Reid says Nevada will recover, can’t say when


WASHINGTON — Nevada will recover from recession but it is impossible to predict how long it will take, Sen. Harry Reid said Monday.

The state cannot pull itself out of the dumps because its economic health depends heavily on business from elsewhere, and particularly California, the Senate majority leader said during a telephone call with reporters and leaders of Las Vegas business groups.

“We are going to have to have not only things get better in Nevada but around the country because our economy is so dependent on what is going on in the rest of the country,” the Nevada Democrat said. “If California is vibrant, it helps us. If Arizona is doing well, it helps us. Any state in the union, it helps us, but of course our neighboring states the most.”

But as it happens, those states are among the worst hit by the mortgage and foreclosure crisis, “and that has been very hurtful to our economic vitality.”

Asked when Nevada’s worst-in-the nation jobless rate of 14 percent might shrink to single digits, Reid said, “I can’t give you a definite time. I don’t think there is going to be anything happen magically within the next few months, but I think it is going to continue to get better, that is what the economists say.”

“I don’t know if anyone is capable” of predicting a recovery timetable, he said.

Reid also hedged on whether the Senate will deliver $24 billion in Medicaid funding to cash-strapped states. He said the funding might be scaled back in a compromise, “but I can’t imagine it would be that much money.”

In Nevada, Gov. Jim Gibbons has said the state would be forced to make further cuts unless Congress restored $130 million in what the state was anticipating as an increase in federal matching funds for Medicaid, the health program for poor people whose costs are shared by states and Uncle Sam.

Reid said two weeks ago that Nevada leaders “will get what they are planning for” on Medicaid. But a $118 billion bill containing tax breaks, disaster aid and social “safety net” funding such as jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed has been blocked by Republicans and several Democrats concerned about additional federal spending.

“I am not as confident as I was” on the Medicaid funds, Reid said, “because I did not get a single Republican vote even though I am getting calls from all these Republican governors that they need the money.”

During the call, Reid also responded to Republican criticism tying him to the recession.

“I am a little concerned that some people are blaming me for all the bad things happening on the economy,” he said. “But remember, (Democrats) are trying to dig ourselves out of a big hole we found ourselves in” after the presidency of George W. Bush.

“We know the unemployment situation in Nevada is very difficult, and we are trying to turn things around,” Reid said. “It is clear our work to this point on the economic recovery bill and to develop clean energy have kept a bad situation from getting worse.”

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760.

 

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