Nevada plans to empty its rainy day fund to help fill a $911 million, coronavirus-shaped hole in the state’s budget.
Gov. Steve Sisolak and two other top officeholders unanimously OK’d the massive $401 million transfer during a brief Thursday meeting of the state Board of Examiners.
If approved by state lawmakers, the move will leave Nevada with less than $120 million for other unanticipated expenditures and revenue shortfalls — enough to cover a little more than one week of budgeted expenses.
No one commented on the transfer during the meeting, which wrapped up in a little over five minutes.
Legislators painted a much more detailed picture of the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus on Wednesday, when Interim Finance Committee members formally declared a fiscal state of emergency that allowed for Thursday’s dip into rainy day funds.
The bipartisan panel earlier agreed to accept some $836 million in federal COVID relief dollars not already earmarked for cities and local school districts. The Silver State received a $1.25 billion slice of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in late March.
State agencies have also been asked to trim up to $687 million from their two-year spending plans as officials brace for a near-total loss of tax revenue from casinos and other nonessential businesses first shuttered in mid-March.
Susan Brown, Sisolak’s budget director, told state lawmakers her office was still sifting through those proposals, and could not immediately provide requested details on the size and scope of likely budget reductions.
Economists later told legislators to expect at least $160 million in lost in gaming taxes, the Silver State’s second-largest source of revenue.
Russell Guindon, the top fiscal analyst at the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said the rest of the state’s revenue outlook remained too fuzzy to spell out in detail.
Sisolak first declared a fiscal emergency on Monday, explaining in a statement that officials anticipated a “significant shortfall” of $741 million to $911 million before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
The first-term Democrat said he would continue to work closely with state lawmakers on “the timing of any potential special session” meant to address ongoing budget woes, fueling widespread speculation about when, and how often, legislators might be called back to Carson City ahead of February’s regularly scheduled session.
The Interim Finance Committee, which has to approve Thursday’s transfer of rainy funds, is scheduled to meet again at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 18.
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