Previous Nevada Journal articles

Labor

Nevada’s shrinking labor force —
the view from inside small business

Labor force participation rate among Silver State youth lagging

In the aftermath of the 2008 subprime meltdown, Nevada’s unemployment rate skyrocketed.

By 2011, statewide unemployment had grown beyond 13 percent. Prior to that, the state’s unemployment rate had never exceeded 10.9 percent, a high reached 30 years before, during President Reagan’s first term in office.

As of July 2016, Nevada unemployment was down to 6.5 percent, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At face value, that suggests the economy has improved markedly from the recent historical lows.

However, a new analysis by the Nevada Policy Research Institute questions the extent to which the drop in nominal unemployment truly signals an economic recovery.

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Metro’s ‘More Cops’ spending policy unclear
even while agency pursues more funding

Despite multi-millions already on hand, LVMPD remains focused on money worries

In June, Clark County promised the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department $1 million in additional, permanent funding to enable the department to combat an expected uptick in summer crime.

The extra funds seemed to arrive when Metro needed it most, as local residents have witnessed a recent spike in violent crime.

Any relief to Metro, however, from the news of this grant was short-lived. Only days later the county revoked the award when the City of Las Vegas indicated it could not contribute the additional amount required to maintain the statutory funding ratio.

For Metro, this signaled a political loss and a possible portent for future budgetary disagreements.

For Las Vegas citizens, it suggested that the streets, this summer, will be less safe than they might otherwise be.

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Does Tahoe’s North Shore fit the profile
of a job-hungry, low-income community?

Assurances given lawmakers about offices’ locations
didn’t mention a $17-million Tahoe private mansion

The Nevada office of Advantage Capital Partners, whose lobbyist assured state lawmakers the office would serve, and be placed within, local low-income communities.

Can the ritzy North Shore of Lake Tahoe, along Lakeshore Boulevard, somehow qualify as a “low-income community” under Nevada and federal law?

The question arises when comparing the remarks of a lobbyist for the “New Markets Job Act,” approved by Nevada lawmakers and Gov. Brian Sandoval, with state records filed by the lobbyist’s employer.

Advantage Capital Partners Director Ryan Brennan had been asked by a senate committee chairman how ACP would invest the tax credits it would receive under SB 357, touted as the “New Markets Job Act.”

“Our business model,” testified Brennan, “has been to open an office and immediately staff it with full-time lenders in the communities in which we want to invest.”

However the communities in which ACP was seeking toinvest, under SB 357, are federally designated “low-income communities.”

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Fiscal

Even fallback assurances from lobbyist
for NMTC ‘jobs’ program don’t check out

Tax-credit scheme passed by Nevada lawmakers has history of soaking taxpayers

Ryan Brennan of Advantage Capital Partners made the news in 2013 for citing nonexistent Florida and Missouri state audits to convince Nevada legislators to pass a bill that meant millions for his employer.

Auditors in the two states he cited — shown videotapes of Brennan’s testimony — were very clear that no such audits existed or had ever been done.

Confronted with that information by Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Ed Vogel, both Brennan and State Sen. Michael Roberson, sponsor of the bill in question, attempted to argue that no qualitative difference exists between the findings of genuine state audits and the views of consultants in the pay of firms lobbying hard for passage of “New Markets Tax Credit” or NMTC laws.

According to Vogel’s article, Roberson contended that “in the broad sense a state audit can be any type of an evaluation process performed in a state.”

Brennan, for his part, continued to maintain that the State of Nevada could increase tax revenue by foregoing insurance-premium tax revenue through tax credits allocated to firms like his.

The lobbyist, wrote Vogel, “released reports from Missouri and Florida that said revenue generated by the tax credits programs far exceeded the cost of the credits.”

Once again, however, the “released reports from Missouri” can neither be found nor their existence verified. (Regarding the Florida report, see below.)

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At this rate, the State of Nevada will
have blown $112.5 million for zilch

Congressional candidate led Silver State legislature into financial ditch

They descended on Nevada legislators in 2013, promising new jobs in the state’s depressed areas and higher tax revenue for state government.

All lawmakers had to do, they said, was approve legislation that would allow certain private firms designated as “qualified community development entities,” or CDEs, to take control of $119 million in Nevada state tax credits.

“They” included the head national lobbyist for one of the nation’s biggest firms targeting the government-subsidized investment industry, Advantage Capital Partners, and the legislation’s sponsor, State Senate Republican Minority Leader Michael C. Roberson.

Roberson is currently a candidate for the GOP primary nomination for Nevada's Third Congressional District.

Also working Legislative halls in behalf of the complex financial legislation — Senate Bill 357 — were 11 hired lobbyists from the state’s extremely well-connected and powerful political “juice” and public-relations firm, R&R Partners.

