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Nevada legislative leaders call for federal aid

Posted at 5:17 AM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 10:37:11-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Measures implemented to control the coronavirus pandemic crippled Nevada's economy in 2020 and continued to batter it at the beginning of 2021.

In announcing Nevada's budget for the 2021 biennium, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak didn't include any federal aid that hadn't been promised, leaving the state roughly $500 million short of the budget passed in the 2019 legislative session.

Chamber leaders from both parties in Carson City said they hoped the new administration under President Joe Biden would come to the rescue with a stimulus package including aid for state and local governments.

"Even if it is one time purposes," Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said. "We need it, and we need it bad, and I think we've been responsible with what we've had."

Frierson said state law requires the legislature to pass a balanced budget so, without aid, cuts to government programs would be inevitable.

RELATED: Nevada Legislature eyes green energy to diversify economy

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said the cuts could threaten health care, government services, and education funding.

"I'm definitely am excited with the Biden administration to make sure that those conversations continue so that we can keep states moving forward as we start to recover from what is hopefully a once in a lifetime pandemic," she said.

Republican minority leaders Sen. James Settelmeyer and Assemblywoman Robin Titus said also hoped for federal aid, but urged fiscal responsibility if the Biden administration pulls through and cuts Nevada a check.

RELATED: Education, health care among budget priorities for Nevada legislative leadership

President Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan would provide $350 billion to state and local governments if passed.

"If we get that money, when we get that money, we have to have the priorities of making sure that our education is funded and some of these infrastructure issues that we have," said Titus.

Settelmeyer considered not spending a portion of the federal aid received, if possible, and instead of refilling the state's rainy day fund which legislators voted to deplete during the 2020 special session.

"Are we going to be foolish and spend that money," he said. "Or are we going to try to replenish the rainy day fund? Heaven forbid, what if something else happens?"

RELATED: Nevada Legislature urges economic diversification in 2021 session

As legislators wrestle with balancing the state's budget and call for help from the federal government, Sisolak said during a virtual roundtable that he has been building a plan to take advantage of non-pandemic related federal grants for the state, local governments, and nonprofit groups.

He said before the pandemic Nevada ranked No. 47 in the country in taking advantage of available federal funds.