Posts Tagged ‘tax breaks’

Jobs, Support Of Middle Class Focus Of Spirited Senate Debate Between Heller, Berkley

By Sean Whaley | 2:10 pm September 28th, 2012

CARSON CITY – It took all of about ten minutes for Sen. Dean Heller and Rep Shelley Berkley to mix it up in their first debate in the U.S. Senate race Thursday, criticizing each other on campaign issues ranging from ethics to Medicare to big oil subsidies.

The hour-long debate on KNPB-TV in Reno was the first chance for many voters to see the two candidates spar on the issues, most of which have already been the focus of campaign attacks in the race to date.

Heller, the Republican appointed to the seat last year, and Berkley, a seven-term Democrat Congresswoman representing the 1st District, will debate twice more before election day on Nov. 6.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

Heller criticized Berkley for supporting big government bailouts and sequestration, a process which could see massive cuts in military and domestic spending, called the “fiscal cliff,” beginning in January if Congress cannot reach agreement on how to reduce spending. He also commented on the ethics issues that are dogging her through the campaign.

Berkley went after Heller for supporting tax breaks for big oil and for supporting a plan by Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan to change the Medicare program for younger Americans when they retire in the years to come.

Heller’s alleged ‘hobos’ remark starts the back-and-forth

One of the first questions to provoke Heller was in reference to his alleged comment in Elko in February of 2010 when unemployment benefits were being extended. He supposedly asked if by continuing the program that “the government is now creating hobos.”

“This is the most difficult part of an election; that is proving something that you didn’t do or say,” Heller said in response to the question. “And in this case this is something that I did not do and something that I did not say. Let’s be very specific. I did not say that.”

Berkley used the opportunity to try to align Heller with Mitt Romney’s controversial comments about 47 percent of Americans being dependent on the federal government.

Heller has disavowed Romney’s comments.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Did Heller say that the government is creating hobos?

Yes, according to the Elko Daily Free Press, which reported his comments as: “Heller said the current economic downturn and policies may bring back the hobos of the Great Depression, people who wandered the country taking odd jobs.

“He said a study found that people who are out of work longer than two years have only a 50 percent chance of getting back into the workforce. ‘I believe there should be a federal safety net,’ Heller said, but he questioned the wisdom of extending unemployment benefits yet again to a total of 24 months, which Congress is doing. ‘Is the government now creating hobos?’ ”

But the Heller campaign, in a statement released during the debate, said: “Dean Heller never called unemployed individuals hobos. Then-Congressman Heller was referring to a presentation made by Lawrence B. Lindsey, former Director of the National Economic Council at the White House, before the Republican Members of the House Ways and Means Committee.”

The statement cited a number of times Heller voted to extend unemployment insurance during his career in Congress.

Debate moves to who is a bigger supporter of the middle class

Heller used the opportunity to question Berkley’s claims that she supports the middle class.

“She’s bailed out Detroit, she’s bailed out Wall Street, you name it she’s bailed out everybody time and time again,” he said. “And the question is when are you going to bail out the middle class. What are you going to do for the middle class. You continue to support big bailouts.”

Berkley cited five votes Heller has made “to protect tax breaks for corporations that ship American jobs overseas.”

The Heller campaign pointed to Berkley’s vote in July to extend tax breaks for all but those earning over $250,000 a year. Eliminating those tax breaks “could cost Nevada 6,000 jobs and more than 900,000 nationwide,” the statement said.

Berkley voted for an energy tax, opposed the Keystone Pipeline which will mean the oil gets shipped to China, and supported the Affordable Care Act, Heller said.

Berkley has supported energy tax breaks in Congress, but those breaks have focused on alternative energy development. She introduced the  “Clean Energy Jobs Act,” which would extend a 30 percent tax credit for domestic companies that manufacture products used in clean energy projects such as wind turbines and solar panels.

Heller too said he supports renewable energy development, including some federal support.

Berkley’s ethics investigation initiates another round of discussion

Berkley, who is the subject of a House ethics investigation over whether her support of a kidney transplant program in Southern Nevada benefited her physician husband, was asked about the charges. The investigation is under way and is not expected to be resolved before the election.

