The Las Vegas Sun ran an interesting story over the last weekend about when and how the 2010 gubernatorial candidates will unveil their specific plans to deal with a budget shortfall that could reach 40%. The current budget, which is facing significant projected shortfalls of its own (see some of my prior posts about an upcoming special session), covers the biennium ending on June 30, 2011. Resolving that shortfall will be a formidable task in itself.
But the even bigger challenge will come in 2011 when the next biennial budget must be addressed. Whoever is elected Governor in 2010 will have to present and advocate a budget covering the biennium from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2013, which is the period projected for a shortfall of up to 40%. That will be one of the major issues confronting the Governor and the Legislature during the 2011 legislative session.
Pursuant to Article 4, Section 2(3) of the Nevada Constitution, the Governor must submit his proposed budget to the Legislature “not later than 14 calendar days before the commencement of each regular session.” That means the Governor, who is sworn in on the first Monday in January 2011, must have his budget finalized and submitted by January 24, 2011. Furthermore, an outgoing Governor is under no obligation to turn over any budget proposals or other fiscal records to his successor until he leaves office. If a new Governor is elected and there is bad blood between the outgoing and incoming Governor and records aren’t turned over until the last minute (as was the case in 2007), the incoming Governor could be left with just three weeks to prepare a budget.
Budget preparations are extremely complicated and time-consuming, and the state budget office generally starts preparing a budget at least 6 months in advance of a legislative session. Given the economic recession in Nevada, budget preparations will likely take even longer. Although gubernatorial candidates are reluctant to reveal potentially unpopular details on how they will handle the budget shortfall, the candidates will undoubtedly need to spend significant time in 2010 preparing a budget plan in the event they are elected to office.