Assembly Democrats sought to set Nevada’s state political agenda Monday by laying out economic proposals they say will be a framework for upcoming campaigns and the 2013 legislative session.
The proposals, which included few specifics and no cost estimates, come as Democratic and Republican politicians are angling for power in Carson City.
Democrats control the Legislature with a 26-16 majority in the Assembly and 11-10 count in the Senate.
Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, said the proposals unveiled Monday provide ammunition for Democratic campaigns and an agenda for the next session.
“Part of the discussion for anyone working to get elected this season should be about jobs,” said Conklin, the Assembly majority leader in 2011, who could be in line for a promotion to speaker. “We can solve a lot of the state’s problems if people just go back to work.”
Whether the ideas Democrats teed up Monday would do much to tamp down Nevada’s 11.6 percent unemployment rate remains in question.
Most of the proposals were modifications to existing programs, ideas Democrats have floated before, or calls to make changes in the state bureaucracy that most residents wouldn’t notice directly.
Democrats said they’re looking to help boost economic activity in Nevada, not make state government the source of new jobs.
“People are looking for solutions,” said Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. “We can’t create the jobs, but we can get things out of the way or streamline the process.”
The proposals floated Monday included the following:
■ Expand the 2011 Nevada Jobs First program, which requires contractors getting bidders’ preference incentives to hire at least 50 percent of workers from Nevada to cover all public works projects except those with federal money.
■ Provide an as-yet-undefined tax incentive for businesses to invest in programs in public community colleges and universities. Conklin made a similar proposal in the 2011 legislative session, but the bill didn’t survive.
■ Help businesses find detailed demographic and marketing data on communities throughout the state by leveraging economic data and software already in use in Nevada.
■ Use unused state land and buildings to juice economic development, possibly by leasing it at low prices for everything from film production to logistic centers. Unused state property mentioned Monday included prisons in Carson City and Jean.
■ Streamline business license applications and permits by upgrading the state’s online business portal to include local governments.
Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said he is open to any ideas that would reduce unemployment, but he was unimpressed by the Democrats’ proposals.
“I frankly don’t see a whole lot in these proposals that are going to help small and medium-sized businesses in Nevada,” said Hickey, the Republican Assembly caucus leader.
He said if Democrats wanted to help Nevadans, they would consider eliminating or scaling back prevailing wage requirements that he said can drive up the cost of public works projects by as much as 25 percent.
Hickey also suggested Democrats stand in opposition to a petition circulated by the Nevada State Education Association and AFL-CIO that would implement a 2 percent margins tax on business.
“That is certainly an issue Republicans will be campaigning on,” Hickey said. “In the beginning stages of recovery this is not the time for a massive new business tax hike such as many of our Democratic colleagues are likely to support.”
When asked about the proposed margins tax during the Democrats’ event, Conklin was noncommittal.
“From a revenue standpoint, everything needs to be on the table,” Conklin said.
But when pressed on whether he supports the margins tax proposal, Conklin demurred.
“I have not actually gone through it line by line,” he said.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-229-6435.