Berkley did not respond directly to the question, saying only that her only motive was to help Nevadans. Instead she used the opportunity to again attack Heller for voting for big oil subsidies.

Heller said “character matters,” and called Berkley’s ethics issues “a pattern” that existed prior to her being elected to Congress in 1998.

Heller was referring to a memo Berkley wrote to her then-Las Vegas Sands Inc. boss Sheldon Adelson about needing to do favors to local elected officials to get favorable treatment. The memo was made public in 1998.

The Berkley campaign has called the memo old news and not a factor in her election to Congress.

“I think character does matter, and you know what’s important to the people of the state of Nevada? Who’s going to protect them. Who is going to be fighting for them in the U.S. Senate,” Berkley said in the debate. “The middle income families, who’s working for them, who’s making sure that we get people to go back to work.”

Questions about who supports Medicare take center stage

The candidates also debated the future of Medicare, and Heller’s two votes for changing the program to a voucher plan for those under age 55.

Heller said Berkley’s vote for the health care act meant taking $700 billion from Medicare.

“She needs to quit stealing,” from Medicare, he said.

Berkley said moving Medicare to private insurance companies will cost Nevadans more, and “put private insurance company bureaucrats in-between doctors and their patients.”

Berkley said she did not cut money out of Medicare benefits, but instead voted to eliminate over-payments to insurance companies.

Does Heller want to eliminate the Department of Education?

Another issue that provoked a dispute between the candidates is whether Heller has in fact called for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education.

Heller said he does not support closing the agency, but that it should be downsized to provide more money directly to local school districts.

The Berkley campaign argues that Heller has called for the elimination of the agency.

The Pahrump Valley Times reported: “Heller singled out the U.S. Department of Education for elimination. ‘Just to give you an idea of how they decide how Pahrump Valley High School should be run, we have 3,500 people back in Washington D.C. in the Department of Education that average more than $100,000 per year per person. Now you can’t tell me you can’t take that money, move it to the states and be able to teach better, giving it to the teachers, the principals and the parents.’ ”

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Audio clips:

Sen. Dean Heller says he did not make “hobos” remark:

092812Heller1 :10 not say that.”

Heller says Shelley Berkley has voted to bailout big business, not the middle class:

092812Heller2 :12 support big bailouts.”

Rep. Shelly Berkley says Heller supports big business and shipping jobs overseas:

092812Berkley1 :10 their tax subsidies.”

Berkley says the question is who is going to fight for the middle class in the U.S. Senate:

092812Berkley2 :14 back to work.”

 

Nevada Economic Board Signs Off On Apple Tax Breaks But Finds Oversight Authority Limited Under New Law

By Sean Whaley | 4:58 pm August 1st, 2012

CARSON CITY – The state Board of Economic Development today unanimously signed off on a package of tax breaks to bring Apple to Reno, but the panel found it had little authority over the deal reached after several months of closed-door negotiations.

The board, chaired by Gov. Brian Sandoval, unanimously recommended that Steve Hill, executive director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, enter into the contract with Apple that will provide an estimated $89 million in tax breaks to the company over the next decade.

Hill, in briefing the board on the agreement with Apple to build a data center and related facilities in the Reno area that are expected to bring $1 billion in investment over the next ten years, said the state authority over the deal was limited once it was approved by the Washoe County Commission and other local government entities.

Hill said the value of the sales and personal property tax breaks has to be put into context, which is that the state will receive between $16 million to $20 million in taxes over 10 years that would not have come to Nevada without Apple’s decision to open the facility in Reno, along with more than 300 well-paying jobs.

The tax breaks can be withheld if the company does not make the minimum required investment, he said.

Sandoval said that despite the limited authority to weigh in on the deal, the review by the board was important because a lot of important questions were raised and answered in the public forum.

He said the agreement is a great deal for Nevada because it is bringing a major company to the state that could have decided to go elsewhere.

“It’s going to provide new jobs and investment into the community,” Sandoval said. “It is perhaps, and I’m hoping that as we go on, will be a catalyst for other companies to come here.”

