Sen. Harry Reid to Nevada Legislature: Federal stimulus will create jobs
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the Nevada Assembly and Senate Wednesday the federal stimulus package “invests our tax dollars.”
“But, unlike the fiscal policies of the past decade, this plan recognizes that every dollar spent belongs to the American people,” he said.
Nevada is scheduled to receive $1.46 billion from the $787 billion stimulus package signed Tuesday by President Barack Obama.
“It is not meant to line the pockets of the corporate CEOs who helped cause this mess,” Reid said. “Here on the state level, it is not meant to plug every budget hole to let leaders at the state and local levels avoid their responsibilities.”
He said it ensures accountability, transparency and oversight.
“This bill has one meaning for Nevada and our country: Jobs, jobs and more jobs,” Reid said drawing applause from lawmakers and the audience of more than 100 people in the Assembly chambers.
Key elements of the bill for Nevada, Reid said, include the highest percentage increase for federal Medicaid support of any state. Nevada’s federal match will increase from 50 percent to 59 percent under the plan, pumping millions into Medicaid and other entitlement programs that support the needy.
Reid said it includes more than $200 million for highways and another $50 million for mass transit to put people to work. Money for water and sewer projects, he said, could approach $100 million.
He said it includes money to develop wind, geothermal and solar energy projects in the state. And he said tax relief for businesses that are growing and create jobs includes allowing deductions for half the cost of capital investments for big business, and 100 percent for small businesses.
Until people can get jobs, he said, the stimulus pumps millions into new unemployment benefits, adding $100 a month to the benefits of the 200,000 Nevadans out of work.
First-time homebuyers, he said, will get an $8,000 tax credit and nearly all Nevadans will get a $400 tax cut ” $800 for couples.
And for the first time, he said the Payments In Lieu of Taxes program, which compensates Nevada counties with disproportionate amounts of non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries, will be fully funded. He said that translates into millions
for counties, much of it in the rural counties which, in several cases, are more than 95 percent federal property.
Reid also said there are other provisions in the plan, including a lands bill that will protect wilderness across the nation and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to ensure equal pay for men and women.
He also repeated his prediction that the Yucca Mountain nuclear dump project is on its last legs.
“Now, instead of fighting against the storm, Nevada has the wind at its back,” he said. “In partnership with the other delegation members and the state of Nevada, we should finally see the Yucca project come to a close.”
But he issued a caution over reports the proposed state budget doesn’t adequately fund that battle.
“This is not the time for the state to back off by cutting funding for the legal battles that are still being fought,” Reid said. “We are in the last lap of the race and Nevada needs every weapon to finally win this 20-year-plus battle,” which drew a standing ovation from lawmakers.
At a press conference after the speech, Reid reacted to those who say Nevada isn’t getting enough from the stimulus by asking, “What would it be like had we not done this?”
To help the university system, which takes some of the deepest cuts under Gov. Jim Gibbons’ proposed budget, he urged students to “do everything that’s appropriate and legal and nonviolent.”
“I would be disappointed if students passively didn’t say a word.”
He said the improvements the bill will bring won’t happen overnight.
“The people of Nevada understand you can’t dig out of an eight-year ditch in just eight weeks or even eight months,” he said.
But Reid said with the signing of the stimulus and President Obama’s signing of a housing bill, “the climb out of the big ditch has begun.”
“Nothing’s going to happen tomorrow, but I think in the coming months you’re going to see some changes taking place,” he said after the speech.
Reid was the first of Nevada’s congressional delegation to address the 2009 Legislature. In a normal session, all representatives and senators do so.
So far, the only other member of the delegation scheduled is Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley of Las Vegas on March 30.
– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.