Rep. Dean Heller says stimulus a missed opportunity

Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev. speaks to state lawmakers Friday, April 17, 2009, at the Legislature in Carson City, Nev. (AP Photo/Nevada Appeal, Cathleen Allison)

Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev. speaks to state lawmakers Friday, April 17, 2009, at the Legislature in Carson City, Nev. (AP Photo/Nevada Appeal, Cathleen Allison)

U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., told lawmakers Friday the federal stimulus package was an opportunity, but the way it came out, it won't stimulate the economy.

"A real opportunity to help Nevadans and the American people was squandered," he said in his address to the Assembly and Senate.

The spending package totaling more than $1 trillion, he said, has served only to leave his four children and every other family like his with a debt of $240,000 to pay off.

Heller, of Carson City, said he was the only member of the Nevada delegation to vote against the Wall Street bailout: "I take my fiscal responsibilities seriously."

He said the package contains very little for infrastructure development and little that will put people back to work. He said his plan to stimulate the economy is to put money in the hands of people.

"Start with a 10 percent tax cut across the board," he said in his press conference after the brief speech. "If you want to stimulate the economy, put money back in people's pockets."

He said he doesn't think sending money to state governments will help either but, since the federal plan does so, he will work to ensure Nevada gets its share of the money.

Like Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who spoke Thursday, Heller said higher education can't sustain the deep cuts in Gov. Jim Gibbons' budget.

"You can't cut 37 percent," he said. "So let's make education a priority."

Heller denied rumors he is considering a run for either governor or Harry Reid's Senate seat.

"I like the job I have. I like the committee I'm on," he said referring to his assignment on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

He said despite criticism for the remarks, he still believes the Republican Party "must clean house." He said the party needs to get back to its roots.

But Heller said he isn't completely in line with the GOP on all issues. For example, he said there should be more regulation of the financial sector.

"I agree with greater regulation. I would describe myself as low tax, small government, reasonable regulation," he said.

Heller said before passing new programs, they should meet the "more, higher, less test " more competition, higher quality, less cost."

And example of the opposite, he said, is the Democrats' proposed tax on carbon emissions which he said would hurt every family and business in the U.S. He said Congress should encourage innovation, not higher energy costs that hurt economic development.

Heller is serving his second two-year term representing Congressional District 2, which covers Washoe County, all of western and rural Nevada and reaches into a portion of Clark County.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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