Posts Tagged ‘Nevada budget’

Jurist Says Mental Health Support Key To Stemming Mass Killings

By Sean Whaley | 3:12 pm December 17th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty said today that the country will not have success in reducing the tragic type of shooting incident that occurred Friday in Connecticut without providing more mental health support.

Hardesty, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said “we’re going backwards” on mental health treatment needs nationally and in Nevada.

Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty.

“It’s high time the country does something about these matters,” he said. “And from the perspective of a judge who has worked hard to, and the judiciary as a whole, worked hard to promote mental health court as an example, we cannot achieve any success in any of these areas if we do not recognize the importance of being proactive in dealing with mental health issues in this country and in this state.

“And yet we’re going backwards,” Hardesty said. “And I hope that these very sad incidents demonstrate the need to revisit these subjects.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, in a report released in November 2011, said there is a national crisis in helping people with serious mental illness due to deep cuts in state spending for mental health services.

“States such as California, Illinois, Nevada and South Carolina, which made devastating cuts to mental health services previously, have made further cuts for fiscal year 2012, putting tens of thousands of citizens at great risk,” the report said.

The NAMI report said states have cut more than $1.6 billion in general funds from their state mental health agency budgets since 2009 while at the same time demand increased significantly.

The state Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services has more than $7 million in general funding spending requests in the state budget “wish list” document released to the public on Friday. Many of the $419 million in total state agency general fund requests included on the list are not expected to see funding due to a lack of tax revenue.

One of the mental health requests is for nearly $200,000 for a clinical program manager and training for a new program to provide a continuum of care for clients reentering the community when being released from jails, prisons and forensic hospitals.

In his NewsMakers comments, Hardesty said the 2nd Amendment and gun control debate is a separate issue.

But the perpetrators of many of these terrible incidents are afflicted with serious mental health issues that require a proactive society, he said. Families who struggle with family members who suffer from such illnesses need help and support, Hardesty said.

Nevadans don’t have to look to Connecticut to see the problem, he said, citing the Carson City incident in September 2011 where a man armed with an AK-47 assault rifle shot five uniformed National Guard members eating breakfast at a restaurant, killing three and another person before shooting himself.

The shooter, Eduardo Sencion of Carson City, suffered from mental health issues and was on medication. He left no note or explanation for the shootings.

“So I hope that it causes us, as a society, to look at what will help be proactive and achieve some significant changes in those areas,” Hardesty said.

On a positive note, he pointed to the successes of the state’s mental health courts, where the focus is on diverting non-violent offenders with mental illness into treatment programs. The goal is to reduce or eliminate offender recidivism by treating their mental illness.

“And the more we can do to be proactive to support programs like that, the more we’ll do to reduce the risks to our society caused by the Sandy Hook Elementary event,” Hardesty said.


Audio clips:

Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty says Nevada and the nation are going backwards in support for mental health treatment efforts:

121712Hardesty1 :17 we’re going backwards.”

Hardesty says he hopes the tragic Sandy Hook incident will help lead to more mental health support:

121712Hardesty2 :11 in those areas.”

Hardesty says an investment in mental health support will help reduce the risks of further such incidents:

121712Hardesty3 :13 Hook elementary event.”


Development Of Next State Budget Under Way

By Sean Whaley | 1:52 pm September 10th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada state agencies and public education have submitted budgets calling for nearly $8 billion in spending for the upcoming two years, about $3 billion more than what is expected to be available with current tax revenues.

State Budget Director Andrew Clinger said the gap will exist in large part because of the expiration of temporary tax increases approved by the 2009 Legislature, the loss of one-time federal stimulus funds and some increased caseloads, particularly for Medicaid.

The spending plans submitted by state agencies and education by a Sept. 1 deadline assume that the current furlough program and merit pay freezes will not be continued when the new budget takes effect on July 1, 2011. If the governor and Legislature decide to continue the pay freezes and one-day-a-month furloughs, the nearly $8 billion in spending would be reduced by about $480 million.

That still leaves about a $2.5 billion gap in anticipated tax revenue and potential agency spending, Clinger said.

About $1 billion of the gap is related to taxes that will expire on July 1, 2011 unless extended by the Legislature. Lawmakers in 2009 increased the sales tax and the modified business tax on the state’s largest employers to balance the current budget. Car registration fees were also increased.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds that will not be part of the next budget total nearly $600 million, Clinger said. So the loss of the temporary tax increases and federal stimulus funds contribute about $1.6 billion of the $3 billion difference between anticipated revenues and spending, he said.

The remainder of the difference has not been completely analyzed yet, but much of it is due to seeing more people becoming eligible for Medicaid, which will require an increase in state general fund spending, Clinger said. Medicaid provides health care for low income people, many of them children and the elderly. The costs are shared by the federal government and the state.

Caseload growth in Medicaid and related programs is expected to require $150 million in new spending over the life of the new two-year budget.

If the spending level for the 2011-13 general fund budget ends up at $7.5 billion because furloughs are extended, it would be an increase of about $1 billion over the current two-year budget where spending is expected to total $6.5 billion by June 30, 2011, Clinger said.

But those numbers don’t paint a full picture, he said. The nearly $600 million in lost federal stimulus funds will have to be made up with general fund revenue in the next budget, so that is a major factor in the increase.

But there are some actual proposed spending increases in the new budget, particularly the $150 million in increased Medicaid spending, Clinger said.

