GUEST COLUMN: Tax-relief bill is critical for Nevada’s middle-class, unemployed |

GUEST COLUMN: Tax-relief bill is critical for Nevada’s middle-class, unemployed

When the financial crisis struck, it was Nevada’s middle-class that bore the brunt of the devastation. The most severe economic disaster since the Great Depression brought our state’s economy to its knees, throwing tens of thousands of people out of work and wreaking havoc on hardworking families just trying to stay in their homes, put food on the table and pay the bills.

To be sure, some important progress has been made. However, Nevada’s middle-class families and small businesses are still struggling to get by.

It is from this perspective that we must examine the recent tax relief legislation that I led to passage in the United States Senate. It certainly was not a perfect bill; I do not support more tax breaks for millionaires that we can’t afford. However, it was a tax-cut package that will strengthen Nevada’s economy and provide relief to families, small businesses and the unemployed.

First, and most importantly, the legislation will prevent a tax increase on Nevada’s middle-class families when they can least afford it. While most people would guess that protecting middle-class families would not be controversial, there were a number of Republicans who were more interested in playing politics than doing the right thing. They threatened to allow a massive tax increase on 98 percent of Nevadans unless millionaires and CEOs of corporations that ship jobs overseas received a tax cut as well.

As the Majority Leader of the Senate, I would not allow a tax increase of this magnitude on my watch. And while I may disagree with certain provisions in the legislation, I am glad we passed a bill that prevents one of the largest tax hikes in recent memory on Nevada’s middle-class families.

In addition to keeping tax rates low, the bill extends tax credits to help families pay for college and protects the deduction for state sales taxes, a provision essential to helping Nevadans make ends meet.

The tax relief bill included a much-needed 13-month extension of unemployment insurance for the many Nevadans who are searching for work. Not only do these benefits help families through periods of joblessness, economists overwhelmingly agree that they are the most effective way to jump-start our economy because it puts money back into the pockets of consumers.

In addition to extending the safety net for those who are out of work, the bill also creates jobs for the unemployed in Nevada’s growing clean-energy sector. As a result of a grant program I personally inserted into the legislation, 14 Nevada clean-energy companies will now be eligible for funding to create more than 2,500 jobs and develop more than 1,000 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. This is another in a series of important steps I am working on to ensure Nevada leads the nation in clean energy jobs by taking advantage of its abundant solar, wind and geothermal resources.

Of course, looming over this debate like a dark cloud is our nation’s long-term fiscal deficit. Unfortunately, some Republicans talked a good game about sacrifice and cost-cutting but were more interested in securing tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy, which economists have shown time and again will not create jobs. I share the deep concerns felt by my fellow Nevadans on this issue, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the coming year to make the tough decisions necessary to strengthen our nation’s financial outlook.

The tax-relief legislation is not perfect. However, it includes a number of important measures that are very good for Nevada. Ultimately, it will strengthen our economy, put money back into the pockets of hardworking middle-class families and create thousands of clean-energy jobs that can’t be shipped overseas. That’s something all Nevadans can support.

– Harry Reid is a U.S. Senator for Nevada.

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