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The Nevada Independent

To aid in recruitment, Lombardo proposing end to cap on state employee pay

Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
State Government
Governor Joe Lombardo meets with State Senators Melanie Scheible, Marilyn Dondero Loop and Ira Hansen inside his office during the first day of the 82nd legislative session in Carson City on Feb. 6, 2023. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent).

Gov. Joe Lombardo plans to propose lifting a cap on wages for state employees and creating new cabinet-level secretary positions within the governor’s office to coordinate with executive branch departments, the governor’s chief of staff Ben Kieckhefer told The Nevada Independent Tuesday.

The salary cap outlined in state law stipulates state employees can only make up to 95 percent of the salary of the governor, or about $155,000. Though the limit does not apply to state-employed dentists, physicians and employees of the Nevada System of Higher Education, Kieckhefer said eliminating the provision would aid the state in recruiting for positions such as information technology workers and budget professionals who often earn more in the private sector. 

The proposal will be included in the governor’s budget proposal as part of what Kieckhefer referred to as a “modernization act” aimed at improving the efficiency of state government. Kieckhefer also said the addition of five cabinet-level secretary positions mirrors the structure of the federal government and will help staff in the governor’s office focus on implementing the governor’s agenda.

For example, a health and human services secretary would work with the Department of Health and Human Services as an intermediary between the department and the governor’s office, allowing the governor’s staff to focus on other priorities.

Under the budget proposal included as an agenda item for a meeting Wednesday, the governor’s office is requesting nearly $2.7 million over the course of the biennium to fund “five non-classified positions and associated costs to provide policy analysis and development, managing a series of state agencies and support of the governor.” 

Kieckhefer said the idea came up for consideration under prior administrations, but had not been acted upon because of budgetary constraints. Now, as the state has benefitted from soaring tax revenues, Lombardo’s proposed two-year budget is the largest in state history at $11 billion — a jump from $9.2 billion in the current budget period — and his administration has a nearly $2 billion budget surplus to work with.

This story was updated on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 2:42 p.m. to include details of the specific budget proposal.

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