(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio said today layoffs of state employees should be a “last resort” as Gov. Jim Gibbons and lawmakers seek ways to balance the Nevada budget. Raggio, R-Reno, made his comments in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers program.
Gibbons said Monday state employee layoffs are on the table as he looks for ways to make up a $53 million revenue shortfall in just the first three months of this fiscal year.
Raggio said salary “adjustments” and additional furloughs of state employees would be preferable to adding to the ranks of the unemployed. Most state employees now are required to take an unpaid day off each month as a way to reduce state government spending.
“To lay off people, certainly at this time of the year, with our high unemployment rate in this state, I think should be the last resort,” he said.
Raggio noted that Nevada ranks 50th among the states for the number of public sector employees per capita.
“We are not overstaffed in this state,” he said.
The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce determined Nevada to be lowest in the number of public sector employees per capita in a series of reports it commissioned prior to the 2009 session.
Raggio also questioned why Gibbons has decided to call the Economic Forum together to weigh in on the revenue shortfall situation. The forum, a panel of private sector financial experts, was formed to provide revenue information for each legislative session, he said.
Gibbons said Monday he wants the forum to provide revenue projections as another tool to help in deciding how to balance the budget. He has issued an executive order asking the forum to meet and provide guidance by Jan. 19.
Raggio called the move premature.
Asked about a recall effort under way against him for voting for tax increases in the 2009 session, Raggio said he is not concerned with it and will let his constituents determine whether his performance has been “good or bad.”
“I don’t consider myself a RINO as these extremists suggest,” he said. “I am a Reagan conservative. President Reagan, who they often quote, would be very disheartened to see this Republican Party ripped apart by this kind of an element.”
RINO is a term meaning Republican in Name Only.
Raggio said Reagan wasn’t against taxes, but was for low taxes. Nevada is one of the lowest states in the nation per capita for state and local taxes, Raggio said.
Raggio said Reagan also believed there is room in the GOP for people with differing views.
He also issued an 11th commandment: “Don’t speak ill of other Republicans, and these extremists have forgotten that,” Raggio said.
Asked about U.S. Sen. John Ensign’s admission of an extramarital affair, Raggio said he is, “not going to be a moralist and judge other people.” Ensign has an excellent record of service in the U.S. Senate, he said.
Raggio also said he believes GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval, “is probably the only Republican at this point who probably could get elected governor.”
“I think divisive primaries are hurting the Republican Party,” he said. “We ought to be encouraging unity in the party instead of extremism trying to rip it apart.”