By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: Gov. Jim Gibbons said his administration is reviewing requests for information from a legislative panel performing a review of base budgets but said the constant calls for more data and staff responses are burdensome and time consuming.
“We’re struggling to meet the needs of the public with a vastly decreased budget,” he said.
Gibbons said his administration is in the midst of its own top-down review of state spending as a preliminary 2011-13 budget is prepared. The state is looking at as much as a $3.5 billion shortfall in revenue compared to recent budgets, which could mean a spending reduction of as much as 40 percent from current levels without new revenues.
The size of the shortfall won’t become clear until the Economic Forum meets later this year to project tax revenues. The projections by the panel of private sector officials, which will be reviewed a second time in May 2011, must be used by the governor and Legislature in creating a balanced budget.
Gibbons was asked to comment about the legislative information requests following a decision he made earlier this month not to have executive branch staff participate or attend the legislative meeting on the base budget review.
The six-member Legislative Committee for the Fundamental Review of the Base Budgets of State Agencies is scheduled to meet again Aug. 10, and the panel has asked for responses to questions raised at its first meeting. The panel also asked administration officials to attend the August meeting.
The first meeting of the panel earlier this month did not include participation from the administration.
Citing separation of powers, Gibbons has directed his staff not to participate with the legislative panel’s budget review. But in an interview Tuesday, he said the most recent requests for information would be evaluated to determine if they could be accommodated.
Legislative leadership has sent Gibbons a letter asking for participation, noting that previous governors have cooperated with lawmakers performing work during the interim. They also noted that administration officials could be subpoenaed, but one lawmaker said there is no interest on the part of the committee in pursuing that alternative.
Gibbons and his administration are preparing a new budget for the next biennium even though Gibbons will not be governor. He was defeated in the June GOP primary by Brian Sandoval. A new governor won’t be picked until the November general election. The new governor won’t take office until January, just a few weeks before the legislative session begins Feb. 7.
State Budget Director Andrew Clinger sent a memo to all agencies in June saying the process of building the new two-year Nevada budget will be substantially different from past practice.
Given the fiscal crisis faced by the state over the past three years, Nevada can no longer craft a budget by taking the previous year’s expenditures, adjust for one-time expenditures and add inflation and caseload growth, he said.
“We must create a budget process that looks first at the outcomes citizens expect,” Clinger said. “Some of the questions this new budget building approach needs to answer are: What is the proper role of state government? What services must we provide? What is the most efficient way to provide those services? And, what is the best way to pay for them?”
Clinger said the administration has formed the Priorities of Government Working Group to help answer these questions by reviewing and prioritizing all state services.
Gov. Gibbons on lawmaker budget information requests:
Gibbons says he would like lawmakers to share their information as well: