• Bob Fulkerson testimony in favor of The Education Initiative

    PLAN state director Bob Fulkerson gave the following testimony before the joint meeting of the Assembly Committee on Taxation and Senate Committee on Revenue and Economic Development.

    March 5, 2013

    TEI

     

    We have 2 choices.  We can raise the revenue we need to properly fund education, or we can remain on the bottom of the lists for educational outcomes and other indicators of a functional state.

    Our schools have been cut by $1billion over the past five years.

    And even before these cuts, our education and safety net funding woes were widely known, for decades. In 1950, Colliers Magazine put Nevada on the cover with this headline: “Nevada: Sick, poor fend for themselves, scant attention to education.”

    And, for just as long, we have had the solutions to these problems. In 1960, the Legislative Counsel Bureau released a voluminous study entitled “Financing State and Local Government in Nevada”, which suggested Nevada’s tax base was too narrow and stated: “From the standpoint of equity, there are significant elements of regressivity”.  The report found “the assertion frequently made in Nevada regarding a simple direct relationship between a ‘favorable tax climate’ and rapid economic growth cannot be defended” (p. 659). Most tellingly, it called for nearly doubling what was then called the “State Gross Receipts Tax” in order to broaden the tax base.

    Forty years after that study, the Price-Waterhouse study (“A Fiscal Agenda for Nevada”) found “Enhancement of a state’s economic competitiveness should not be equated automatically with low taxes” (p. 13). It suggested that “a general business tax could be designed to be compatible with the state’s economic development strategy of diversification” (page 13).

    Also of note,  the report stated: “The net proceeds tax should be supplanted with a severance tax on gross yield to reduce revenue instability and  insure all mines pay some tax to compensate for environmental impacts” (page 22). In that respect, we applaud Senator Roberson and Senate Republicans for coming out today in support of SJR 15 and in favor of more fair taxation of the mining industry.  But this should not cancel out support for the Margin Tax. We need profitable businesses and the mining industry to step up.

    Every session since then experts have debated and studied, with the results the same: Nevada’s tax base is too narrow and disproportionately hurts middle and lower wage workers.

    Last month the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) listed the ten states whose tax systems favor the wealthy most heavily.  Alabama barely edged out Nevada for number 10. If the temporary “sunset” taxes had been included, Nevada would have made been in the top 10 most regressive states.

    It’s time to promote tax policies like Education First that that promote the greater good and shared prosperity instead of further concentrating wealth in fewer hands.

    When the sales/excise tax share of family income is calculated, the lowest 20% of income earners pay 6.0% while the top 1% pay just 0.7% of their income in taxes.

    The Margin Tax addresses this inequity and regressivity head on by broadening our tax base.

    Our existing tax system has created a Donner Party mentality of primitive survival, even if it means sacrificing our children’s education. And our kids are on to us. At the Sun Youth Forum last year, 82 percent of Las Vegas’s brightest youth said they have no intention of living here as an adult.  What does that say about us as a state?

    It’s not just education that is suffering because of our state’s dysfunctional tax system.  Nevada is among the top three states where the childhood poverty rate has worsened over the last year; 25 percent of our children under the age of 5 live in poverty. If Nevada were to fix its regressive tax system, we could provide pathways out of poverty, including child care, heath care, nutrition and of course, education, and break this cycle forever.

    Nevada has the second lowest tax load in the country, according to the Tax Foundation. That might sound great, but if low taxes mean more jobs, why are we leading in unemployment?

    Nevada has fewer public workers per capita than any other state. Demand on services is growing, but the number of public workers is shrinking.

    Forced austerity by choking revenue through a dysfunctional tax system is a cruel hoax, as Robert Reich recently stated. Cruel because it hurts those who are already suffering the most, and a hoax because it doesn’t work.

    The worst thing a state can do in a recession is to weaken the public services that a strong economy needs, like education, health care, transportation, and public safety. If we don’t invest in our schools, put college out of reach for kids, if we fail to invest in our transportation system, then when prosperity returns we won’t be positioned to benefit.

    47 other states have enacted a tax on corporate profits. In surrounding states:  CA has 8.84%, ID 7.6%, Utah 5%, Arizona almost 7%.  And we can’t have a 2% margins tax?  Our prices are the same as theirs but they’re getting a whole lot more help in funding their state budgets.  We need to stop subsidizing other states.

    If we want to avoid having kids share textbooks, try to learn in crowded classrooms in old schools needing repairs, and if we want to keep our best and brightest teachers:  we need to fund education properly.

    The Margins tax and Education First breaks through the paralysis that has gripped out state for decades. It’s time to do something bold and I applaud the teachers for their leadership.

  • Nevada Mining Association tries to bully My News 3

    The Nevada Mining Association just can’t handle the truth.

    The mining industry is not happy about recent coverage they’ve received from KSNV, Southern Nevada’s local NBC station and their investigative reporter, Reed Cowan. They’ve lashed out at KSNV by pulling advertising dollars used to support programming that serves the people of Southern Nevada.Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 4.32.29 PM

     

    You can view the news pieces here: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

    Station owner Jim Rogers sends along his statement, where he makes it clear: he will not succumb to mining’s bullying

    The following is his statement:

    KSNV NEWS 3, the NBC television affiliate for southern Nevada, station owner Jim Rogers reacts to Nevada Mining Association pulling thousands of advertising dollars after station airs investigation into their taxes paid. Rogers states: ”We don’t succumb to blackmail.“

    View stories at: http://www.mynews3.com/content/news/Special/Default.aspx

    Jim Rogers states:

    Last week Channel 3 ran a four part investigative series on taxes paid by international companies for the billions of dollars of gold and other precision metals taken out of Nevada.

    These mining companies and their lobbyists are upset about the series of news reports and therefore, the Nevada Mining Association cancelled several thousand dollars of advertising on Channel 3.

    Let me comment on their actions.

    We stand by the accuracy of these reports.

    The Nevada Mining Association is certainly free to buy advertising wherever it wants.

    But if the mining association was hoping to influence Channel 3’s coverage by bullying us, it didn’t work and never will.  These are the tactics of an industry that uses 1950’s bullying to get its way.  Those tactics would never have worked against us and never will. Nevada legislators too often have backed down on legislation that would have made the mining industry pay the true value to the state of Nevada for what it takes from the state.

    The bullying may get the association the results it wants from the legislature but the bullying will never stop us from reporting the truth.

    We don’t succumb to blackmail.

     

    ###

    You can tweet a statement of support to report Reed Cowan and Station owner Jim Rogers by clicking the links below:

    Tweet a thank you to @News3ReedCowan

    Tweet a thank you to @JimRogersNevada

    Edit to add:

    Video of Jim Rogers:

  • Mining’s Toxic Legacy

    Testimony to be given by PLAN Executive Director Bob Fulkerson to the Nevada Legislative Joint Committee on Natural Resources on Tuesday February 12, 2013

     

    Mining’s Toxic Legacy

    Any lingering doubts about mining’s toxic legacy should be dismissed in light of recent actions by federal regulators against Nevada’s gold mining industry.

     

    Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency released its annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) showing that in 2011, mining counted for 98% of the of 529 million pounds of toxic chemicals that were dumped released into Nevada’s land, water and air. The massive quantities of earth moved for mining — and the exposure of elements and compounds once safely underground and separated from air and water — starts a chemical chain reaction of long-term, and in fact unending, pollution to our streams, rivers and lakes. Mining has released more toxics than any industrial sector by a wide margin, for decades. But while other industries, abiding new regulations, have begun to lower their pollution levels, the pollution of the under-regulated mining industry continues to increase.

     

    Shortly after the TRI report, the Environmental Protection Agency caught Barrick Gold lying about under-reporting the amount of toxics it had released in Nevada, assessing a fine of. $618,000.

     

    The mining industry’s under-reporting of toxic releases is not new. The Idaho Statesman reported five years ago:

     

    “The owners of Jerritt Canyon Mine near Elko, Nev., had claimed to have voluntarily cut 97 percent of mercury emissions between 1998 and 2005. The pollutant falls into water and accumulates in fish and can cause brain damage and learning disabilities in babies and young children. But tests conducted as part of Nevada’s new mandatory mercury control program in 2006 showed emissions near 1998’s levels.”

     

    As a result, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection took the unprecedented action of shutting down the mine until it installed better mercury emission control equipment.

     

    We might never know how many other mines are currently or have in the past under-reported mercury emissions. According to the NDEP:

     

    In Nevada the largest source of atmospheric mercury is caused from processing gold through precious metal mines operations. Once mercury is released into the atmosphere through smokestacks and processing emissions, it can travel long distances, settle on soil and wash into lakes and rivers.

     

    Mercury in lakes and rivers is converted into methyl mercury by certain bacteria. Fish ingest methyl mercury by swimming or feeding in contaminated water. Methyl mercury accumulates in fish tissue and is carried up the food chain to larger fish, animals and humans. Methyl mercury is dangerous because the concentration of methyl mercury increases as it goes up the food chain.”

     

    What we do know is that shortly after EPA fined Barrick, it turned its attention on Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. EPA called on the state agency to list an additional 19 streams, lakes, rivers, including Ruby and Comins Lakes, the Owyhee River, Wildhorse and South Fork Reservoirs to the methyl mercury fish warning list.

     

    As a result of mercury contamination from Nevada’s mines, the Nevada Department of Wildlife has issued Methyl Mercury Health Advisories for more than 90% of Nevada waters. Some of these water bodies were contaminated from historic mining on the Comstock when we didn’t know any better. But others were added more recently, in large part because of the massive amounts of mercury Nevada mines are pumping out.

     

    Between 2006-2011, Nevada mines reported emitting into our air 20,215 pounds of mercury compounds. Guess where they end up? In our fish, in our kids and in us, as well as our neighbors in Idaho andUtah. Is this how mining is supposed to work for Nevada?

     

    I used to live on the Tonkin Ranch, and every day we’d catch and eat Rainbow trout from the Tonkin Reservoir. Today, thanks to modern mining, if you eat more than one Rainbow per week from there you’re in danger of mercury contamination. That is mining’s toxic legacy for Nevada.

     

    With the price of gold approaching $1,700 per ounce, we can expect many more massive gold mining operations and increased production, with attendant increases in the amount of mercury and other toxics released into our air, precious water supplies and public lands. We recognize that mercury air emissions from thermal sources have been reduced, compared to what was emitted 10 years ago, but there is still a long way to go, particularly from fugitive emissions.

     

    Would we applaud a husband who now only beats his wife 3 instead of 5 times a week? No. We call for full regulation, monitoring and reporting of the large amount of additional fugitive mercury emissions from sources currently neither recognized nor monitored by NDEP: tailings impoundments and heaps. The industry should be challenged to develop ways of reducing emissions from these and other sources.

     

    Based on research conducted at UNR, we now know that mercury emissions from tailings facilities and active heap leach operations now probably double the amount of mercury being released into the air, compared to that reported under NDEP requirements   The technology exists to decrease mercury air pollution from these sources, but neither the mining industry or the NDEP seems to care.

     

    We rightfully market our state as one of incredible natural beauty and unparalleled outdoor opportunities. But how are we going to lure anglers and other outdoor tourists here when they learn that, because of methyl mercury contamination from Nevada’s mines, the Department of Wildlife has placed fish consumption limits on all but seven out of 116 waters in eastern and western Nevada? And how much worse will it be 25, 50 or 100 years from now after Barrick and Newmont have left Nevada, and all we have to show for their presence here are massive pits, undrinkable water and contaminated fish?

     

    It’s well past time to take a hard look at the colossal legacy of toxic pollution being created every day in Nevada by a handful of companies, and high time to control it.

     

     

  • Nevada Mining Fact Sheet

    AdvocateLogoheader.jpg

    Nevada Mining Fact Sheet

     

    Sweetheart Tax Deals

    • Senate Joint Resolution 15, which passed in the 2011 session, would allow Nevada voters to decide whether mining’s tax loopholes should continue to be chiseled in the stone of the state constitution. Currently legislators have no flexibility and cannot adjust the Net Proceeds on Minerals Tax based on a more equitable tax load compared to our non-extractive industries. S.J.R. 15, would allow the voters to decide whether legislators should have that flexibility.

     

    • Trans-national mining conglomerates took $8.76 billion in gold from Nevada in 2011, and paid a total of $104 million to the state general fund under the mining tax, an effective tax rate of 1.187%. In 2010, they mined $6.64 billion in gold, and paid $71.7 million in taxes, an effective tax rate of 1.079%. (Nevada Department of Taxation)

     

    •  Mining does pay sales tax and they pay certain property taxes—but not on the value of the mine or their mining claims. Renters, the unemployed, and minimum wage workers also pay sales and property taxes. But gold mining is different, so it should be taxed differently. Once that gold is gone, it’s gone forever. The money will be in Canada and other foreign countries, leaving Nevada with clean up costs and massive pits.

     

    •  Three of the five largest mines in Nevada are foreign-owned. The second largest mine in the world, and the most profitable mine in the world, is owned by Barrick corporation, based in Canada. This single mine will exceed $1 billion in profits in 2012, having reaped $500 million in the second quarter and $313 million in the third quarter of 2012 alone.

     

    •  Barrick pays next to nothing in taxes on the huge windfall profits from the world’s most profitable gold mine—paying a mere 1% on gross production value in taxes to Nevada’s General Fund in 2010, according to the state’s 2010-11 net proceeds of minerals tax (NPOM) bulletin.

     

    •  In 2011, Barrick didn’t pay any net proceeds tax on $120 million of gold produced at its Bald Mountain mine, and nor did Veris on the $105 million it produced at its Jerritt Canyon mine. The price of gold in 2011 $1920.70. But Jerritt’s special — it’s only paid net proceeds in one of the last six years, two of the last eight.

     

    • According to a 2011 report from the Fraser Institute, a highly respected international research firm, Nevada is one of the most stable, mineral-rich, least-taxed places to mine on the planet.  Making mining pay what they pay in other states or countries would not cause them to suffer or abandon operations here.

     

    • 111 times over ten years, one Nevada gold mine or another claimed that gold produced at that mine had no taxable value. As a result, more than $4.3 billion was produced at gold mines where the mines paid no mining taxes whatsoever.

     

    •  Some of mining’s sweetheart tax loopholes that were closed in 2011 will sunset unless the 2013 Legislature acts. Transnational mining conglomerates will again be able to double-dip and claim health deductions from both the Modified Business Tax AND the Net Proceeds on Minerals. As a result, the Economic Forum predicts that the general fund contributions from the mining tax will shrink from $117 million in 2012 to $95 million in 2015-in spite of increases in both production and the price of gold.

     

    • Barrick Mining gave more than $30,000 to the Keystone Corporation, one of the most strident anti-tax groups in the state, even while their lobbyists were saying they wanted to contribute to Nevada’s tax discussions.

     

    •  According to the Legislative Counsel Bureau, removing mining’s sweetheart tax status from the Constitution will in no way change how mining is currently taxed. The Net Proceeds on Mining Tax, which is contained in NRS 362.140, remains unchanged under SJR 15.

     

    •   Producers of oil, gas and coal on U.S. public lands might pay state severance taxes – effectively a tax on gross value – of as much as 6 or 7 percent, plus federal mineral royalties that might be as high as 16 percent, plus state corporate income taxes. In Wyoming, the total tax load on a mineral producer can be as high as 25 or 30% on the value of minerals.

     

    • In the Dominican Republic, Barrick can easily afford a 36.95% tax rate. In 2012 Barrick will start paying 3.2 percent of gross production, 25 percent for income tax and 8.75 percent from net earnings. This will amount to $11 billion in tax revenue from one mine.

     

    1872 Mining Law

     

    •  Thanks to federal law established during the administration of Ulysses Grant in 1872, Nevada gold producers pay no federal mineral royalties whatsoever. And of course, the corporations mining Nevada’s gold pay no Nevada state corporate income tax.

     

    Barrick paid $5 per acre when it patented approximately 1,000 acres of public land in Nevada that contained more than $10 billion in recoverable gold reserves, under the 1872 Mining Law.

     

    •  An estimated 424,000 acres of public land in Nevada – an area more than half the size of Yosemite National Park– have already been sold to private interests for either $2.50 or $5.00 per acre. This subsidized sale of public lands is allowed under the federal 1872 Mining Law.

     

    • The General Accounting Office reports that multi-national gold mining conglomerates refuse to provide figures for the amount of gold and other minerals they take from public lands belonging to all the people. But it is estimated that $2.4 billion hardrock metals alone are taken from public lands every year.

     

     

     

     

    Impacts on Great Basin Native American Communities

     

    •  The discovery of the Comstock lode in 1859 began the first chapter of mining’s extreme impacts on Native American people in Nevada, bringing new diseases, racism, displacement, loss of hunting and gathering areas, and other forms of violence. In one form or another, this continues into the 21st century.

     

    •  The Western Shoshone consider Mt. Tenabo in central Nevada a sacred place figuring back to their creation stories. Today, Barrick mining is tearing it down; it is the second-largest and most profitable gold mine in the world.

     

    •  One of the newest mines in Nevada, the Mt. Hope Molybdenum Mine, will result in the complete elimination of Mt. Hope and surrounding forests, a pine nut and food gathering source used by the Western Shoshone for millennia.

     

    •  Because of mining pollution, members of the Yerington Paiute Tribe cannot drink the water on their reservation; it could kill them.

     

    Land, Water and Wildlife Impacts

     

    • According to the US EPA, a total of 529 million pounds of toxic chemicals were dumped into Nevada’s land, water and air during 2011. Mining accounted for 98% of these releases. Seven of the10 biggest polluters in Nevada are mines owned by transnational mining conglomerates Barrick and Newmont.

     

    •  Nevada Department of Wildlife scientists and wildlife advocates are gravely concerned that Barrick’s fast-track expansion of its massive Bald Mountain Mine northwest of Ely will cut off the north-south migratory route for 23% of Nevada’s deer population. The decline in herd health and numbers from separating the deer from water and food sources in summer and winter seasons is unknown at this time, but thought to be significant. Yet, Barrick has been unwilling to accommodate mule deer corridors that would allow safe passage.

     

    •  Newmont’s Long Canyon Mine in the Pequop Range (which rivals Carlin Trend for the presence of smoke-particle sized gold) will wreak havoc with lands that should be designated wilderness, Another mine proposed for the South Pequops will detract from wilderness experience in the adjacent Wilderness Study Area.

     

    •  Massive pit lakes are being created in Nevada, almost all of which will have questionable water quality, and effectively none of these lakes are being planned for future public access and use.   These pit lakes represent a large loss of groundwater from surface evaporation, and that loss will affect water availability and spring water production for centuries.

     

    •  The massive quantities of earth moved for mining — and the exposure of elements and compounds once safely underground to air and water — starts a chemical chain reaction that is  known to pollute our streams, rivers and lakes over the long term for centuries.

     

    •  EPA estimates that more than 40 percent of western watersheds have been contaminated with mine waste. U.S. taxpayers took on $2.6 billion in Superfund and other federal cleanup of mines in the past decade — and are on the hook for an estimated $50 billion more.

     

    •  Meantime, every year the industry takes billions in gold and other hardrock minerals without compensating taxpayers as a whole, states like Nevada, or covering cleanup costs.

     

    Taxpayers Picking Up the Costs

     

    •  The General Accounting Office has expressed strong concerns about inadequate reclamation bonding in Nevada: “We determined that 57 hardrock operations (in 12 western states) had inadequate financial assurances—amounting to about $24 million less than needed to fully cover estimated reclamation costs.” GAO, Abandoned Mines: Information on the Number of Hardrock Mines, Cost of Cleanup, and Value of Financial Assurances, GAO-11-834T (Washington, D.C.: July 14, 2011).

     

    • Nevada’s share of that $24 million is $23,853,662 (more than 99.4% of the total of the 12 western states.)

     

    • Approximately 30-40% of mining in Nevada is on public lands, which belongs to the people of the United States.  And 75% Long Canyon mine pit area, the newest massive gold mine in Nevada, is on public land. gold discovery

     

    •  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the cost for cleanup of abandoned hardrock mines could run as high as $54 billion. Much of that cost could ultimately be borne by U.S. taxpayers.

     

    Worker Safety Concerns

     

    • As reported in the Elko Daily Free Press, “three gold miners died in Nevada in 2008, compared with two miners in 2007 and a zero death toll in 2006. The highest number of deaths at Nevada mines in recent years occurred in 1999, when nine miners died.”

    •  At one Barrick mine alone (Meikle Mine in Carlin) a total of seven workers have died since 1994. In the most recent fatalities, which occurred August 12, 2010, Mine Safety and Health Administration faulted managers for negligence.

    •  In May, 2011, the US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) ordered Barrick to pay a $70,000 fine for violating worker safety at its Goldstrike mine in Eureka County.

    •  In November, 2011, MSHA cited Jerritt Canyon Mill, finding that 13 of the 14 actions against the mill concerned “significant and substantial” violations that could result in serious injury or illness. MSHA issued orders to withdraw miners from certain areas of the mine.

     

    •  In spite of record profits by gold mining corporations, Nevada still lacks funds to pay for mine safety inspectors and top-educated and experienced mining tax auditors.

     

    •  Nevada has plenty of funds for 10 staff at the Division of Minerals, which exists to protect and advocate for mining corporations and which is overseen by a commission that includes mostly people on the payroll of extractive industries.

     

    Conclusion

     

    According to former Nevada State Archivist and historian Guy Rocha, the mining industry of Nevada Territory was so opposed to the level of mineral extraction taxation in the draft Nevada constitution of 1864, it compelled the constitutional delegates to draft new language that was much more favorable to the mining industry. Today, mining still bullies lawmakers in order to protect its unique and generous tax advantages.

     

    In Nevada, 90% of mining is from gold, and 90% of gold mined is from two transnational mining conglomerates, Barrick and Newmont.  Not surprisingly, their campaign contributions dwarf those of all other mining corporations combined. The Nevada Mining Association is the 3rd-largest contributor. They made big investments in lawmakers in 2012 and are now expecting to be repaid by having SJR 15 killed in the 2013 session.

     

    It’s time for mining’s free ride to end.

  • Nevada Home Owners Stand Up for Justice

    Legislative Town Hall Jan 30On Wednesday PLAN hosted a Legislative Town Hall for struggling home owners in Southern Nevada. Our own state happens to be home to one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country. Banks in America have often times (if not always) made the matter even worse. How many times have we heard the stories of underwater homeowners trying to work with their banks to fix their drowning mortgages, only to get the run around.

    That’s exactly what happened to Elizabeth of Sun Valley native in Northern Nevada. She has been trying to work with her bank since 2009 to no avail, including four failed attempts to fix her mortgage with her bank. They’ve even “lost” her paperwork. Elizabeth now fears that one day she won’t have a home to go to.

    It’s stories like Elizabeth that inspires me to organize for home owners.

    More than 40 members of the community turned out for PLAN’s legislative town hall. Included in the panel were Nevada State Senators Tick Segerblom & Justin Jones, along with Venicia Considine from Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. Others in attendance included Leslie Lewis from Senator Harry Reid’s office who handed out flyers for their upcoming Housing Helpdesk event this Saturay, Christina Tetreault from Consumers Union, Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, and Brian DeMarzio representing Congresswoman Dina Titus.

    Leg Townhall 2013-2

    As I welcomed everyone into the town hall, I pointed to the three story boards displayed around the room that highlighted many of the stories we collected from struggling home owners. The stories ranged from people seeking a principal reduction to people who have already had their house foreclosed. It was a chilling reminder of what Nevadans have gone through since the collapse of the market. The story boards had a real effect on the state senators; Senator Segerblom kept referencing back to them when he talked about his bill proposals.

    We were especially pleased to have Venicia explain the proposed Home Owners Bill of Rights (a more in depth post on the HOBOR to come later). Venicia is an invaluable resource and Nevada is really lucky to have someone like her fighting on behalf of the community.

    After Senators Segerblom and Jones & Venicia finished their opening remarks, the town hall was open for  Q&A from the audience. Teresa’s story is what brought the entire town hall into perspective. Teresa is a school teacher in Las Vegas, NV who has been living in her car for the past couple days. Her home is about to be foreclosed and she is a single mother of two. She tried asking then-Senator Ensign and Governor Sandoval for help but was told that Nevada “has no jurisdiction” on her bank. Which begs to ask the question: why were they doing business in the state of Nevada if they’re not even a registered business entity here? Emotions ran high and I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the room once she finished telling her story. I actually got a call from her an hour and a half before the town hall asking if she could attend even though she’ll be a bit late. Teresa just got done teaching a class before attending. Thankfully, Teresa was connected with people who might be able to help her out.

    Leg Townhall 2013-1

    I hope that we won’t have to hear stories Teresa’s; no one, especially an educator, should have to go through this. But until then, we’ll have to fight harder on behalf of home owners. The audience agree, legislation is just part of the solution. We have to do our part to make sure that the stories of people already affected by this housing crisis aren’t forgotten and serve as a reminder that the road to economic justice is a long one, but with the help of our fellow activists we will get there.

    -Christopher Preciado

    Organizer, PLAN

  • Barrick’s 36.95% tax rate

    Check out this blog from our Executive Director, Bob Fulkerson and join us in Carson City on February 14th at Nevada’s legislative building to call on our legislators to remove the mining industry’s special protections from our state’s constitution.

    Barrick’s 36.95% tax rate

    The government of the Dominican Republic has extracted a deal from the world’s largest gold producer, Canadian-based Barrick Mining, to pay 3.2 percent of gross production, 25 percent for income tax and 8.75 percent from net earnings. This will amount to $11 billion in tax revenue from one mine.

    Barrick, like other mining corporations in Nevada, pays an effective mining tax rate of 1% into Nevada’s General Fund. Like all of us, they pay a sales tax and a property tax (but not on the value of the gold beneath the land, and not if the land is public land, as 30-40% of all mining is in Nevada). Finally, thanks to a law signed by Ulysses S Grant in 1872, mining pays no royalties for minerals extracted on federal lands.

    Nevada lawmakers have given away our riches for too long. It’s time to end the tax loopholes, remove mining’s protection from the Constitution, and pass Senate Joint Resolution 15 (SJR15). There can be no compromise. The Legislature either passes it this session, or forever keeps its sweetheart deals.

    Remember: the Legislative Counsel Bureau has determined that passing SJR 15 will not lower or raise the amount of taxes mining pays. If SJR 15 is passed by the Legislature in 2013 and affirmed by the voters in 2014, mining’s tax protections would be removed from the Constitution yet remain in state statute. The Legislature would then be free to determine a fair rate of taxation.

    Mining will stop at nothing to protect its obscene profits. The industry has doled out millions to lawmakers in campaign cash, and has more lobbyists than any other industry. They’ve spent untold cash on a public relations campaign, paid economists to paint a rosy picture of how much mining does for Nevada, and they continually boast about their donations to civic causes.

    If you see through this smokescreen of lies like we do, the time to act is now.

    Contact your Legislators and tell them to pass SJR 15.

    Come to a news conference on Thursday, February 14th at 12:00pm (noon) on the front steps of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City. The relationship between our state Constitution and the mining industry in Nevada is a dysfunctional one, and it’s time to break up. RSVP here.

  • State of the State and education reform

    Governor Brian Sandoval will use his State of the State address tonight to convince us he’s serious about improving Nevada’s education system that is arguably one of the worst in the nation.

    Screen Shot 2013-01-16 at 5.55.11 PM

    We thought this would be a good time to remind you just who Governor Sandoval looks to for guidance when it comes to shaping his education policy.

     

    Michelle Rhee

    Once seen as an education reform prodigy, Michelle Rhee, the former Chancellor of DC schools, has seen her good reputation dwindle away as she has become embroiled in a test cheating scandal and more and more politicians and voters reject her anti-union “reforms”. The work she did for public schools in DC, once described as a “miracle”, appears now to be just a facade.

     

    Rhee was a special guest at Governor Sandoval’s first State of the State address in 2011. Rhee used her celebrity to make the media rounds hyping Governor Sandoval’s education proposals (the cuts proposed by Governor Sandoval were described by Applied Analysis as “the largest in modern history”) as she has done around the country for other governors like Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida.

     

    It’s not clear if Rhee is still advising the Sandoval administration but it is clear that school privatization (Conservatives are trying to sell it as school “choice”, but it’s a path toward destroying our public education system) is at the top of the agenda for many in Governor Sandoval’s party and Rhee.

     

    Dr. James Guthrie

    Governor Sandoval appointed Guthrie as the Superintendent of Public Schools for Nevada. The fact that the Nevada Policy Research Institute is over the moon in love with Dr Guthrie is reason enough to be skeptical of what this man plans to do to our public education system.

    We’d love to know how Dr. Guthrie feels about Governor Sandoval’s budget that includes more money for K-12 education. Dr. Guthrie thinks we can improve education by taking away more and more money and the education funding crises is “phony”. He also believes class sizes don’t need to be smaller, (if you do, you’re “delusional”) and that it’s just a way for unions to get more teachers so they can in turn get more union dues.

    Sunny speeches aside, we need to hold the governor and the legislature accountable for what they actually do. We’ll be live-tweeting the State of the State. Follow along here @PLANevada

  • Living up to the Dream

    I share a birthday with Martin Luther King Jr. and from a young age have always been slightly obsessed with the civil rights icon.

    Reading his own words from speeches, letters and news clippings, I gained a better understanding of who this man was and in the process shaped my worldview and began my way down a path that led me to the social justiceMLK organizer I am today.

    We all know the “content of your character” refrain from his I Have A Dream speech. But the soul of the speech and the very reason for the March on Washington has been lost to a sanitized textbook version of the truth.

    Martin Luther King Jr used his I Have a Dream speech to give a stinging rebuke of the American Dream:

    But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

    In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’

    But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

    Unchecked greed, corporate power and influence has banished far too many Nevadans to that “lonely isle of poverty” and created an ever-growing class of working poor. As Martin pointed out in his speech, we live in an unbearably inequitable country; the only difference is the demographics have changed.

     

    Laura Martin

    PLAN Communications Director

     

  • 2013 El Estado Progresista del Estado de Nevada

     2013 Progressive State of the State-8

    Nevadenses,

    Gracias por estar aqui esta noche para hablar sobre nuestro estado. Mi nombre es Astrid Silva, aunque no naci en Nevada ha sido mi hogar desde que era muy pequena.  Ahora no solamente soy miembro de la comunidad pero tambien continuo con otros la lucha para que nuestro estado salga adelante.

    En una semana, el Gobernador Brian Sandoval va a dar su discurso biannual. Esperamos oir mas sobre su vision para este gran estado, que tanto queremos.

    Nuestro estado ocupa el cuarto lugar en produccion de oro a nivel mundial, tambien estamos entre los veinte estados con mas altos ingresos por persona. Nuestra ciudad, Las Vegas es uno de los lugares mas visitados en el mundo. Estamos trabajando con energia renovable para que algun dia sea tambien parte de nuestra contribucion a una comunidad mas ecologica. Muchos de los que disfrutan de la naturaleza bella de nuestro estado saben que no hay otro lugar como Nevada.

    Tenemos los empleados mas trabajadores de todo el pais, desde los que tienden camas en los hoteles a los maestros de nuestros hijos en las escuelas.

    Dado tanta abundancia de recursos naturales y fuerza laboral, Nevada deberia ser un paraiso economico. En vez;  tenemos vecindarios descuidados, un sistema de educacion que esta fallando y existe una gran distancia entre los ricos y los pobres que continua acresentandose.

    La clase media en Nevada pagan 10% de lo que ganan en impuestos mientras que los ricos pagan, en diferencia, unicamente 1.5%. Que pasaria si nos cobraran a todos nuestros impuestos por igual?

    Si la industria minera en el estado de Wyoming paga casi 20% de su produccion hacia el estado, porque en el estado de Nevada pagan solamente el 1%?

    Nevada es uno de los tres estados en el pais que no cobran impuestos a ganancias de corporaciones. Que si estas mega-corporaciones pagaran un pequeno porcentaje de lo que ganan a este, nuestro estado que les a contribuido tanto.

    Si esto llegara a pasar pudieramos empezar a construir un sistema educacional desde el pre-kinder hasta mas alla de la graduacion de la Universidad, creando una abundancia economica mucho mas grande para todos los que vivimos aqui. Como estamos ahora, el aceso a la educacion, que es la puerta de la oportunidad para una vida mejor esta fuera del alcance de muchos Nevadenses.

    El año pasado El distrito Escolar del condado de Clark dijo que no habia dinero para arreglar los agujeros en los techos y aire acondicionados  en malas condiciones en las escuelas. En el condado de Washoe el superintendiente estima que este año entre 40 a 50 milliones de dolares van a faltar de el presupuesto, esto es aparte de 123 (cientro veintitres)  millones de recortes a nuestros estudiantes y maestros durante los ultimos 5 años.

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    Si Nevada recibiera lo mismo de los impuestos de las empresas mineras y de las corporaciones como lo hacemos de la clase media, nosotros podriamos  tener las mejores escuelas y educacion para nuestros hijos y nuestro futuro.

    En vez de leyes que promueven el bien de todos y una prosperidad comun nuestro sistema de impuestos a creado una mentalidad de supervivencia primitiva en que nuestros hijos suelen ser ‘sacrificados’. En el Sun Youth Forum el año pasado, 82% de los estudiantes mas sobresalientes de Las Vegas dijieron que no tienen ningun plan de continuar viviendo aqui como adultos.

    En el ultimo año, Nevada ha sido uno de los 3 estados en cual la tasa de pobreza infantil se a incrementado… 25% de nuestros ninos menores de 5 años viven en la pobreza. Si Nevada arreglara nuestro sistema antiguo de impuestos nosotros podriamos proveer un camino para salir de la pobreza, incluyendo cuidado infantil, cuidado de salud, nutricion y educacion que nos podria ayudar a quebrar este ciclo para siempre.

    En un tiempo cuando tenemos el menor numero de empleados publicos, estos mismos empleados tienen que portar mas cortes de presupuesto que incluyen tener que tomar dias de descanso sin pago, tener que tomar mas casos y su salario cortado. Los dos estados de nuestra union que les cobran mas impuestos a sus empresas mineras; Wyoming y Alaska, tambien son los que invierten mas en sus residentes, casi catorce mil (14,000) annualmente. Esto es una cruda realidad comparado con los $3,000 que se gasta por residente en nuestro estado. Las consequencias de esta negligencia se pueden sentir en todos aspectos de nuestras vidas.

    En Nevada nuestras carceles proveen mas ayuda mental que nuestros programas estatales que fueron establecidos para dar esta misma ayuda. Nosotros sabemos que hacer sobre este problema tan critico para nuestras comunidades, pero algo tan simple como un lugar para recibir ayuda de Saluda mental 24 horas al dia es descartado a una lista de “Consideracion especial” que en realidad deberia de titularse “Cosas que Nevada necesita pero no hay suficiente dinero” esto por seguir aferrados en la idea que si no se cobra impuestos a las grandes corporaciones; estas dejaran de traer sus negocios aqui.

    En la publicacion “The New Yorker” cubrieron la historia de Murray Barr un indigente que en su tiempo pertenecio a los Marines pero que ahora habia sido derrotado por el alcolismo, la titularon “Murray de Un Million de Dolares”. Dos policias de Reno, Nevada se dieron el trabajo de documentar cuantas veces en un año Murray era admitido a hospitales y carceles en el transcurso de ese año. Ellos determinaron que el sistema publico habia gastado casi un million de dolares en el cuidado de Murray y en realidad su situacion no habia mejorado. Que se podria haber hecho con ese million de dolares? Tratamiento para Murray? Un hogar? Medicacion? Servicios para mejorar su vida? Este no es un caso aislado, que se puede hacer para poner ese dinero a mejor uso.

    Desde que se cubrio el caso de Murray, Nevada a mejorado servicios de salud mental. En Reno existe un programa inovativo que se enfoca en aliar a la policia con trabajadores sociales que evitan que sus pacientes traten de quitarse la vida. Programas tan importantes como este casi fueron eliminados en la ultima session legislativa. Deberiamos de enfocar en extender estas soluciones, no intentar cortarlas.

    En nuestro estado no tenemos un problema de falta de recursos, dinero existe. Lo que nos hace falta es un metodo adequado de como distribuir nuestros recursos ,especialmente nuestros impuestos, que se han mantenido fuera del alcance de los que mas lo necesitan.

    Gracias a Comites de Accion Politica, se esta haciendo mas facil que el poder continue en las manos de aquellos que no apoyan las causas de la clase media, debido a sus grandes cantidades de dinero que aportan para las campanas.

    En Nevada, las empresas mineras contratan a personas que su unico trabajo es asegurarse que los legisladores sepan cuales son sus intereses. Contribuyen a las campanas de muchos de los legisladores para que su voluntad se haga en las leyes de nuestro estado. Muchas veces, cuando llegan al limite de lo que pueden contribuir legalmente, ellos efectuan maniobras para como hacerles llegar el dinero a los legisladores.

    Estos contribuidores de corporaciones despues esperan que les den privilegios especiales en sus impuestos, que se les trate mas levemente que a otros y que legislacion sea introducida para ellos; este es el precio de su apoyo monetario.  Incluso nuestros legisladores progresistas se hacen de la vista gorda a  este tipo de actividad, insistiendo que el dinero solo compra acceso a ellos, y nunca el voto.

    Que si nos decisiermos de la influencia del dinero en nuestra politicas, y hacemos que nuestras eleciones sean fundadas por la gente de el estado? Entonces mas legisladores hicieran decisiones que beneficiarian a nuestros residentes.

    Durante este ultimo ciclo de campanas, muchos politicos se aplaudian en decir que NO apoyarian mas cortes a los presupuestos de educacion, pero que de los cortes que ya se efectuaron. Ellos entienden que las personas que los eligieron ya han visto suficiente y ahora quieren resultados.

    Que si tuvieramos el coraje de usar lo que Nevada nos a dado para restaurar y recontruir nuestro estado, despues de estos cortes que han llegado hasta el hueso.

    Si extendemos los infame “Impuestos Atardecer” que incluyen impuestos de venta mas altos que afectan desproporcionadamente  mas a la clase media, no estamos ayudando la situacion. Esto es el camino facil de salir de un problema que tiene un recorrido mucho mas largo.

    Nevada siempre ha sido hogar a personas que saben sobresalir. Nuestros primeros pobladores hace cientos de años, a las personas inovadoras que hicieron del desierto su hogar de ahi empezaron a florecer nuestras ciudades, hasta los immigrantes que ariesgaron todo para tener un  futuro mejor en nuestros valles.

    Pedimos que el Gobernador Sandoval y nuestros legisladores tengan este mismo coraje y fortaleza y que se pongan del lado de la clase media en nuestro estado, y que les digan a las corporaciones que es tiempo que pagen su parte justa.

    Nevada siempre se a caracterizado por respetar el derecho de decidir de cada persona. Nuestro estado fue uno de los primeros en otorgarle a mujeres el derecho de decidir sobre su cuerpo, y en extender igualdad para los individuos trangeneros. En anos recientes nuestro estado a sido lider en reconocer los derechos de parejas del mismo sexo que estan en relaciones domesticas. Que si, nosotros continuamos en el camino de ser la capital del mundo para todos los matrimonios, no importa el sexo de las parejas.

    Juntos podemos rechasar legislacion en contra de parejas del mismo sexo, y apoyar a todas las parejas que se tienen amor el mismo derecho de poder unir sus vidas. Los trabajos que se crearian ayudarian a estimular la economia de nuestro estado.

    Nevada esta en una posicion que podemos empezar arreglar los problemas que tenemos en nuestro sistema de cuidado de salud, si comenzamos a participar en la Ley de salud del Presidente Obama, conocida como Obamacare.

    Nos motiva mucho ver que hay legisladores que en un pasado reciente eran miembros radicales del Tea Party que ahora demuestran su apoyo por expander Medicaid, respaldan a immigrantes y apoyan privilegios para manejar para ellos, y que tambien se unen a nosotros a oponerse a recortes a la educacion.

    Ver como se mueven estos que hace tan poco tiempo estaban en contra de todas estas ideas, entender que poco a poco estamos avanzando nos deberia de dar fuerzas de seguir adelante. Juntos todos representamos lo bello de este pais.

    Desde que las mujeres tuvieron el derecho a votar, Seguro Social, El movimiento de derecho civiles, parques nacionales, leyes encontra de exploitacion de ninos, envenenamiento de agua y ahora Obamacare, que va ayudar a que miles de Americanos tengan acesso a cuidado medico, estos momentos progressivos son los que definen lo que significa ser parte del sueno Americano.

    Frederick Douglass dijo, “Nada se concede sin esfuerzo” No hay nadie en nuestro estado mas poderosos que las corporaciones de Juego, Minas y bancos, ellos se esfuerzan para que sus impuestos permanezcan lo mas bajo possible.

    Nevada tiene todos los ingredientes para ser un estado de primera clase, un paraiso social y economico donde el sueno Americano es una realidad para todos los que vivimos aqui. Pero seguimos atados a las corporaciones y sus amigos que se sientan en la legislatura.

    Las empresas se defienden al decir que estan contribuyendo con trabajos a nuestro estado, esto no es valido cuando tenemos el mas alto nivel de desempleo en el pais. Esto sirve solamente a sus intereses de tener la mayor ganancia economica.

    Por el bien de nuestro estado debemos unir fuerzas para que estas propuestas se lleven acabo con el fin de tener un estado en cual podemos salir adelante y continuar el progresso de todos los que llamamos a Nevada nuestro hogar.

  • 2013 Progressive State of the State

    Progressive State of the State Logo

    The 2013 Progressive State of State as prepared for delivery by  Sheila Leslie

    Fellow Nevadans:

    Thank you for joining me tonight to discuss the State of our State. I’m Sheila Leslie, a 35-year Nevadan by choice, a former state Legislator, and a committed progressive activist.

    In one week, Governor Brian Sandoval will deliver his biennial address. We look forward to hearing more about his vision for the state we both love.

    2013 Progressive State of the State-5

    In fact, it is because of that love for Nevada that I am here before you tonight.

    I’m worried about Nevada. I’m worried that when Governor Sandoval stands in that Assembly chamber next Wednesday that he is not going to say what we all know needs to be said to create a more prosperous future for us all.

    Nevada is one of the wealthiest states in the country. We are among the top four gold producers in the world and top twenty states in per capita income. Tourists from all over the world still flock to Las Vegas. We’re on the verge of a renewable energy renaissance.

    As those of us who spend time in the outback know, Nevada’s natural beauty is unparalleled.

    And we have the hardest working and most dedicated workforce in the country, whether it’s those who make the beds in the hotels, or educate our children in the classrooms.

    Given this abundance, Nevada should be an economic paradise. Instead, we have dreadfully neglected neighborhoods, a demoralized educational system, and a gap between rich and poor that’s wider than at any time since the Gilded Age.

    The poor in Nevada pay 10% of their income in taxes, while the rich pay 1.5%. What if we were to tax the rich as much as the poor in our state?

    Our world-class gold mining industry pays an effective mining tax rate of 1% into the state general fund. What if we taxed mining as much as Wyoming, at 20 percent?

    Nevada is one of three states that does not tax corporate profits. What if these highly profitable mega-corporations paid a nominal percentage of their profits in taxes to Nevada like they do in other states?

    If these things happened, we could build a first-class educational system, from pre-K through post-graduate, creating greater economic abundance for all who live here. As it is now, the traditional gateway to a better life, educational attainment, is no longer open for many of our residents.

    Last year the Clark County School District said there’s no money to fix the leaky roofs and broken air conditioners. In Washoe County, the Superintendent estimates an additional $40-50 million shortfall in the coming year, on top of the $123 million in cuts our students and teachers have endured over the last five years.

    If Nevada taxed mining, corporations, and wealthy interests as much as we do the poor, we could build the best schools, community colleges and universities in the country.

    Instead of policies that promote the greater good and shared prosperity, our tax system has created a Donner Party mentality of primitive survival, even if it means sacrificing our children. Our kids are on to us. At the Sun Youth Forum last year, 82 percent of Las Vegas’s brightest youth said they have no intention of living here as an adult.

    Nevada is among the top three states where the childhood poverty rate has worsened over the last year; 25 percent of our children under the age of 5 live in poverty. If Nevada were to fix its regressive tax system, we could provide pathways out of poverty, including child care, heath care, nutrition and education, to break the cycle forever.

    Nevada has fewer public workers per capita than any other state. Demand on services is growing, but the number of public workers is shrinking. Those who remain in public service are working harder in increasingly tense workplaces as they become targets for anti-worker rhetoric.

    The two states that tax minerals the most, Wyoming and Alaska, also spend the most on their people, nearly $14,000 annually. Nevada, at $3,000 per capita, is the lowest out of all the states, with staggering consequences for our people.

    I’ve been involved in human services globally and in Nevada for 40 years. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I watched babies die of malnutrition on an island two hours from Miami. As a Legislator, I watched Governor Sandoval veto a bill requiring Nevada schools to offer the federally funded national school breakfast program in qualifying schools for vague reasons of implementation.

    As a Nevada citizen, I watched in horror when the state mental health budget was decimated during the budget crisis of the early 90s. I worked as a community activist and later as a legislator to restore those cuts, only to see more than $80 million cut from those same budgets once again over the last few years, again due to our tax system that favors rich corporations over the needs of our people.

    In Nevada, our jails and prisons continue to provide more mental health treatment than our state programs. We know what to do about this critical issue, and yet a basic item such as a 24-hour urgent care center, is left to languish on a list of “Items of Special Consideration,” which really should be subtitled “Items Nevada Really Needs but Can’t Afford” because we’d rather subscribe to the myth that zero corporate taxes will bring us prosperity.

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    The New Yorker featured the case of a homeless, alcoholic ex-Marine named Murray Barr in a story that went viral as “Million Dollar Murray”. Two Reno police officers tracked Murray’s time in and out of hospitals and jails over the course of a year and determined that the system spent more than a million dollars to do nothing about Murray. Just think of what a million dollars in treatment, housing, medication and supportive services could have done not just for Murray, but for others in the same situation, often known as “frequent flyers” to criminal justice and health care professionals.

    Since “Million Dollar Murray,” Nevada has improved mental health services offering expanded Mental Health Courts and Triage Centers. In Reno, an innovative program was created called the MOST Team which pairs police officers and social workers in vans that respond to suicidal residents and other problems in the downtown core. Yet all these programs were threatened with elimination last session. We should be focused on expanding these solutions that work, instead of threatening to cut them for lack of funding.

    Nevada does not have a resource or a money problem. We are a wealthy state. What we do have is a life-or-death weakness with misdistribution of our resources because of state tax policy that concentrates public wealth into fewer hands at the top.

    The oligarchs who benefit from the system that makes them rich use large campaign contributions, laundered through ever-increasing and creative Political Action Committees to create even greater political muscle to protect their economic might.

    In Nevada, the mining industry hires a lobbyist for every state Senator, matching personalities, gifts, and campaign cash to ensure their will is carried out in state policy. They also pour money into leadership PACs that then dole out the money to caucus members to get around contribution limits.

    These corporate contributors later demand tax perks, lax oversight and special interest legislation as the price of their support. Even progressive legislators turn a blind eye to it, insisting money buys access but never a vote.

    What if we got rid of the pernicious influence of money in Nevada politics by enacting publicly funded elections? More lawmakers would make decisions based on the long-term health of our state.

    During this last campaign cycle, many politicians boasted about making “no more cuts” to education, understanding their constituents have had enough of it. But they’ve been silent on restoring the cuts that have been made.

    What if they had the political courage to use Nevada’s wealth to restore and rebuild our state after these bone-splintering budget cuts?

    Extending the infamous “sunset taxes”, which include a higher sales tax that falls disproportionately on middle and lower wage earners, is no mark of valor. It’s the path of least resistance that won’t amount to a drop in the bucket considering how far down Nevada has slumped.

    Nevada was built on courage, from the Indigenous people who thrived in a harsh environment for millennia to social entrepreneurs creating new jobs to immigrants who risked everything to come here for a better life.

    Governor Sandoval and legislators need to muster that same courage in order to stand up to some of the most powerful corporations in the world and tell them to pay their fair share.

    Nevada is also a live and let live state, one of the first to guarantee a woman’s right to choose, to provide full domestic partnership benefits, and to extend equality to transgender individuals. What if we were to fully embrace this ethic and make Nevada the Marriage Equality Capital of the world?

    Let’s pass legislation to repeal our anti-gay marriage amendment and replace it with a law that allows all committed, loving couples the same right to marry that straight couples enjoy. The jobs created and economic boost to our state would be tremendous.

    What if Nevada were to embrace a similar job-creating, socially just cause, and build a social safety net that doesn’t have gaping holes? By complying with the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid coverage, we can create jobs and help safeguard the health of those who need it the most.

    We are heartened to see legislators who were former Tea Party radicals support Medicaid expansion, rally to the cause of immigrants and support driver’s licenses, and oppose further cuts to education.

    Watching their movement toward progressive values should give us heart. Those values represent what’s great about this country.

    From women’s suffrage, Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, national parks, laws against child labor and poisoning our water, and now Obamacare, that will provide most Americans access to health care, these progressive moments in our country underpin our greatness.

    Frederick Douglass said: “Power concedes nothing without a struggle.” And nothing is more powerful in Nevada than the gambling/mining/banking cabal of lobbyists who ensure their taxes remain among the lowest in the world.

    Nevada has all the ingredients to be a first-class state, an economic and social paradise where the American dream comes true for all who live here. But powerful lobbying interests and their lawmaker friends keep stomping on the cake.

    Their faith-based anti-tax position is indefensible in the lowest taxed, highest unemployment state in the nation. It only serves their narrow self-interests of maximizing their profits at the people’s expense.

    Rebecca Solnit, one of the West’s leading intellectuals and writers said in her year-end essay last month: “There is terrible suffering of many kinds in many places, but solidarity consists of doing something about it, not being miserable.”

    Progressives, let’s not be miserable! Our state needs us to act more forcefully than ever before. Thank you.