No Casino Money in Neal's Campaign
LAS VEGAS (August 25) - State Sen. Joe Neal (D-North Las Vegas) today forwarded his gubernatorial campaign financial disclosure to the Nevada secretary of state. Neal has received no campaign contributions from the gambling industry.
The 26-year lawmaker wants to raise the gross gaming tax on the state's 31 largest casinos by two percent in order to help pay for the impacts of growth stimulated by the industry. Nevada gambling establishments pay the lowest levies in the nation and have not seen a tax increase since 1987.
Neal has decried 11 years of tax and fee hikes foisted on individuals while the industry's share of state funding has dwindled to just 11.5 percent. Gambling taxes this year fell to fourth place in Nevada's revenue picture, behind federal government payments and other taxes, especially those on gasoline and retail sales which impact low-wage earners the worst.
Neal has also campaigned to close two casino tax loopholes passed over his objections in the 1997 legislative session. The most controversial involves a $16 million tax break for high-priced art which thus far only benefits Las Vegas Strip mogul Steve Wynn at the expense of Nevada school children. Silver State schools currently face a shortfall of up to $48 million and perhaps more.
Neal's main Sept. 1 primary opponent, Las Vegas Mayor Jan Laverty-Jones, and GOP frontrunner Kenny Guinn both support the Steve Wynn art tax loophole. Guinn has been campaigning since 1996 and has reportedly raised close to $4 million. Jones, who entered the race on May 18, the last day to file, has raised well over $700,000.
Neal reported raising $32,144 and spending $33,341. His largest contributors were worker organizations. Laborers' Union Local 169 gave Neal his only maximum donation of $5,000. He also received $1,000 from Operating Engineers Local 3, $1,000 from Nevada AFL-CIO/COPE, $500 from the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada, and a $506.73 in-kind contribution from the Nevada Casino Dealers Association.
Neal received $1,000 contributions from U.S. Sen. Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) Searchlight Leadership PAC; the International Household Finance Group; Republic Silver State Disposal; Republic Disposal Urban Maintenance and from Spurgeon W. Daniels of Las Vegas. Other business organization donations included $700 from the Utility Shareholders Association of Nevada and $500 from the Independence Mining Employees Committee.
Nevada State Sen. Valerie Wiener (D-Las Vegas) donated $150 and Assemblyman Wendell Williams (D-Las Vegas) donated $200. Longtime Libertarian Party activist James Dan of Reno donated $250. Nye County Democratic Party chair Yoko Allen donated $500, as did University of Nevada-Reno journalism professor Jake Highton and Reno attorney Peter Chase Neumann.
"Tuesday will tell the tale as to whether or not Nevada has become a truly modern state where only the wealthy may seek high office," Neal said. Guinn, Laverty-Jones and GOP maverick Aaron Russo are all multimillionaires. All three oppose Neal's call for a rise in the gross gaming tax.
When he announced his candidacy last January, Neal said he would conduct a "poor man's campaign" for the state's highest office. Without a large media budget, Neal has personally taken his message to each of Nevada's 17 counties. His principal communications tool has been the inexpensive Internet. His home page, http://www.Neal98.org, is generally considered the best candidate site in the state and has been called one of the better ones in the nation.
Read more about it:
NEAL MAKES THE WASHINGTON POST AGAIN --- For the second time this year, the Neal campaign has made the Washington Post. A major article by veteran reporter Lou Cannon appears on page A-3 of the Wednesday, August 26, edition. Cannon, Ronald Reagan's biographer, grew up in the Reno-Sparks area and began his journalistic career there. His most recent book, "Official Negligence," critiques the media handling of the Rodney King videotape. He told Sen. Neal he wanted to meet the man doing the Nevada equivalent of running against tobacco in South Carolina. Read Cannon's story at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/campaigns/keyraces98/stories/n v082698.htm
One Stepped Forward
When the state's major industry scared off major Democrats by selecting the next governor with its checkbooks, one man stepped forward.
"Political anointment does real harm to the two-party system," according to State Sen. Joe Neal (D-North Las Vegas).
"Voters become spectators without meaningful choice," Sen. Neal says.
Nevada has been the fastest growing state in the nation throughout the 1990s. Growth-related problems have simply outstripped the abilities of individuals, families, churches, organizations and governments to deal with them.
We have always been behind the curve of change. Noting our high percentage of non-family and non-child households, the National Journal's 1984 Almanac of American Politics called us "probably the least family-oriented state."
An adult-oriented economy exacts high social costs on individuals, families, children and institutions. When such an economy experiences fast growth, communities begin to strain and crack under the pressure.
The desire to control and plan for future growth, which has driven northwestern Nevada politics for the past 20 years, finally gathered steam in southern Nevada where most voters live.
The gambling-industrial complex recognized that the 1997 Nevada Legislature would be compelled to act on growth-related issues.
Gamblers, their lobbyists and lawmakers put together a clever strategy facilitating the imposition of new taxes on everyone but themselves. They even secured sweetheart tax cuts for their industry, millions of which would have gone to school children.
