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November 24, 2014

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economy:

More likely stimuli than stimulus

What, if anything, will be Nevada’s Hoover Dam this time around?

Hoover Dam became a jobs-rich federal undertaking during the Great Depression, a time when the nation’s unemployment rose to twice as high as it is today. Is anything similar on the horizon to help the state out of the current Great Recession?

The answer is maybe, although rather than a single massive project, Washington appears moving toward sending money for hundreds of smaller public works undertakings across the nation. The idea is but one of many under discussion for reversing the economy’s slide.

By today, lawmakers will likely be making their way back to the Capitol for a rare weekend session of the U.S. Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has called senators back to work to vote on a public lands package.

In announcing today’s work schedule, Reid preempted the grumbling with this suggestion: “There are people out there who would like to work on a Sunday — like to work anytime.”

Senate Democrats are expected this afternoon to resume closed-door discussion of President-elect Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan, an estimated $775 billion in tax cuts and public works spending.

Congress has ideas of its own, and lawmakers are giving Obama’s advisers input on what they believe is the right way to put the economy back on track.

Democrats and some economists have expressed skepticism that various tax cuts would stimulate the economy enough to pull it out of the recessionary funk.

Republicans worry the package is too big — without saying what size would be appropriate. They are pushing for more tax cuts and less government spending.

What does Nevada need to get through this crisis?

After Friday’s unemployment report showed another half-million jobs lost nationwide last month, newly seated Democratic Rep. Dina Titus issued a statement saying “we must take action soon.”

Titus’ suburban Las Vegas district “has been hit especially hard as families struggle to make ends meet,” she said. “From rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure that will help Nevada’s hard-hit construction sector to investing in renewable energy that will tap into our region’s abundant resources, it is critical that we make job creation a top priority of this Congress.”

Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley will have a hand in crafting Congress’ response from her seat on the Ways and Means Committee, as will Republican Rep. Dean Heller, just appointed to the panel.

Nevada communities, along with localities across the United States, have proposed that the government send money for shovel-ready public works projects — roads, sewers and other basic items for which planning is complete but funding is not.

Other proposals, suggested by Democrats, include sending extra federal dollars for unemployment benefits or to help the state pay for health care costs under Medicaid.

Republicans are advocating loans to the struggling state governments, payable at 5 percent interest — or higher if states don’t make good on the borrowing in five years.

Nevada took out a loan to balance this year’s budget.

Republican Sen. John Ensign, on Fox News last week, explained Republican opposition to Obama’s proposal to give $500 rebate-like tax credits to those on the lower end of the income scale, saying it is “basically like a welfare payment.”

Business tax credits, Ensign countered, are better, “because if businesses don’t have money, a lot of these businesses are going to go out of business.”

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