Congresswoman Titus’ Remarks to the Nevada Legislature Embargoed Until Delivery

Apr 4, 2013
Press Release

April 4, 2013

As Prepared for Delivery –
 
Madame Speaker, Leader, Governor, Distinguished guests, one and all:
 
Thank you so much for allowing me to visit with you this evening. I know how busy you are and how valuable your time is. I also appreciate the fact that many of you are going to Reno tonight to help raise money for the Humane Society, a cause dear to my heart. Senator Townsend and I worked together on many animal protection bills during our tenure here and I am grateful to Senator Manendo for carrying on the charge. 
 
I have been following your work with interest and admiration. In the last few weeks alone, you have expelled a member, voted to tax an industry that’s been protected since it wrote the state constitution; moved toward repealing DOMA; and visited a marijuana market with great buds.
 
Wow! When the Speaker said early on that this session was not going to be business as usual, she really meant it.
 
You know I cut my political teeth in this building; I learned a lot about Nevada and its great resources as well as its serious needs; I made some lifelong friends; and hopefully I did some good for the people here in our State.
 
I miss the old timers who are no longer with us – especially Jack Vergiels and Bill Raggio. But I am encouraged and inspired when I look out at all the new faces – the faces of diversity – the faces of Nevada.
 
Speaking of diversity, that is one of the most exciting things about representing District One in Congress. It is the most diverse district in the state. It includes the Hispanic Eastside and the Asian Westside. It is home to the Armenian and Greek Churches, Ethiopian cab drivers and Buddhist temples, Indian markets and Irish pubs. African Americans make up 10 percent of the population and the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe reservation is located in District One. 
 
I am also honored to serve in the most diverse Congress in history. Among the Democratic women alone, we have the first Hindu (Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii), a Thai American veteran who lost both her legs in Iraq (Tammy Duckworth from Illinois), a bisexual former state legislator (Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona), and an African American Harvard attorney from Alabama (Terri Sewell). Now that’s diversity. 
 
The last time I came before you, in 2009, our state faced unprecedented challenges. Unemployment was at a record high. Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation. We saw our neighbors and friends close their businesses, lose their jobs, and have their homes taken away right from underneath their feet. Construction projects seemed to disappear overnight, while tourism and gaming revenues were in a steady decline.
 
But, thanks to the hard work and determination of Nevadans, much progress has been made. Unemployment fell for the 18th straight month in February; and Las Vegas welcomed a record number of visitors in 2012, while gaming revenues increased more than 2 percent over 2011.
 
Housing values are now going up and in District One there are some very exciting new commercial projects coming on line that will create jobs and boost our economy.
 
Downtown Las Vegas is undergoing an incredible revitalization that epitomizes the best of public private partnerships. Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Zappos Executive Tony Shieh are turning downtown into a hip new area that is attracting small businesses, high tech companies, and real estate investors. For example, you can have lunch at EAT, shop at the Container Park, buy fresh produce at the Downtown 3rd Farmers Market, get a drink at the mobile Cycle Pub, hear a lecture at the Construction Zone, and walk your dog at the Park on Fremont at Eighth. Just to mention a few things that are going on. 
 
Nearby in the Arts District, you can enjoy a performance at the fabulous Smith Center or take your family to the exciting new Discovery Children’s Museum, visit one of the many art galleries or participate in the Color Run. 
 
On the Strip we find SLS remodeling the old Sahara into a boutique hotel with a known brand that will appeal to a new demographic of tourists. The Genting Group is developing Resorts World, a major City Center like project that will appeal to Asian travelers and businesses. The MGM is building a 20,000 seat arena and Caesar’s will soon complete its Linq Project with a retail component and a High Roller Observation Wheel – These projects mean welcome jobs for our struggling construction and hospitality workforce. 
 
In addition, lots of new family owned and operated small businesses are popping up everywhere – like Viva Las Arepas, World of Feng Shui, and The Stitch Factory. If it’s happening in Nevada, it’s very likely in District One.
 
Slowly we have begun to recover. But, while we should celebrate this progress that has been made, we know there is still a long way to go. 
 
It is a given that everyone benefits when the economy is growing. We must insure this continues with policies that are reasonable, fair, and balanced. We must reform our tax code and have a budget that is not just an accounting tool but reflects our nation’s priorities. 
 
We should not spend hard earned taxpayer money on programs we don’t need, but rather to keep promises to and create opportunities for the most vulnerable in our communities. 
 
