Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Big Picture

One would think that last Thursday's pomp & circumstance surrounding AB 114 becoming law meant Nevada did something truly revolutionary. And it actually did address an important aspect of gaming policy. However, we need to put this into proper perspective.

Ralston got us off to a good start...

But I'd like for us to expand on this.

In particular, we should look at this. It took just hours for the Legislature to fast-track AB 114 to the Governor's desk. Yet SJR 15 and The Education Initiative are already on legislators' desk, waiting for action... And #NVLeg leaders don't want to even act on those, let alone act as quickly as they did with AB 114.

While some in Carson City are just treating tax policy as bargaining chips and previews of future campaigns for higher office, there are real problems we're seeing out here. Poor Nevadans might actually faceunaffordable charges for health care that's supposed to be affordable & accessible. Our colleges & universities are fighting each other for (synthetically) limited resources. Many roads across this state remain tattered as mass transit operations in Clark & Washoe Counties continue cutting back. Nevada's working families are hurting, yet legislators are debating ways to inflict even more pain on working families.

What's wrong with this picture? Here's a hint: Look at the big picture. We need an economy that works for all Nevadans. And we need an economy that's no longer dependent on just one industry. We've known for decades that our only hope for a brighter future lies in economic diversification, yet we still haven't invested enough in the public infrastructure necessary to build that diversified economy of the future.

Why is this? Sure, the gaming industry has tons of clout in Carson City thanks to its countless lobbyists and endless campaign contributions. Legislators are quick to act on gaming industry demands because they want on that gravy train.

But what happens when that gravy train runs out of fuel? Again, our state's economy can't survive on one industry alone. Even gaming industry insiders recognize that, which is why they've occasionally paid lip service to aiding economic diversification.

But now, more than ever before, Nevada is at a crossroads. Either the state can begin shifting both the tax base and the economy away from overdependence on gaming, or we can continue making the same mistakes to our own detriment.

Now I don't want to belittle the big move on online gaming. It has plenty of potential, and the state should pursue that. The only way Nevada will continue to a be a gaming leader is if we innovate. Yet, the same truth applies to overall economic development... And we've yet to lead there. It would just be nice if the Governor and the Legislature felt the same urgency on improving the state's overall economic health as they did in pleasing casino lobbyists.

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