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Sandoval’s No Tax Approach "Unhealthy" for Nevada?

December 6, 2010

LAS VEGAS - Nevada faces a $3 billion budget gap, according to the Nevada Economic Forum, and Governor-elect Sandoval has already said higher taxes are off the table. Health care providers are warning that his stance could be setting the state up for a crisis, in terms of access to health services.

The ten percent cuts Gov. Gibbons already requested from state agencies would cover about $800 million of the budget gap; some worry the cuts could now stretch beyond 30 percent. Laura Coger, the Nevada program manager for Consumer Direct Personal Care, says that would mean drastic changes for the Nevadans her company serves.

"Do we want to go backwards, to a time when people with disabilities sat on the sidewalks with their tin cups and we have to step over them to do business every day? That's not the kind of society most of us want. We want people to be healthy, safe."

One possibility is to reduce state payments to nursing homes by $20 per day. Charles Perry, president of the Nevada Health Care Association, says that amount would put several Nevada nursing homes out of business, and local hospitals would be without what he calls a major relief valve.

"We'd just simply have some facilities that cannot stay in business, and that would create an absolute access-to-care problem for the state. So, you've got people that are in the hospital who can't get out, and you've got people out in the community that need hospital care and can't get into the hospital."

Coger believes if cuts of more than ten percent take place, the physical and mental conditions of her clients with disabilities would quickly deteriorate. If they need hospital and emergency room care, she adds, it will cost the state far more in the long run.

"When we get beyond the 10 percent, we're into unthinkable, and then we get into just dreadful. It would create a Nevada that most of us would not want to live in."

Sandoval says he favors a shared sacrifice approach of budget cuts rather than raising any taxes or fees. He has said Nevada may have to return to 2007 funding levels, but Coger says the no-taxes approach could mean cuts that approach 40 percent. State lawmakers will weigh in on the budget options in the spring.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV