Minden Press-Herald

Thursday
Oct 02nd

Upcoming legislative session topic of town hall meeting

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District 10 state Rep. Gene Reynolds, joined by District 9 Rep. Henry Burns, told a small group during a town hall meeting Monday that he feels the budget, Common Core and state employee retirement may be the most important and prevalent issues facing the legislature in the upcoming session.

"It's all about money," Reynolds, D-Minden, said. "And most of our budget is dedicated.

"We have $26 billion in available revenue," he continued. "We have a state general fund of $8.6 billion and that's the only place where we, as legislators, can do anything at all."

The rest, he said is dedicated, "and we can't touch it." The state general fund is split between a $5.9 billion non-discretionary fund and a $2.76 discretionary fund.

"The non-discretionary is also dedicated," Reynolds said. "So that leaves you with the only funds ($2.76 billion) that we can do anything with at all in the course of the legislative session, if we have to make cuts or move money around."

Reynolds said he has attended several budget meetings with members of all political parties, as well as state and out-of-state representatives.

"They tell us the only way we are ever going to be able to fix this is through a Constitutional Convention where we un-dedicate things and start prioritizing things," Reynolds said.

"This goes back to many governors ago where funds were dedicated because of pet projects."

Reynolds said, in his opinion, there is enough money in the state to "do the things we need to do."

"But so much of the money is dedicated that it's hard to move it around," he said. "That's why higher ed and health and hospitals always get the axe, and we're always struggling to get money for K through 12 education and higher education."

Reynolds said the delegation tries to protect K through 12 education in this discretionary budget as much as possible.

In this year's "continuation budget," the state has a projected shortfall of $600 million.

"This year, it's not as much as it has been in the past," Reynolds said.

However, in major continuation items for the fiscal year 2014-2015, $314 million are listed as "nonrecurring" revenue.

"That' really what kicks us every year," he said. "We spend one-time money, and then next year, that one-time money is not there, so that puts us $300 million in the hole right out of the gate."

Reynolds and Burns say they are anxious to get feedback from their constituency in order to make informed decisions. Legislators have crafted a public survey designed to get as much input as possible.

 

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