The Nevada Assembly has opened hearings on a huge package of spending cuts meant to salvage the state’s COVID-crippled budget, though the chamber doesn’t plan to take action on the proposals until Thursday.
Lawmakers didn’t make an appearance in the Legislature’s lower chamber until mid-afternoon on Wednesday, when Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, confirmed he would hold a potentially lengthy hearing on some $536 million in cuts spelled out under Assembly Bill 3.
But Frierson said he didn’t anticipate a vote on the measure until the Assembly had reviewed proposed bill changes set to arrive on Thursday.
“We will hear AB 3 and testimony in support, opposition and neutral,” Frierson added, “and we’ll continue to have discussions and subsequently present an amendment to that (bill) when we are ready.”
It wasn’t immediately clear which cuts that amendment intends to address. One likely target is steep spending reductions aimed at the state’s Medicaid program, which many lawmakers in the Democrat-dominated statehouse have said should not be singled out for cuts.
So far, legislators have passed measures relaxing eligibility requirements for the Millennium Scholarship and slashing $73 million from the state’s construction budget. They also enacted legislation that allows officials to sell off up to $150 million in debt if the state starts to run low on cash later this year.
Belt-tightening moves spelled out in AB 3 dwarf the cost savings expected from every other measure on the session’s agenda, laying out nearly $536 million in across-the-board cuts to spending on K-12 schools, higher education, health care and a whole host of other state services.
The measure also serves as the linchpin of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s 40-page blueprint for saving the Silver State’s spending plan.
Sisolak last week called for “deep cuts in services and proposals,” but left it up to the Legislature to decide whether to pursue “augmentation of existing revenue sources” via tax increases.
If and when legislators succeed in cleaning up the COVID-caused budget mess, the governor has said he will “issue a subsequent proclamation for the Legislature to consider policy items that rise to the extraordinary occasion of a special session.”
Those items are widely expected to include reforms to the state’s criminal justice system, along with major changes to the state’s embattled unemployment office.
James DeHaven is the politics reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. He covers campaigns, the Nevada Legislature and everything in between. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com right here.