LAS VEGAS -- In a recent poll, Nevadans say they would be willing to pay higher taxes to keep funding levels the same for public hospitals and programs but are less willing to pay more if it means improving the programs.
All this week, 8 News NOW, the Review-Journal and Vegas PBS will release the results of a first of its kind poll called Impact Nevada. Tuesday's focus is health and human services.
The results revealed that half of Nevadans polled are willing to pay more taxes to keep health and welfare funding at the same levels they are today. This public willingness may give state leaders some additional options as they face the tough decisions to bridge a $3 billion budget shortfall.
University Medical Center faces severe cuts depending on how much money state lawmakers take from the Clark County Commission. The severity of those cuts may not be known until the legislative session begins in February. But according to the Impact Nevada poll, a slight majority of voters are willing to pay higher taxes to keep funding mental health programs the same. UMC hospital administrators take that as good news.
"I actually felt very encouraged by the poll. I think that people have acknowledged that the safety net services are important," said CEO Kathy Silver, UMC.
But the support for higher taxes begins to soften slightly when it comes to funding Medicaid. "It's kind of a foolish economy to think we're going to cut the bill by just not putting any money in it. That's like saying my daughter runs my credit care bill up, I think it's too high, I'm not going to pay it. The costs are there," said COO Brian Brannman, UMC.
"There is talk about reduction of certain types of services in Medicaid, pharmacies been mentioned. Long term care has been mentioned," said Silver.
Hundreds come to Clark County Social Services building every day. This is often the last safety net for the unemployed before becoming homeless.
"We thought we had turned a corner and reduced the lines and had found some control over the amount of people we had standing in line and then a lot of people exhausted their unemployment benefits," said Nancy McLane, Clark County Social Services.
Nearly 47 percent of those polled support keeping welfare funding intact by paying higher taxes, but 31 percent support reducing or eliminating programs. That's a higher level of opposition than other health and public programs.
Weathering a 25 percent staffing reduction, those people left at the social services department are cautiously optimistic about the poll numbers.
"I think it's a very hopeful sign that people realize that you have to have something in place to serve the neediest people in the community who don't have anywhere else to go."
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