Nevada Gov. Sisolak declares fiscal state of emergency, projects more than $741M shortfall

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Video of an empty downtown Reno March 29, 2020. Reno Gazette Journal

Gov. Steve Sisolak has declared a fiscal state of emergency to help fix the financial devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Sisolak on Monday, May 11, said the state was projecting a “significant shortfall” of $741 to $911 million in expected sales and gaming revenues from the state’s long-shuttered casinos, malls, retail stores and other nonessential businesses. 

In a statement, the governor said the state’s main school funding account was also facing a serious shortage of cash, threatening funding for long-promised teacher pay raises and a whole host of other high-profile education reforms passed by the Legislature in 2019.

Monday’s declaration authorizes Sisolak and state lawmakers to patch budget cracks with dollars pulled from the state’s roughly $400 million rainy day fund, which now holds enough cash to cover around one month of the state’s projected expenses.

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“With the closure of Nevada businesses, including the gaming industry, that was necessary to protect the health of Nevadans, the drop in revenue is not unexpected and it is significant,” Sisolak said. “While we appreciate the additional assistance from the federal government to help address the immediate funding needs for the public health crisis, the state is now in a position where will be forced to make very difficult decisions.” 

Sisolak started bracing for COVID-caused declines in state income earlier this month, when he asked state agencies to slash nearly $700 million out of their budgets over the next two years. 

Leaders of Nevada’s Democrat-dominated Legislature in March said they had no immediate plans for a special session to address growing fears about COVID’s growing impact on the state’s budget.

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. 

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