Media gets it right: Budget narrative now has accurate information

Victor Joecks

Just a quick follow-up to yesterday’s post on the Economic Forum, in which I asked if the media would report accurately on the size of Nevada’s budget deficit.

For those who don’t remember, Nevada’s general fund spending was around $6.4 billion in the last biennium and the Economic Forum projected Nevada’s revenue for the next biennium will be $5.33 billion.

Now, this leads to a fairly simple math equation: $5.33 billion – $6.42 billion = a $1.09 billion deficit. That’s about a 17 percent shortfall.

Overwhelmingly, members of the media reported this accurately.

Even David Schwartz and Anjeanette Damon of the Sun, although they didn’t mention last biennium’s total spending, provided some context for the forum’s projections.

The forum concluded that for fiscal years 2012-13, the state will have $5.3 billion in general fund revenue to spend – about $1.1 billion less than the current biennium.

Disagreements over what to cut and whether to raise taxes are expected. But everyone will have to deal with the forum’s number.

The projection assumed a few things: Taxes raised in 2009 will expire as scheduled; the federal government won’t shower Nevada with stimulus money as it did two years ago; and Sandoval and the Legislature won’t (even though they probably will) take money from local cities and counties.

To maintain current levels of services, state agencies have requested $8.3 billion, according to the state budget office.

The only print reporter I found who didn’t provide context for the state’s budget discussion is Geoff Dornan of the Nevada Appeal, who avoided mentioning how much Nevada’s general fund spending was in the last biennium.

The Economic Forum on Wednesday set total general fund revenues for fiscal 2012 and 2013 at $5.3 billion. That is nearly $700 million less than the $6 billion the 2009 Legislature had in projected revenue and some $400 million less than the revised projections prepared for the 26th special legislative session last January.

That total is also $3 billion less than the $8.3 billion that state agencies have requested for the coming biennium.

With the narrative correctly reported, the focus can now turn to reducing spending.

Here are some ideas to get started with. NPRI will be putting forward many more ideas in the next few months as well.

Bonus: Andrew Clinger and KRNV do a good job explaining why Nevada’s budget deficit is about $1.2 billion.