“It is going to be important that we outline how you get from $6.5 (billion) to the $8 (billion),” he said. “I haven’t gone through the process of comparing the current $6.5 billion to the $8 billion to sort of give you a reconciliation of that but that is one of the things we will do.”

A number of legislative leaders have already said taxes have to be on the table as a potential solution to the budget shortfall, but both leading party candidates for governor have rejected the idea of new or increased taxes to bridge the gap between revenue and spending.

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said he believes lawmakers must first look to find efficiencies and implement reforms where possible. After that process is completed, there will likely still be a gap between revenues and what is needed to fund the operations of state government for the next two years, he said.

“But I think we ought to work on the checkbook side of things first, on what we’re spending money on,” Oceguera said.

The amount or revenue available to fund state programs and services won’t be known for certain until after the Economic Forum meets in December. The group’s projections must be used by lawmakers in adopting a balanced budget.

Clinger’s office has also embarked on a review of the programs being offered by state government with an eye to identifying the core services that must be provided. Programs that do not meet the priority criteria would then be on the table for potential cuts or even complete elimination as part of the budget balancing process.

The Legislature has also created a committee to perform a fundamental review of some state agency budgets with an eye towards finding savings and efficiencies. The panel meets again on Wednesday.


Audio clips:

Budget Director Andrew Clinger says the proposed state spending levels will have to be reconciled with the current budget:

090910Clinger1 :11 we will do.”

Clinger says the potential of $1.5 billion more in spending in the next budget must be explained:

090910Clinger2 :23 to the $8.”

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera says Legislature must first look to efficiencies in state government before considering new revenues:

090910Oceguera :30 spending money on.”

Nevada Budget Director Paints Grim Picture

By Sean Whaley | 7:35 am August 6th, 2010

CARSON CITY – State Budget Director Andrew Clinger yesterday painted a bleak picture of Nevada’s next two-year spending plan, saying under current tax and spending levels every single program and agency except for education would have to be eliminated to balance the budget.

“You could eliminate everything, and have nothing but K-12 and higher ed, and you would have a balanced budget,” he said. “So the magnitude of the problem that we face, or the challenge that we face going into the next biennium, is huge.”

Higher and lower education together make up about 55 percent of the state budget each year.

The state appears to be at least $3 billion short right now on what is expected to be a $6.5 billion two-year general fund budget, or about 46 percent less than what is required, Clinger said.

As a result, the Gibbons Administration has embarked on a fundamental review of state programs to determine what services can be continued and which ones may have to be eliminated, he said.

“Is there a better way to do it, is there a different way to pay for it, or is it a service you simply no longer provide,” Clinger said.

The revenue shortfall is due to myriad factors, including:

- Tax revenues coming in far below the levels seen in prior boom years;

- About $1 billion in temporary tax increases approved by the 2009 Legislature that are set to expire next June 30;

- The loss of one-time federal stimulus funds that have helped balance the current budget;

- The elimination of employee furloughs and restoration of employee benefits that were cut in 2009 to balance the current budget. Ending furloughs and restoring benefits would cost about $500 million.

The Legislature can decide to extend the expiring tax increases or look to alternative tax increases, and it can also extend the furloughs and benefit cuts as ways to cut into the shortfall in the 2011 legislative session, Clinger said.

The 2009 Legislature temporarily raised the sales tax by 0.35 percent and nearly doubled the modified business tax on the state’s largest employers to help balance the budget. The tax was reduced for smaller employers.

Any tax increase or continuation would require a two-thirds vote in each house of the Legislature. Neither of the two major party candidates for governor has gone on record as supporting tax increases as a way to balance the budget.

“This is a challenge that this state has never faced before,” Clinger said.

The comments came as the Public Employees’ Benefits Program Board began to look at ways of saving $111 million in the health insurance program for state employees and retirees, made necessary because of the state’s budget problems. The board considered raising deductibles and cutting benefits to reach the target. The plan is not expected to see any taxpayer-paid funding increases in the two-year budget that will begin July 1, 2011.

Jim Wells, the executive officer overseeing the program, yesterday told the board it must make decisions on how to best make the cuts because the preliminary budget is due to Clinger’s office by Sept. 1.

“We do need to make some relatively significant decisions today,” he said.

Clinger said that as a percentage basis, Nevada is in worse fiscal shape than any other state in the  nation.

Nevada is collecting the same amount of sales tax right now as in 1999, adjusted for inflation, he said. This despite large population increases since that time, Clinger said.

“I hope at least January of this year represents the bottom of this, and we’re starting to grow,” he said. “Even though revenues are doing better it’s not going to bring us out of this hole we are in anytime soon.”

Gaming revenues, unlike in previous recessions, have also been hurt in this economic slowdown that some are calling the Great Depression, Clinger said.

For the 12 months ending in May 2010, casino revenues were down nearly 5 percent compared to the same period a year previously. And for the 12 months ending in May 2009, revenues were down nearly 13 percent from the same period in 2008.

Another way to see the effect is to look at the amount casinos take in each year per visitor.

“We are at historic lows on the amount the casinos win per visitor, $170 per visitor,” he said.

The figure also is inflation adjusted, and reflects the amount casinos take in, or win each year, divided by total annual visitors. The $170 figure puts Nevada below any prior low seen in records dating back to the late 1970s, Clinger said.

The two revenues make up the majority of the state’s annual general fund budget.


Audio clips:

State Budget Director Andrew Clinger says budget situation is dire:

080410Clinger1 :40 face is huge.”

Clinger says that is why a fundamental review of the budget is under way:

080510Clinger2 :23 afford to provide.”