataclysmic impact” for the state. While acknowledging the need for spending accountability, he said the system should be properly funded.

“That means coming up with new revenue from any and all sources,” he said. “What’s unfortunate is that we look at any revenue enhancement as a burden and … not a public good.”

Leavitt is the chair of the Board of Regents, the governing body that determines how to spend the money the Legislature appropriates to it. The Board of Regents oversees all of the state’s universities and community colleges.

He condemned the proposed budget cuts at a town hall meeting at UNLV earlier today.

Sandoval, however, has said repeatedly that he would not support a tax increase and would veto any bill containing one.

The governor has also repeated a mantra that government agencies should make each dollar go further.

“You have to have money in order to invest money,” said Dale Erquiaga, the governor’s senior adviser, at a press conference yesterday. “All investors know, when you only have a finite amount of money, you have to make your money work harder, and we believe the budget does that.”

The governor responded to criticisms of his proposed budget in a statement released this afternoon. “It is important for Nevadans to know that we are not the only state facing challenges in funding higher education,” he said. “The economic situation across the nation is forcing governors and Legislatures to make reductions in higher education spending. Some are facing even deeper cuts than Nevada.”

Leavitt, however, said that there’s “tremendous support” for properly funding higher education, partially because there’s a direct public benefit from the system.

Yesterday, Klaich came close to voicing support for a tax increase.

“I’m not sure that the people of Nevada don’t want taxes to support education,” he said. “I don’t just accept the fact that our friends and neighbors don’t want to support education by means of enhanced revenues.”

Other higher education officials have been less supportive of any spending increases. Mark Alden, a member of the Board of Regents, said that new taxes should be the last resort.

He said he needs more time to study the budget and look at every way to cut expenses first. If further evaluation proves the higher education system needs more funding, he said he would support a “modest business tax.”

Today, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, responded to the proposed higher-education budget cuts with a letter slamming the governor’s plan.

Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, has also criticized the governor’s proposed cuts to both the K-12 and higher education budgets.

“We all understand that we will not be able to turn around this economy without a well-educated workforce to attract new businesses, yet the governor is proposing draconian cuts to education funding,” he said in a statement released earlier today.

Democrats in the Senate and Assembly have, however, thus far proposed no plan of their own to counter the governor’s.

Erquiaga yesterday challenged Democrats to present their own plan.

“The governor has put his cards on the table,” Erquiaga said. “The other side is talking about the hand they hold.”

The people of Nevada will get to weigh in with their thoughts regarding revenue and budget cuts at tomorrow’s budget, town hall meetings in Reno and Las Vegas.


Amid Budget Cuts Debate, University Students Organizing

By Andrew Doughman | 5:33 pm January 27th, 2011

RENO – He looked out into the audience at the University of Nevada, Reno and said: “if lawmakers want to invest in something, we want to make sure they invest in us.”

Behind him, a Powerpoint presentation displayed tactics for talking to lawmakers about higher education budget cuts.

He is Casey Stiteler, the UNR student directing the newly-created student government Department of Legislative Affairs. After years of budget cuts, he and dozens of other students have coalesced into something of a self-advocacy group.

But their protests won’t be of their parents’ variety. Gone are the marches and megaphones.

These students speak of biennial budgets and pepper their talk with names of state Senators and Assembly members. They’re very worried about the state’s Tobacco Settlement money, which is the pot of money from which many of them draw benefits in the form of Millennium Scholarships.

They’re also very upset that Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget includes a $162 million reduction in state support to higher education.

Stiteler and ASUN Senator Jonathan Moore briefed about 40 students Wednesday night about the state of higher education before delving into what might be called a strategy talk.

They shared talking points and reviewed budget figures. A sheet went around the room onto which students wrote their e-mails so they could receive legislative updates from Stiteler.

Slowly, a strategy developed. Students said they need to show legislators the impact of the cuts on their chances for success. They’ll also need to convince legislators that the system can’t take much more strain.

Lastly and perhaps surprisingly, Stiteler and others in the room seemed resigned to higher tuition and fees. Rather than fight a reasonable increase that could keep the lights on, they called for more control.

We need to have a promise from Carson City that we get to keep that money on campus and let it have a direct impact on education,” Stiteler said. “There are some moves we can try to make to see our dollars work for us.”

The first move will be this Saturday. Students plan to arrive by the busload at a Reno town hall meeting to discuss budget cuts.

We can have a big impact,” Stiteler explained. “One of the lawmakers who is going to be there is Debbie Smith, and she is the chair of Ways and Means, which is kind of the money committee.”

Ben Pelt, a 22-year-old UNR student, said he’s going to shift around his work schedule to be at the Saturday hearing.