No one testified against the bill.

Nor does the legislative record indicate that any of the Legislature’s financially unsophisticated citizen-lawmakers offered any more due diligence than to ask a few innocuous questions of Advantage Capital’s chief lobbyist, Managing Director Ryan Brennan.

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Labor

Are you one of the millions of employees
who Obama wants punching time-clocks?

Flexible job-scheduling now at risk for many salaried Nevada workers

Are you fortunate enough to have a flexible job schedule?

Does your employer allow you to work remotely some days? To telecommute from home?

Or perhaps you’ve permission to work at odd hours, or on weekends — just so long as the job gets done.

For millions of Americans, flexible job schedules make juggling work and family-life obligations much easier. Salaried workers may, on occasion, leave work earlier than normal quitting time, when personal errands require, then make up the work later.

Employers allow this because they know that happy employees are more productive. When the latter know their employers not only value their work, but trust them, it’s a win-win for everybody.

Until now.

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Fiscal

State gives GOED's favored few
'vouchers' redeemable for cash

'Transferable tax-credit' vouchers shift tax burden to everyone else

Barely 15 months removed from triumphantly announcing that $1.3 billion in tax breaks over 20 years had lured Tesla to build its massive battery factory in the Reno area, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval last December followed up by securing a commitment from upstart electric car company Faraday Future to locate its manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas in return for $215 million in tax relief over the next decade.

With the deals came promises that a state still struggling to shake the residue of economic malaise had turned the corner toward rejuvenation. “It will light up everyone in the region,” Steve Hill, Gov. Sandoval’s point man on economic development, told the Reno Gazette-Journal in regard to Tesla. “Property values will go up. The prosperity of the region will be materially changed.”

Likewise, following the Faraday announcement, the governor predicted in the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the arrangement “is going to change the trajectory and economy in Southern Nevada and the state.”

For Nevada taxpayers and business owners living in the here and now, however, the excitement of handing out a total of $1.5 billion in tax incentives to Tesla, owned by a Silicon Valley billionaire, and Faraday, the brainchild of a Chinese billionaire, might be somewhat tempered by a sobering reality.

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Fiscal

Does transferable tax credit law
shift power to financial elites?

Puts control of millions of state dollars in GOED director's hands

At an April 9 legislative committee hearing last year, Steve Hill explained why passage of Senate Bill 507 — establishing a system of transferable tax credits to spur investment and job growth — was in Nevada’s best interest.

“The legislation will align the program costs with the timing of the expense with the companies we are recruiting to Nevada …” said Mr. Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “The transferable tax credit program does not require up-front funding, and the transferable tax credit expense can be accounted for in the years the expense is incurred.”

In addition, thanks to a Nevada constitutional provision against state subsidies to private businesses, the grants and loans Mr. Hill’s office bestowed upon various companies had previously been directed through state and county governments.

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19th Century orphan-care fight
still hobbles Nevada education

Part 1: Today’s school-choice foes use legal precedents
designed to burden members of religious minorities

ThTwo 19th Century orphansey were only orphan children.

But over 150 years later, they still cast a long shadow.

These were the children left behind in 19th-centuryVirginia City, Nevada, when their miner fathers died in cave-ins and under collapsing timber supports or in the frequent fires afflicting the Comstock Lode.

Clearly, these orphans and “half-orphans” (as single-parent children were called) needed care and schooling.

But because it was an order of Catholic sisters who came to the children's aid, quickly mobilizing the Virginia City community, 19th-century prejudice would in the next few years become enflamed.

Eventually that enmity would take legal form — and hamstring for the next century and a half many Nevada parents' efforts to secure quality education for their children.

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19th Century orphan-care fight
still hobbles Nevada education

Part 2: Why did the State of Nevada decide to help fund
a Catholic-run orphanage and school in Virginia City?

When Nevada’s lawmakers met in the first state legislature following statehood, they already knew that the Virginia City orphanage established by the Catholic Sisters of Charity was serving a vital need for the region.

Not only had residents of the booming Comstock city made that clear through their actions, but Virginia City businessmen had shown up with a petition. They said their original hope that the Asylum could be funded with local contributions had faded due to “the general depreciation of the business interests of this section of the State.”

Most Nevada lawmakers endorsed the proposal, but a minority was more resistant.

The Senate Committee on State Affairs visited the asylum, filed a report on the general conditions found there, and recommended passage of the requested appropriation.

The Committee of Ways and Means, on the other hand, recommended against, arguing that the funds might largely go into training the children in Catholicism, and into “defraying the ordinary current expenses” of the asylum, thus encouraging its future dependence on state appropriations.

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