I agree that we don’t need to create a robot squirrel to test its interaction with rattle snakes but we must feed our children, hungry children cannot learn, uneducated children cannot achieve their potential; and unfulfilled promise results in a nation that falls behind. 
 
It is true that we don’t need a NASA study of menu options for trips to Mars but we must protect Social Security and Medicare for our seniors.
 
And while we don’t need to research whether or not stressed out birds make good parents, we must reinvigorate our manufacturing sector because if “you make it in America, you can make it in America.”
 
The good news is that we have some very exciting options. We are at a crossroads and I truly believe that if elected officials will work together to find creative solutions to our problems, this country can become greater than ever over the next decade.
 
So let’s not blow this opportunity.
 
To begin we must make smart investments – in people, in renewable energy, and in infrastructure.
 
First, let’s invest in our people. They are our greatest resource. We must provide a quality education for all children, strengthen our schools, and commit to preparing our students for the jobs of tomorrow. Toward this end we must fund Head Start and Pell grants, promote STEM learning and find ways for professional students to pay off their school loans by working in disadvantaged communities. 
 
We must also pass the Dream Act, as part of comprehensive immigration reform, and revise the visa system so we don’t educate the best and brightest and then send them away. We want the next Microsoft or Google to be created here in Nevada, not overseas.  
 
Investing in people is more than education and comprehensive immigration reform. We must also do everything we can for our service men and women and their families who sacrifice so much to protect our democratic way of life. As Ranking Member of the Veteran Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Benefits, I am committed first and foremost to reducing the backlog of claims – currently it takes a veteran in Nevada an average of 485 days to have a claim processed. That’s unacceptable. Nor should any veteran be homeless or unable to find a job.
 
Second, we should invest in renewable energy. I commend the legislature for all it’s done to encourage the development of wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass sources which in turn create good jobs! As a result of your work, there are many exciting projects being developed around the state which put us on the path to becoming a world leader in the production and distribution of clean energy. I pledge that I will continue to work with you at the federal level, supporting energy tax credits, low interest loans, and funding for state energy offices.
 
Third, we must invest in our transportation and infrastructure systems. I am proud to once again serve on the House Transportation Committee because Nevada’s economy depends on moving people and products in ways that are quicker, friendlier, easier, and cheaper. From tourists to lobsters, we import almost everything so we must have 21st century infrastructure to make it all work and keep us in business. The longer we wait, the further we fall behind:
 
I say, Go Big or Go Home.
 
Let’s build I-11, that interstate highway to Phoenix. Let’s deploy NEXT-GEN, a program that will increase safety for the flying public while reducing fuel costs and increasing efficiency for airlines. Let’s increase TIFIA and WIFIA funding which is the first step toward creating the public-private infrastructure bank that President Obama has touted. Let’s open up our visa program to bring international tourists from Brazil, Israel, China, and India to Nevada for holiday. And let’s make Las Vegas and Reno multimodal inland ports to facilitate the flow of people and goods from the Pacific and South America.
 
In addition to investing wisely, Nevada needs to get its fair share of federal dollars. I know you’ve heard a lot about more aggressively pursuing federal grants, and many state and local agencies are trying to do that, which is great!
 
But let’s also think outside the box. For example, we must fight federal efforts to take our SNPLMA money from public land sales – these are critical funds that protect Lake Tahoe, build hiking paths and bike trails, and safeguard our environment.
 
And let’s go after some or all of the so called Handle Tax. Sports books in Nevada pay a .25% federal tax on every wager placed. Since more gambling in sports events is done in Nevada than in any other state, we shoulder almost all of this burden, contributing $8.7 million in 2012. This tax was originally developed to pursue illegal sports betting around the country but it has been going into the IRS general fund in Washington to be spent on issues with no nexus to gaming and with no separate accounting. 
 
That is money that should stay here in Nevada.
 
As you can see these proposals I’ve mentioned aren’t partisan issues. They’re not ideological issues. They’re not red or blue issues. They’re Nevada issues. We can and should work together on them for the good of the state. I commend you for doing just that here in Carson City. You are very good at working across the aisle, across the two houses, and across the lawn with the Governor.
 
We in Congress should follow your example. It’s a good thing that the Nevada delegation has worked together before – all of us along with Senator Heller are former members of this august body. We served together; we know each other and we should be able to put aside party affiliations in order to get things done. I am confident that with Senator Reid at the helm and you guarding our flank that we can do just that.
 
So let me thank you again for indulging me. I appreciate your attention and look forward to working with you to move Nevada forward. Please call on me anytime and come to see us, in Las Vegas or in Washington. The latchstring is always out.