July 8 (UPI) -- Nevada lawmakers will begin an emergency legislative session on Wednesday to address a budget shortfall of more than $1 billion, which has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state legislature meets only in odd-numbered years to handle regular lawmaking business, but Gov. Steve Sisolak called last week for the emergency session due to the severity of the $1.2 billion gap in Nevada's general fund.
The health crisis, which prompted Nevada and all other states to close government and non-essential businesses for weeks, deepened the problem.
"None of us could have predicted a pandemic of this magnitude and the global economic crisis that has followed. The world looks so incredibly different since I first approved our state's biennial budget back in June 2019," Sisolak said in a statement. "The difficult fiscal decisions for Fiscal Year 2021 now lay ahead of us."
Sisolak presented a proposal to shore up the gap that includes more than $500 million in budget cuts to government agencies, redirects funds and one-time appropriations, transfers money from other funds, furloughs state employees, imposes a hiring freeze and outlines a tax amnesty program.
"My proposal preserves as much funding as possible for our most essential priorities: health, education, and the state workforce, so they are able to continue providing the vital services on which Nevadans rely," he added.
The governor also asked for federal funding to help alleviate "historic" shortfalls amid the pandemic in Nevada and several other states.
"I understand that the COVID-19 public health crisis has put us in the position to make very painful decisions on the state budget, but I am confident we will be able to overcome this challenge together and forge a new path forward," Sisolak added.
Wednesday's will be the 31st special session in Nevada's history.
In addition to addressing Nevada's substantial budget hole, the special session will also assess other issues, including criminal and social justice reform -- which has been at the heart of demonstrations nationwide for more than a month, after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Municipal officials in some states, including Minnesota, have already introduced police reform proposals. The Minneapolis City Council last month announced a plan to disband its police force and replace it with a more community-oriented policing entity.