Political issues are a hot topic in this election year, and businesspeople responding to a recent Review-Journal poll have plenty to say about today's biggest issues.
From health-insurance reform to balancing the state budget -- and on almost every issue in between -- the nearly 100 professionals who responded to an online survey from November to January offered strong advice to the state's and nation's leaders.
Here are a few key areas they're watching closely:
Opinion is mixed on whether the Obama administration has done enough to boost job formation.
Just 32.5 percent of participants think Washington has taken the right measures on the jobs front. A plurality of respondents -- 47 percent -- disapproved of federal actions on employment, while the rest were uncertain about whether President Barack Obama's policies have cut joblessness.
Doug Ansell, chief executive officer of local incorporation-software company Inenvi, wrote that federal stimulus proposals have had "no effect whatsoever unless you are a bank or a carmaker."
He elaborated in an interview on what he said businesses really need: payroll tax relief. Obama's recent proposal to grant $5,000 tax credits to businesses that hire in 2010 isn't timely enough to make a difference, Ansell said.
"Small businesses don't need a credit on their next tax return. They need money now," he said. "(Obama) didn't go to the banks and say, 'We'll give you a credit on your next return.' He infused cash into them."
For others, Obama's jobs record is poor because he's taken too many cues from Republicans.
The Obama administration "has not been nearly reactive enough," wrote Rex Harold. "Highly disappointed that he used all of his drive to get elected and had nothing left to be creative and fight off the opposition. He's let the GOP members and soothsayers intimidate him into playing their game. So disappointing."
Uwe Rockenfeller of Rocky Research, a Boulder City energy consulting firm, at least gave the Obama administration credit for good intentions.
But "there is much less the government actually can do than people think," he wrote. "This administration had their heart in the right place, but the execution, especially in the energy field, left much to be desired."
Thanks to bureaucratic hurdles, federal stimulus efforts can take a year or more to translate into projects, Rockenfeller added.
The Review-Journal's survey showed widespread support for health care reform, with 68.7 percent calling for change. But if most respondents agreed that the system needs modifications, they differed widely on what fixes they'd like to see.
Marla Letizia, chief executive officer of local mobile-billboard company Letizia Big Traffic Media, wrote that "a healthy country is good for all of us."
"I do not know how the richest country in the world could have 20 percent of its population unable to attain health care," Letizia answered. "A healthy country is good for all of us."
Letizia was also among the 67.5 percent of participants who said they'd like to see a government-run insurance option for the uninsured.
"One thing I know as an employer is, the better the benefits, the better quality employees you get," she said in a follow-up interview. "Health care is a very important issue for everybody. When I had young children, the No. 1 thing for me was, did we have the best insurance we could possibly have at our company? I want to see quality health care for everyone who crosses my path as an employer."
Rockenfeller called a public option a necessary part of the free market when human needs such as health care, disaster relief and national defense are involved. But any such option must openly and fairly account for its costs, he added, and it can't be subsidized to give it the appearance of lower costs.
"Competition with the free market needs to be fair and equitable," he wrote.
Bob Forbuss, president of government-relations consulting firm Strategic Alliances and former chairman of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, called reform an economic necessity. Health care is "profoundly broken and is financially breaking America," he wrote.
"Health care must become preventive care and focus on making people healthy," he added. "Currently, the incentives do not promote positive outcomes, only incomes for drug companies, insurance companies, lawyers and of course doctors."
Other respondents lamented existing reform plans for what the government intrusion and loss of personal liberties they believed the bills would yield. Still others pointed to existing federal programs as evidence that the government should be less involved in health care.
"The waste that can be observed in Medicare and Medicaid is inexcusable," wrote Tyler Jones, owner of homebuilder Blue Heron Living. "Mandating that the federal government must directly provide health care for tens of millions of additional Americas will further drive up the cost of health care for everyone. (Reform) could be accomplished much more efficiently through incentivizing the private sector."
And Mark Brown, founder and chief executive officer of Internet poker and live table game company Zen Gaming, said he was concerned mostly about the cost of current reform bills.