As he has for the past 26 years, one lawmaker protested louder than the rest: Sen. Joe Neal (D-North Las Vegas). He introduced a gaming tax increase which was promptly swatted down. Click here for full story.
Early this year, with no major challenge to the gambler-chosen heir-apparent, Sen. Neal declared his candidacy for governor.
Nevada's population will approach 2,000,000 during the next governor's term. Southern Nevada's water supply remains in great jeopardy. Pollution has caused illess and, just last summer, Las Vegas came perilously close to running dry due to a system failure.
Sen. Neal recognizes the difference between needed public investment and wasteful projects. He was an early opponent of the Honey Lake water importation project north of Reno and Sparks.
Nonetheless, each component of the community must pull its own weight.
"People have to control gaming. Gaming cannot control the people," Sen. Neal says.
"I am not anti-gaming. Their chief lobbyist has publicly agreed with that statement. I don't want to slay Goliath, I just want to make him carry his fair share of the load."
Reiterating his legislative proposal, Sen. Neal advocates a two percent increase on gross gaming taxes for large gambling companies (those grossing more than $134,000 per month). He would leave smaller establishments alone.
An initiative proposed by a Las Vegas citizens group would go much further, doubling the gross gaming tax from its current 6-1/4 percent level. Casinos in other states pay as much as 34 percent of their gross proceeds in taxes for the privilege of participating in a lucrative, growing business.
"Nevada's low taxes subsidize the industry's ability
to pay higher taxes elsewhere, in effect sending dollars out
of state to support other communities," Neal points out.
Linked to his gaming tax increase, Neal proposes repeal of the business activity tax (BAT) which he voted against in the legislature. Based on the number of people employed, it prevents small businesses from adding new workers. The BAT is a very unfair and regressive levy forcing small firms to pay more per worker than large companies.
Neal says that shooting down the BAT would stimulate diverse job growth while cutting taxes for all businesses, including gaming.
"After subtracting the BAT from any gaming tax increase, the entire amount paid by large gambling companies is fully deductible from their federal tax returns. The net effect would really be a federal income tax rebate. I'd rather keep the money at home in the first place rather than have to fight Washington to get some of it back," Neal says.
"I'm about the best thing the industry has going for it," Neal says. "If we don't show that gaming acts responsibly to pay its fair share, Congress will be only too happy to extract new taxes for us. The federal government sees gambling as a rich potential source of new tax revenue, which is the reason a national commission is studying the issue."
"Neal has been consistent in his positions over the years. Quotes from 26 years ago read as fresh as if he said them yesterday," reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Jan. 18.
After his first legislative session in 1973, he complained "It seems we have been juggling the interests between lobbying groups instead of caring for the ordinary citizens," the state's largest newspaper stated.
"Even then his ideas were progressive. It was 25 years ago when he first tried to pass a law requiring companies with more than 300 employees to establish day care centers.
"In 1975, he objected vigorously when other senators wanted to close the floor of the Senate to everyone but invited guests," the newspaper reported.
"What kind of mentality is it that locks senators away from the people?" he asked at the time.
"My administration would not be dominated by one particular interest group allowing others nothing. I would run a hands-on government responsive to the needs of the citizens of this state," Sen. Neal says.
"Our public records must be thrown open and become available to the taxpayers at a reasonable price. Despite efforts at reform, too many pockets of state and local government use public records as profit centers.
"The internet can take us a long way toward solving that problem, but some state agencies say they do not have the budget to place their information on the Nevada governmental website," Neal notes.
"Agriculture would have nothing to fear from a Neal administration. I'm partial to the interests of people who use their hands to carve out a living. I know how to operate a tractor."
THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT: In 1977, Sen. Neal accomplished what everyone viewed as impossible. The legislature's acknowledged master of parliamentary procedure, he engineered the passage of women's rights in an ultra-right Nevada State Senate. A political payoff later killed it in the assembly.
THE NATION'S TOUGHEST FIRE SPRINKLER LAW: After the 1980 Las Vegas MGM Grand high rise fire killed 87 people, Sen. Neal introduced a bill calling for retrofitting buildings and other safety measures. The gambling industry opposed it because of the cost. Only one other senator signed on - until an arsonist set fire to the Las Vegas Hilton, resulting in more death and damage. Sen. Neal's proposal remains the law today.
TOUGHER REGULATION OF EXPLOSIVES MANUFACTURING: After a massive explosion at the Pacific Engineering rocket fuelplant in Henderson killed two people in 1988, Sen. Neal sponsored legislation imposing strict controls on the industry. The law has not been enforced. The recent Sierra Chemical plant explosion east of Sparks revealed lax or non-existent oversight.
"An unenforced law is a pre-broken law, with shattered families often the result," Sen. Neal says.
"That will not happen on my watch."
MONEY FOR LIBRARIES: Sen. Neal ramrodded legislation allowing small communities to sell bonds to build libraries and establishing the Southern Nevada Library District to do the same in the Las Vegas area.
"A library is a poor man's university," Neal says.
If elected, he would become the first African-American governor west of the Mississippi in the state until recently known as Mississippi West.
You can write to Sen. Neal at
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