Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2019

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Jon Ralston:

Sandoval accepts money from D.C. that Republicans opposed

“Unfortunately, this bill does nothing to help end the uncertainty that is crippling job creation and hurting small businesses. Instead it puts taxpayers on the hook for even more bailouts.”

— House Speaker John Boehner, 9/23/10, after passage of the Small Business Jobs Act

•••

One year later, this measure that does nothing and puts taxpayers on the hook has provided Nevada with what Gov. Brian Sandoval called funding that “will go a long ways towards helping small businesses get off the ground and creating jobs for Nevadans.”

Isn’t it a shame when putative principles crash into stark reality?

Sandoval, who has made economic development and fiscal frugality his signature policies, announced in a gushing news release this week that Nevada’s State Small Business Credit Initiative application had been approved by the Treasury Department, bringing $13.8 million in funding that could be leveraged into 10 times that amount in private lending. Sandoval claimed that the “potential job growth impact” is 1,035 positions, through two initiatives in his reconfigured Commission on Economic Development.

Hallelujah! Isn’t it a shame, Governor, that Republicans, including your friends Dean Heller and John Ensign, voted against this bill? (Rep. Dina Titus did, too, arguing that there were not enough assurances that community banks would lend to small businesses. But Rep. Shelley Berkley and nearly all Democrats backed the measure, which was sponsored by Mass. Rep. Barney Frank.)

So Frank was right and Heller was wrong, Governor?

When I first asked whether the governor supported the bill the Republicans had tried to filibuster, I received this from his spokeswoman: “We’re glad to have the SSBCI program in Nevada.”

Right. But does he support the law that made those funds possible?

I made a second try for an answer, but no luck except a note that the measure passed “before Sandoval was elected governor,” the relevance of which escapes me.

And this: “The governor … has consistently said he would be aggressive in pursuing federal funding for Nevada, which ranks at the bottom of recipients of federal funding. … The money Nevada received will help create needed jobs in Nevada and give small businesses access to credit. … We have and will continue to apply for federal grants.”

Fine. But those federal grants would not exist if his party in Washington had its way a year ago. I get so confused trying to figure out which federal stimulus funds are copacetic and which are not.

Whether you think the stimulus of 2009 was too much or too little, Republicans have consistently argued that using federal money to try to energize the economy is a fool’s errand. Some governors — very few — have actually refused any stimulus money, but others have bent to the reality that they needed Washington money to keep their budgets afloat.

The Small Business Jobs Act was a form of stimulus, one designed to create a $30 billion fund in the Treasury Department to provide capital to small banks. Maybe that’s why Mr. Speaker used the word “bailout” in his criticism after the House voted last year — just like TARP, right?

The measure also provided all manner of tax breaks for small businesses designed to help them succeed during the recession. But in the hyperpartisan D.C. atmosphere, Republicans weren’t going to let the bill go anywhere. So they tried to stop it until Harry Reid could count to 61 as a couple of Republicans crossed over.

Some conservatives articulated philosophical reasons to oppose the bill. John Berlau, writing in The American Spectator 10 days before it passed, called the act “horrific” and labeled it “a big-government bill that would set up a tax-subsidized and politically directed “small business lending fund …”

Congressional Republicans voted against this legislation not because they necessarily opposed all the provisions but because they couldn’t get their amendments for further loosening of credit to be heard — and because they didn’t want to give Democrats and the president a victory. This is an ineluctable truth.

And now Nevada’s Republican governor has applied for and enthusiastically accepted federal money to help stimulate the economy, putting “taxpayers on the hook for even more bailouts.” That’s not me, Governor; that’s John Boehner.

I, like many others, appreciate that Gov. Sunny is working hard to try to diversify the economy and get Nevadans working again. Bully for him.

But Gov. No New Taxes just took millions of dollars from the federal government to help stimulate the economy. But, as Boehner pointed out, money is not free. And you wonder why Congress’ approval rating is lower than Nevada’s unemployment rate.

Meanwhile, I am sure Sandoval, one of the more polite elected officials I have known, is penning his thank-you notes right now to President Obama, Harry Reid and Barney Frank.

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