Apple is expected to start construction as soon as the contract spelling out the agreement is finalized later this month, he said.

“There is no reason to believe that they won’t fulfill all of the promises that they have made both to the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, to Washoe County, to the City of Reno and the Washoe County School District,” Sandoval said. “I think this is a win all the way around and I for one am very excited and proud to be a part of this first recommendation by the board to put to the executive director to move forward on this project.”

If there is a need to clarify some aspects of the approval process that resulted in the deal, any proposed changes can be taken up with the Legislature when it convenes in 2013, he said.

Board members, including representatives of the private sector, asked many questions during a two-hour review. There was no comment from the public.

Member Ross Miller, who is also the Nevada Secretary of State, asked Hill if there was the opportunity to make changes to the agreement in some areas, such as seeking some assurances that the construction aspect of the project will employ Nevada residents.

Hill said no such changes could be made without starting the negotiation process all over again.

After the meeting, Miller said the new process, created as a result of legislation last year establishing the new economic development office, is a major departure from past practice.

“The role of the board in approving these abatements is very limited,” he said. “And that’s a significant change from the previous process where the commission actually voted and approved these abatements. Our limited role today was to essentially determine whether or not they met procedural requirements.”

Those requirements included whether the company had a Nevada business license and whether they were going to make more than $500,000 in capital investment, Miller said.

“Our role at this point appears to be primarily ceremonial,” he said. “We provide advice and input but don’t have any real substantive oversight over the process.”

The Legislature in 2013 should consider expanding the board’s oversight, Miller said. The board did not have an actual contract to review, only a set of bullet points.

“Make no mistake, these are substantial abatements for a 30-year period,” he said. “And that’s not insignificant. And so we want to make sure that these terms are clearly defined and that the public has a very clear understanding of what we’ve committed ourselves to.”

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Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says Apple’s move to Reno could be a catalyst for other companies to relocate:

080112Sandoval1 :11 to come here.”

Sandoval says Apple will live up to its commitments:

080112Sandoval2 :28 on this project.”

Board member Ross Miller says the role of the new board is limited:

080112Miller1 :18 met procedural requirements.”

Miller says the board does not have any substantive oversight:

080112Miller2 :11 over the process.”

Miller says the public has to have a clear understanding of such agreements:

080112Miller3 :13 committed ourselves to.”

 

 

New Study Questions Value Of Regulations And Tax Incentives Enacted By States To Create “Green Jobs”

By Sean Whaley | 10:20 am March 15th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A new report questions the value of tax incentives and regulations approved by many states around the country, including Nevada, to create “green jobs,” noting that subsidies used for such programs can take away revenue for other needs such as public education.

“States face a hard and fast budget constraint; they cannot deficit spend or take on debt for general operating expenses,” said Bryan Leonard of State Budget Solutions in his report, “Green Jobs Don’t Grow on Trees.”

“This means that every dollar spent by states on green job training programs, grants to green firms, or subsidies for renewable energy producers is a dollar that cannot be spent on teachers’ salaries, educational tools, or social safety nets,” he said.

“Our study showed that green programs are incredibly expensive for states who aren’t in a position to know which investment will pay off and which won’t,” said Bob Williams, president of State Budget Solutions.

President Barack Obama views solar panels during a tour of the Photovoltaic Array at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas with Sen. Harry Reid and Col. Howard Belote, base commander, May 27, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Nevada State Office of Energy Director Stacey Crowley said she doesn’t necessarily agree with all the views of the article, but she noted that two of Leonard’s recommendations – to use Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) and allow for renewable power purchase agreements – are both being used in Nevada.

Private sector ESCOs contract to come into a client’s operation and find opportunities for energy savings, pay for the necessary renovations, and then receive some contracted portion of the resulting energy savings as compensation. Renewable power purchase agreements use private firms to install solar panels on a host’s property and the host purchases the resulting solar power at a contracted rate usually set at or below prevailing energy rates. The contracted firm bears all the cost and risk associated with the installation and maintenance of the solar equipment.

