U.S. Sen. Harry Reid today recommended spending more public money on infrastructure projects in order to create jobs, as well as ending the sequester that’s limiting some federal spending.
Reid’s remarks came at a luncheon sponsored by the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce at the Four Seasons hotel. In a wide-ranging interview with chamber Chairman Jay Barrett, Reid discussed health care, immigration, renewable energy and even gave me some tips on picking column topics.
On job creation, Reid said the private sector had created 7.5 million new jobs under the Obama administration, but public spending was hampered by the sequester. “We need to get the public sector involved again,” he said. For each $1 billion spent, 47,500 jobs are created, Reid said.
Reid said public dollars could go toward the repair of roads and bridges, or to constructing new ones, including the proposed Interstate 11 freeway between Las Vegas and Phoenix. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that?” Reid said to applause.
But federal spending has been curtailed under the sequester, a system of automatic spending cuts enacted as a result of Congress’s inability to tackle the deficit. Reid called that approach “mindless,” although he voted for the deal that eventually led to sequestration.
“It is a perfect bill? No, of course not. But it is a really good bill,” Reid said.
On immigration, Reid addressed a remark to “all you conservatives out there,” saying the Senate’s version of reform would shave $1 trillion off the deficit, and help get the country to its goal of reducing deficits by $4 trillion. But he said Republicans who favor reform need to urge the House to take up the bill, where Speaker John Boehner has declared he’ll instead move a series of related immigration bills. Ultimately, all that legislation will go to a House-Senate conference committee.
Asked about Yucca Mountain, Reid repeated his oft-delivered assertion that the project is dead because it lacks funding. He again dismissed a federal appeals court ruling that directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to resume its application for a license to operate Yucca Mountain, at least until the $11 million remaining in the project’s budget is spent.
“Their opinion is absolutely no surprise,” Reid said. “Their opinion means nothing.”
He encouraged yours truly to “find something else to write about,” probably in reaction to this recent column pointing out that so long as Yucca remains the law of the land, Nevada is vulnerable to seeing nuclear waste stored here.
Before Reid took the stage, chamber Vice President for Government Affairs Hugh Anderson gave the crowd a short overview of legislative efforts in Carson City this year. But an odd moment happened when Anderson told the crowd that the business group opposes the 2 percent business margins tax that will appear on the 2014 ballot, and only a handful of luncheon guests applauded.
The tax — proposed by an initiative circulated by the Nevada State Education Association — would be the first time non-casinos business revenues have been taxed in state history. But when Anderson pledged the chamber would fight against it, only people at one of the many tables in the room seemed to applaud. “We like enthusiasm,” Anderson said. Apparently, even tiny pockets of enthusiasm will do.