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April 16, 2014

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Rory Reid emphasizes need to remix economy

In announcement day sit-down, candidate for governor critiques incumbent

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Steve Marcus

Rory Reid talks about his campaign for governor during a meeting at the Las Vegas Sun Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009.

Rory Reid

Rory Reid talks about his campaign for governor during a meeting at the Las Vegas Sun Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009. Launch slideshow »

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  • Rory Reid, who announced he is running for governor, on how his plan will jumpstart the economy.
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  • Reid draws distinction between himself and Gov. Jim Gibbons.
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  • Reid declines to say how he would fill the budget hole.
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  • Reid on waiting on the interim tax committee.
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  • Reid says he would have passed the 2009 tax increase.
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  • Reid talks about himself and his approach.
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Beyond the Sun

Rory Reid officially entered the governor’s race Wednesday, pledging to create jobs and diversify Nevada’s narrow economy after decades of heavy reliance on gaming and tourism.

The recession has brought the need for economic diversification into sharp relief, he said. And the failure to diversify, he added, rests on the shoulders of the state’s elected officials — including his father, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

In announcing his candidacy, the Democrat also joined his Republican competitors in failing to articulate how he would plug the state’s estimated $2 billion budget hole. He’s reserving judgment on the state’s tax structure until an independent commission reveals its recommendations next year.

He did, however, say that he would not have vetoed the state’s largest tax increase in the past legislative session, calling the hike a “bipartisan accord that kept the lights on and kept the state going.”

The comments came during a 40-minute interview with the Sun in which Reid blasted Gov. Jim Gibbons for failing to win more federal stimulus dollars and outlined a number of “budget-neutral” measures and “small investments” that he said would put Nevada on a path to long-term prosperity.

“I don’t think anybody believes the gaming industry will take us to the promised land again,” Reid said. “In our history this is the first time that has been the prevalent view. There is urgency in the air. This is a unique opportunity to do the things we’ve always said we were going to do. We have to do it now. This is the moment.”

Reid said he’s spent the past few months convening meetings with policy experts and industry leaders to develop the vision he sketches in a 30-page blueprint called “The Virtual Crossroads.” The ideas seek to capitalize on Nevada’s natural advantages — from its identity as a shipping hub to its potential for renewable energy — and borrow from a half-dozen other states.

For instance, Reid proposes a state fund to invest in venture capital projects here. A similar program in Iowa used $28 million to attract six venture funds, with more than $570 million in capital, to that state. Reid also wants to replicate the success of states such as Maryland and Massachusetts in transferring the technology developed on college campuses to the private sector.

He notes companies affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology employ 1.1 million people and boast world sales of $232 billion.

“Other states have been more aggressive on these types of things because they’ve had to be,” Reid said. “We’ve been the land of milk and honey for many years, and it’s only recently that we’ve had the new reality of our economy.”

Reid acknowledged the state would need new revenue to fund education initiatives and infrastructure investments, such as high-speed rail and broadband Internet access. He declined to detail where those new sources of revenue would come from, saying he would await the results of a legislative study of the state’s tax structure. If elected, Reid said, his budget would be “informed by the facts at the moment.”

Still, he said Nevada could start the recovery now by capturing more federal stimulus dollars.

As Clark County Commission chairman, Reid said he coordinated with Southern Nevada’s local governments to apply for funding and expects the county will receive $400 million in stimulus money by year’s end. He criticized Gibbons for his handling of the stimulus, saying the governor should lobby Washington more aggressively.

Robert Olmer, Gibbons’ campaign manager, blamed Reid’s father: “Harry Reid should be looked at for that. It was his obligation to make sure our state was taken care of, instead of being at the very bottom of stimulus dollars being offered by the federal government.”

Reid also hit Gibbons for what lobbyists and legislators of both parties have called the governor’s detached approach during the legislative session.

“A governor has an obligation to propose a budget and then work day and night to make sure it’s enacted,” Reid said. “It’s unfortunate that this governor proposed a budget and then promptly disappeared only to say no new taxes every once in a while.”

Olmer said Gibbons “set the stage” and that the Legislature “should have followed his lead, not the other way around.”

Reid acknowledged that the state is in difficult circumstances and that there’s enough blame to go around.

“I think we all have blame,” Reid said. “And the blame game would take a long time to play and we’d all be exhausted and we would not have moved the ball down the field. We are where we are because Nevada has kicked the can down the road for decades.”

He added: “I want to be the person that begins this debate … We have to start making a new economy here.”

Sun reporter J. Patrick Coolican contributed to this story.

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