Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What's He Hiding?

So far this fall, Governor Brian Sandoval (R-Mystery) has been quite elusive. Last month, he missed the Republican Governors' Association conference... In his own state! He still has yet to announce whether he will agree to fully implement the Affordable Care Act by expanding Medicaid. And he has yet to fully weigh in on the brewing brouhaha over election reform and driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Perhaps we should expect this from a Governor who probably has his eyes on the prize of national prominence and an even higher level of political prestige. However, no one should ever expect this. So what's he hiding?

Gov. Brian Sandoval's administration is keeping secret millions of dollars in spending requests submitted by state agencies for the next two years, breaking precedent set by prior administrations and possibly violating state law, legislators suggested.

Indeed, even Sandoval held to the practice two years ago, submitting the so-called “items for special consideration” to lawmakers and the public well before releasing his final recommended budget to the Legislature in January.

This year, however, Sandoval has elected to publicly release only the agency requests that fit within strict caps he issued as part of his budget instructions, and not what agencies said they needed to properly operate. [...]

“I think legislators and the public should know what the requests are from agencies, what the real needs are,” said Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “It puts our staff, and ultimately legislators, at a severe disadvantage to not have that information.”

And it's not just Democrats in Carson City asking this. Even some Republicans are wondering what's going on. The details in the Governor's budget proposal are almost certain to answer the question of what he intends to do regarding the ACA & Medicaid expansion. And one Senate Republican is clamoring to see for himself what's in there.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, referred to the possible expansion of Medicaid, the state health insurance for the poor. It’s a provision under the Affordable Care Act which the U.S. Supreme Court said could be optional for states, and a decision Sandoval is still weighing.

“My concern is this: Medicaid expansion has been penciled out, calculated, but if it’s not part of the governor’s budget, (that information) would not be public?” Kieckhefer said. “I have a problem with that.”

And since Ben Kieckhefer tends to be a solid Sandoval ally in the Legislature, that makes his call for more transparency from Sandoval all the more attention grabbing.

Kudos to Elizabeth Crum for reminding everyone of this. What Brian Sandoval is doing is likely illegal. Nevada's public records law (NRS 239) requires disclosure of the executive branch's budget requests. And NRS 353 details what the executive branch is supposed to do when filing budget requests.

1. On or before October 15 of each even-numbered year, the Chief shall provide to the Fiscal Analysis Division of the Legislative Counsel Bureau:

(a) Computerized budget files containing the actual data regarding revenues and expenditures for the previous year;
(b) The work programs for the current year; and
(c) Each agency’s requested budget for the next 2 fiscal years.

So what's he hiding? The Sun's David McGrath Schwartz speculates that what's hidden may be items as banal as new computers and cars for state agencies in desperate need of them. So if that's the case, why be so secretive about it? And why hide details on even more important matters, like health care to many thousands of Nevadans, aid to military veterans, and funding for public education?

What's he hiding? Why is Brian Sandoval playing fast and loose with state law to keep his budget a secret? Why won't he let legislators or the public see these funding requests? All he's doing is confirming the worst assumptions Nevadans have about their state government, which is that it's thoroughly corrupt and stubbornly unresponsive to the demands of the public. If Sandoval wants to change that perception, then he needs to come clean.

No comments:

Post a Comment