(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – A state lawmaker yesterday questioned the accuracy and completeness of the reporting on the use of federal stimulus funds in Nevada.
Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, asked how it is possible that thousands of jobs have been “created or retained” in Nevada with stimulus funds while the state unemployment rate continues to rise.
Raggio, a member of a legislative panel charged with reviewing the use of federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds in Nevada, said he would like to know how many jobs were actually created as opposed to “retained” under the stimulus program.
“I don’t think we’re getting, and the public isn’t getting, a really accurate picture of just what the stimulus funding is creating with respect to jobs,” he said.
More specific and detailed information is needed to communicate what the program is doing for Nevada, particularly in job creation, Raggio said.
“I think this is important information, and I don’t for a moment believe that 4,000 teachers would have been laid off but for stimulus money,” he said. “So I think we need to know how many jobs were actually created. And I am not getting that information either from the state or the federal report.”
The Nevada state website that reports the use of stimulus funds shows 5,080 jobs created or retained with the stimulus funds, including 4,190 jobs in education. The jobs information is not broken out between created or retained on the state webpage.
Local governments and agencies report their own stimulus fund spending.
Raggio’s questions came during a meeting of the Interim Finance Committee’s Subcommittee for Federal Stimulus Oversight.
David Fraser, executive director of the Nevada League of Cities and Municipalities, told lawmakers the jobs information he provided to the committee from the cities was not broken out between new and retained jobs, but would be provided as requested.
Raggio noted that some efforts at reporting new jobs have been made. The city of Las Vegas, for example, has a chart showing its stimulus funding and jobs created. The city of Sparks has also made such an effort, he said.
Debbie Smith, chairwoman of the oversight panel, said every effort needs to be made to provide clear and understandable information to the public about the use of the stimulus funds.
Nevada is expected to receive about $2.1 billion in stimulus funds. But counties, cities, hospitals and other agencies and organizations are receiving stimulus funds directly, and the data is not included on the state website.
State Budget Director Andrew Clinger said an effort is currently under way to get all of the stimulus spending in Nevada available on one website. Funding to approve the state’s share of this effort will be considered by the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee later this month.
Clinger said he understands Raggio’s concerns about the job creation numbers, but said the state has followed federal requirements in reporting the numbers.
The question is, would you have really eliminated those jobs without the stimulus funding, he said.
“We don’t attempt to answer that question,” he said. “We’re just reporting using the federal guidelines.”