Horsford blasts gaming for refusing to cover costs

CARSON CITY -- Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford denounced the gaming industry Friday for refusing to come up with additional money to reduce cuts to public schools and higher education.

"How will you find your next generation of educated workers?" Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said in a fiery speech delivered before the Senate opened for business Friday. "How can your businesses grow if you have to look outside the state for college graduates?"

Horsford's speech came in response to the Nevada Resort Association's announcement that it would not pay the $32 million a year in additional fees to cover the costs that the Nevada Gaming Control Board incurs in regulating gaming.

The resort association, the trade association that includes most major casinos, said it could not pay more at a time when casinos reported a $6.7 billion revenue loss in the last fiscal year.

The gaming industry pays nearly $800 million a year in various taxes.

Horsford commended the mining industry for "stepping up and agreeing to be part of the solution." Democratic leaders said Thursday that mining has agreed to contribute about $100 million more to the state, although an exact figure hadn't been agreed upon.

But he said the banking and insurance industries, which are doing well, have not agreed yet to contribute any additional money that state government can use to cover an $887 million revenue shortfall.

Under Gov. Jim Gibbons' plan to cover the shortfall, state support for public schools and higher education would be reduced by 10 percent, or about $250 million. Assembly Democrats had set a goal to cut that reduction in half.

In response to Horsford's speech, Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, pointed out that private industry also is suffering serious financial problems.

"Good luck with private industry," Amodei said. "Isn't it also in the emergency room?"

However, Horsford said corporations aren't paying their fair share since many of them don't pay fees to cover the costs the state now absorbs in regulating them.

"Why should Nevada taxpayers foot the bill for regulation?" he asked.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.