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Transportation, economic development focus for Sen. Reid
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Dec 05, 2013 | 1565 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file photo -- Sen. Harry Reid will give the keynote speech at the 2013 Transit Connections, and the Democratic Majority Leader spoke Thursday about transportation in northern Nevada.
Tribune file photo -- Sen. Harry Reid will give the keynote speech at the 2013 Transit Connections, and the Democratic Majority Leader spoke Thursday about transportation in northern Nevada.
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On the eve of his keynote speech at the Regional Transportation Commission’s 2013 Transit Connections summit at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he will speak to transportation experts about finding new ways to fund transit in the ever-changing times of northern Nevada commuting.

“We are going to have to figure out another way to fund transportation,” Reid said Thursday from his downtown Reno office. “What we are doing now doesn’t work because we are not getting gas taxes anymore. People aren’t driving as much as they did in the past.”

The Senate Majority Leader said Nevadans have evolved to appreciate and desire mass transportation utilities as the sizes of the major metropolitan areas have boomed. He said the transit summit will be a great place for Nevada’s engineers to connect with various experts to examine the future of transportation in the biggest cities in the state.

Reid added that a major state-wide focus will be put on Interstate 11, a new high-capacity freeway connecting Phoenix, Ariz. and Las Vegas. Helping the road become a reality has been discussed throughout the year and plans for continuing the partnership with the Arizona Department of Transportation are in place.

“This whole region, meaning the western part of the United States, needs that (road) because the only two major cities in America that are not connected are Phoenix and Las Vegas with a freeway,” Reid said. “It would be wonderful for our whole state and that is a project we are working on. That is one of the few things we have a agreed on between Democrats and Republicans that we know needs to get done. That’s a positive sign.”

Reid has quite a bit on his plate as the year winds down, nothing bigger than the looming Dec. 15 deadline to reach a budget deal with Republicans. Speculation continues as both parties remain steadfast in their views, but Reid seemed optimistic Thursday that avoiding another partial government shutdown, similar to October’s 16-day episode, was not in the cards.

“I feel comfortable that we will have better than a 50-50 chance to work something out in the budget deal,” he said. “I don’t think the Republicans want any part of closing the government again so that will take care of extending the debt ceiling.

“If we are able to get a budget, that will help the economy generally because there is so much uncertainty out there. If we could get a two-year budget deal, which we are working on, there is a lot of penned up money out there that could be spent on a lot of things – including stuff around (northern Nevada).”

Reid spoke highly of Reno and Sparks retaining consistent appeal in non-gaming tourism as the region, and the state for that matter, regains its footing following economic crisis. He said technological movements and more intense focus on clean energy solutions were two initiatives he was impressed by in the region.

One of the most talked about issues in American government, Obamacare, was discussed very little by Sen. Reid, who has been criticized by Republicans for not moving his entire staff to the exchange program set up by the state. Reports surfaced nationwide Thursday that GOP House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell all directed their staffs to join the healthcare exchange program, but Reid has kept some staffers on their original plan.

“I just followed the law,” Reid said. “That’s what the law says. Leadership staff and committee staff can stay on the old program they can, and if not they go in the exchange just like I do.

Reid commended Gov. Brian Sandoval in his effort to set up an independent healthcare exchange system and said Nevadans can look forward to the benefits of such an act for years to come.

“I wish other Republican governors would have done the same,” he said. “What a tremendous boom to the state. The Medicaid monies coming in here over the next three years will be wonderful.”
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