"It will swell beyond the numbers the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) is predicting," he wrote.
CAP AND TRADE
Survey participants were less enthusiastic about another major congressional initiative: cap-and-trade legislation. Such laws would allow the federal government to limit companies' abilities to emit the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
Less than half of respondents -- 41 percent -- voiced full support for cap and trade. The remainder either opposed it or wanted to see how much such legislation would cost.
Michael Beardslee, a principal of IT Strategies International Corp., wrote that the taxes for and costs of cap and trade would be "outrageous," especially considering the nation's existing debt.
Worse yet, the timing of cap-and-trade legislation couldn't be worse, Ansell added.
"A recession-borderline-depression is not the time to destimulate business even further with talk of cap and trade. It's just another way to impose a tax," he said.
Harold responded that cap and trade would make money available for disasters and serious health conditions that come from pollution, but it should only be a stopgap measure on the way to a mandated schedule for reducing carbon emissions.
"There should be expensive consequences to American oil companies destroying other countries' environment, namely those in the Amazon basin," he wrote.
THE BIG RACES
If the Review-Journal's survey is any indication, two candidates named Reid will win their November elections.
Though several recent Review-Journal polls have shown Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., with low approval ratings, respondents to the paper's business survey gave him the overwhelming nod, with 62.7 percent of participants naming him as their preference for the office.
Rockenfeller expressed Reid supporters' prevailing sentiment, noting that having the senator as the majority leader is invaluable to Nevadans -- even Republican and independent Nevadans.
And Reid's son, Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid, topped all other comers in the governor's race.
The poll was conducted before Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said he officially wouldn't run for governor. Goodman claimed 18.1 percent of the vote.
Incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons proved least popular in the survey, with his 4.8 percent edging out only "not sure" (3.6 percent) as an option. Respondents alternately referred to Gibbons as a "buffoon" and an "idiot," and that's just the stuff we can print in the newspaper.
Letizia wouldn't wade into the fray over Reid's senate seat, saying she hadn't made up her mind on the race yet. But she heartily endorsed Rory Reid for governor.
"He's done an outstanding job on the commission," she said. "He's funny, he's sincere, he's extremely bright, and he's a lifelong Nevadan. What more could you want?"
Letizia, whose company has appeared in hearings before the county commission, said Reid has been "more than fair and more than willing to listen."
Ansell, at least, offered a shout-out to the beleaguered Gibbons. The governor is perhaps the only politician Ansell can remember who actually did what he said he'd do -- in this case, propose a balanced budget and oppose tax increases.
Ansell said he's met Gibbons a few times, and he acknowledged that the governor "never came across as a dynamic individual."
"But I've never seen a politician get such a load of strife for keeping his campaign promise. Unreal," he said.
Balancing the state budget ranked as the top issue poll respondents wanted to see the Legislature tackle. State lawmakers won't convene for their next regular session until early 2011, but legislators will meet beginning Feb. 23 for a special session to grapple with Nevada's $881 million budget shortfall.
Ansell chose balancing the budget as his key preference. He likened the state's finances to household economics, noting that families in debt have to gain control of their finances and "stop the bleeding" before they even think about additional expenditures.
"The idea of doing anything ahead of balancing the budget is insane," he said. "We are out of money. We've finally hit the wall."
Forbuss listed economic diversification as his top pick. Without the addition of quality jobs paying $20 or more per hour, Nevada will never return to its economic heyday, he wrote. Tourism will rebound, but only slowly, and with less spending from consumers. State leaders should head to California and troll for businesses "that are being taxed to death," he said.
Education came in a distant third for priorities businesspeople want addressed.
A focus on education will help the state overcome its long-term economic challenges, said Letizia, who served on the board of the private Meadows School in Summerlin for 18 years.
"It is absolutely clear that education in this state is inferior to education in the rest of this country and certainly the rest of the world," she said. "If we want to grow our state and keep good people in this state, we need to have an educational system. Education is the most important thing we can give our children, and this state has violated that responsibility."
Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4512.