Having educated people in the economy is going to be our future,” he said. “It depends on people going through college and getting an education.”

In such a budget-conscious Legislature, the students plan to appeal to the pocketbook.

Today, Dan Klaich, the chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, spoke before a legislative committee reviewing the governor’s proposed higher education budget. During his testimony, he called students “human capital” and universities “critical places of workforce development.”

Noting that the University of Reno had already shuttered services like the career center and eliminated whole majors, the students plan to say that further reductions could throw a wrench right into the state’s biggest economic engine.

But they aren’t naïve either.

When it does come time to cut, there’s very few things to choose from,” Stiteler said. “If anyone is going to be chosen to shoulder the burden … a lot of people come to higher education.”

So what’s the answer?

Like many legislators, they don’t know quite yet.

Part of the game, though, is just showing up.

If we all band together there’s a very good chance that we’ll have an effect on this,” Stiteler said.

Gibbons Round-Up

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:01 pm March 17th, 2010

A quick trifecta of items about the governor:

In which he formed an education task force headed by Elaine Wynn and Dan Klaich.

In which he explains his executive order (and veto) re: furloughs.

In which he writes a letter to Shelley Berkley saying leave health care to the state.

Governor Gibbons to Announce Blue Ribbon Education Panel

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:43 pm March 14th, 2010

As Flashed by Ralston just now:

Gibbons to announce blue-ribbon education panel headed by Elaine Wynn, Chancellor Dan Klaich

Coming tomorrow.

Legislators of both parties, gamers, union types, superintendents, even the Just Say No to more taxes crowd will have representation among two dozen members. Many usual suspects but some new voices and smooth move in pick of Sonya Horsford, who has better education credentials than her elected official husband.

More Monday.

Just left messages for three active “empowerment school” and/or school voucher advocates here in southern Nevada to see if they have (or know) someone on the panel.  I’m interested because as I’ve been learning about education reform, the issue of Empowerment seems to be a non-partisan goal that both Dems and Republicans can find reason to support.

Will post an update if/when I have one.

Reorganizing Course Offerings May Be One Way to Solve Budget Shortfall, Higher Education Chancellor Says

By Sean Whaley | 4:28 pm February 4th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Higher education Chancellor Dan Klaich said today that proposals made by Regent Mark Alden to shift teacher and nursing courses from the state’s universities to lower cost colleges should be part of the discussion on how to absorb impending funding cuts.

Klaich said reexamining the way the universities, state college and community colleges work together to offer education opportunities to students needs to be part of a review by the presidents of the campuses of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

“Hypothetically there is a different cost of education at the tiers of the different institutions,” Klaich said. “But I don’t know how you pick up blocks and move them. I’m not saying you can’t do it but everything has ripples.”

Even so, it is appropriate to ask campus presidents to see how they can most efficiently offer educational opportunities to students, he said.

“I think things like Mark has suggested should be on the table in that discussion,” Klaich said. “But to think that there is a simple solution to cutting 22 percent out of our budgets is just not reasonable.”

Alden said the change to the class offerings would make up about a third of the shortfall. Then, all salaries and payroll should be cut by 10 percent to 15 percent to make up the remainder of the required reductions, he said.

Klaich said he will not be recommending any pay cuts to the Board of Regents. If salary reductions are proposed by Gov. Jim Gibbons and approved by the Legislature, then the university system will address them at that time, he said.

Regent Kevin Page, asked for his thoughts on Alden’s proposal to shift class offerings to lower cost institutions, said it is premature to talk of specific types of cuts until the actual size of the budget cut becomes known. But Alden’s suggestion on course realignment could be part of a move to improved efficiency, he said.

Page said another option would be to increase the cost of tuition for nursing programs because the cost of providing the education is three to four times that of other types of degree offerings.

“In that way we could recover more of the cost,” he said.

But there is no question campuses need to work together to create efficiencies and reduce costs, Page said. He cited as an example a simulated lab created at the Shadow Lane campus in Las Vegas that provides top quality training for health professionals. It was created as a collaborative effort by several campuses and could not have been done individually, he said.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense for everyone to compete with each other,” Page said.

If higher education is forced to take a 22 percent cut, the seven-campus system would see a $37 million cut this year and $110 million next year, according to information provided by Klaich to the Board of Regents earlier this week.

This is the size of the cuts required to cover a nearly $900 million budget shortfall.

Large student fee increases, closing or consolidating campuses and laying off hundreds of higher education employees are all potential parts of a solution if such cuts become a reality, Klaich said.

Gibbons has proposed a 10 percent cut for state agencies and education as a way to bridge part of the funding shortfall. Details of how he will fill the remaining gap are expected at his state of the state address on Monday. Additional pay cuts are likely to be part of his proposal.