“It goes to show you that we are looking at as many options as we can to try to get projects funded in innovative ways that don’t use taxpayer money,” Crowley said. “It is a problem we need to try to address. And that is trying to get all energy projects, clean energy projects, done in a way that has the least impact on ratepayers and taxpayers as possible. So that’s a goal that I think everybody can agree on.”

The State Budge Solutions report examines each state’s green jobs statistics, including Nevada, where Leonard identified seven separate financial incentives for green jobs. Three of the seven are property tax exemptions.

Nevada also received just over $1.1 billion for “energy and environment” projects from its federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

Leonard said Nevada came in 11th among states for such projects, meaning there has been a lot of investment by the federal government in green jobs in the state compared to others.

Nevada has also established a goal of having 25 percent of its energy consumption coming from alternative energy by 2025.

(Source: Green Jobs Don’t Grow on Trees)

Leonard said the average number of financial incentives is eight per state, with New York leading the way with 22 different incentives.

They range from tax credits and rebates for homeowners who install renewable energy systems or purchase Energy Star appliances, to multimillion dollar grants to wind farms and green manufacturing firms.

Tax credits are tricky because they add up quickly and create less obvious budgetary problems because they do not show up in the “expense” column and instead amount to foregone revenue,” he said in his report.

In a telephone interview, Leonard said: “Under certain circumstances is probably makes sense to do things that have real economic costs because it is important. But I think that it is just a pipe dream to think that you can enact these policies that raise the cost of doing business, raise energy costs, and somehow that is going to create economic growth.

“That’s the real problem right now is that there is this whole idea of the green economy, that we can improve environmental quality by raising costs on businesses and that somehow is going to create jobs. I think that is pretty counter-intuitive.”

Leonard said Nevada is in the middle of the pack of states for both policies and outcomes.

Crowley said the costs associated with tax breaks and regulations identified in the article don’t reflect “avoided costs,” like not having to build new and expensive power plants because of energy efficiencies. Other costs are associated with EPA regulations that can be avoided by producing clean energy, she said.

Crowley also noted that the subsidies provided for oil and natural gas far outweigh those given for alternative energy projects.

A little more than one year into the job, she said: “I am sure that there is a lot of potential here. What we need to do is just balance that with the other impacts that are affected by this. We’re very sensitive to the fact that rates are high in this state and that we need to make sure we’re doing the best we can to keep them reasonable. And there isn’t a silver bullet.”

Crowley said her office is working to help ensure green energy development in Nevada is sustainable and does not suffer the fate of the state’s housing market.

Leonard said in the conclusion of his article: “Green growth proponents are convinced that if they could only offer the right subsidies, their agenda would prevail. Unfortunately, subsidies are doomed to fail because they try to make fundamentally economic decisions through the political process.

“State officials, no matter how well-informed they are, simply don’t know what demand for green products will look like or what the opportunity cost of differently technologies may be. Examples like Solyndra, Evergreen Solar, and Cascade Grains illustrate the enormous costs when the government gets it wrong. Far from being the exception, failed investments are by far the more likely result when state governments try to steer the market.”

Nevada has seen a taxpayer funded green energy product fall on tough times as well.

Amonix reported in January that it was laying off about 200 people from its solar panel manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas. Amonix received $5.9 million in federal ARRA funding to build the plant, which opened in May, 2011.

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Audio clips:

Bryan Leonard of State Budget Solutions says it is a pipe dream to think policies that raise the cost of doing business will create economic growth:

031512Leonard1 :17 create economic growth.”

Leonard says such ideas are counter-intuitive:

031512Leonard2 :15 it’s pretty counter-intuitive.”

Nevada State Office of Energy Director Stacey Crowley says Nevada is pursuing some of the ideas recommended in Leonard’s report:

031512Crowley1 :15 use taxpayer money.”

Crowley says green energy projects need to be accomplished with the least impact on ratepayers and taxpayers;

031512Crowley2 :16 can agree on.”

Crowley says there is a lot of potential in Nevada but agrees there is no silver bullet:

031512Crowley3 :24 a silver bullet.”