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Sandoval says many variables still in play with budget, dual Medicaid spending plans being readied


By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today that there are a large number of variables in play as he prepares his 2013-15 budget, including who wins the presidential election on Nov. 6.

Sandoval said a decision on whether to expand Nevada’s Medicaid program to cover newly eligible residents under the Affordable Care Act will wait for that result, since Gov. Mitt Romney has said he wants to repeal the law.

The state Department of Health and Human Services is preparing two different budgets to reflect one with the Medicaid expansion and one without.

“Yes, we’re looking at both scenarios,” Sandoval said.


Gov. Brian Sandoval. Image provided by Nevada News Bureau.

“If you’ve watched the debates, which I’m sure you have, is that Gov. Romney has declared that he is going to seek to modify, if not remove, the Affordable Care Act, which obviously would have a large impact on our budgeting process,” he said.

“When we’re in the middle of a budget process we have to account for all the variables,” Sandoval said. “There are some big variables right now.”

State Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp said the state is also still waiting on some guidance from the federal Department of Health and Human Services before a Medicaid expansion decision can be made.

“There are several points of guidance that we’re waiting to hear from and we simply have not received that from Health and Human Services at the federal level,” Sandoval said.

Restoring state employee salary cuts remain a possibility, depending on these many factors as well as others, including an increased Medicaid caseload irrespective of the expansion allowed for under the ACA, he said. The caseload is expected to increase because of the Nevada residents who are now eligible for Medicaid but who have not enrolled. Many are expected to sign up because of the mandate in the ACA for people to obtain health insurance.

There are other factors in flux besides the Medicaid budget.

Sandoval said he is also waiting on the proposed Distributive School Account (DSA) funding request, which is the major component of the public education budget, as well as the results of the state revenue projections from the Economic Forum due in early December.

Sandoval will present his budget to the Legislature in mid-January next year.

State agencies will be presenting their budget requests to Sandoval and his budget office beginning Friday. All were directed to submit flat budgets.

“I’m hopeful that as we receive more information with regard to the DSA, with regard to the Economic Forum, with regard to what the revenues for the state, that we can restore some of the salary reductions that have occurred historically,” Sandoval said.

There was no promise to restore state employee salary cuts, only that it would be an item of consideration after all the other pieces of the budget puzzle become clear, he said.

“So right now we have one piece of the budget, which are the agency requests,” Sandoval said. “As we receive further information we’ll be able to more narrow down exactly what the future budget is going to be.”

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