AP Photo/John Locher
Thursday, April 20, 2017 | 10 p.m.
CARSON CITY — A budget that puts funding toward the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project while making cuts to many other programs is drawing opposition from Nevada’s delegation in Washington.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto spoke before Nevada lawmakers Thursday and criticized federal funding cuts and priorities in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. Her remarks follow similar opposition in speeches before the Legislature from almost all of Nevada’s congressional delegation.
“Yucca Mountain is dead and will continue to remain that way,” the freshman Democrat said. “The Nevada delegation in Washington is committed to fighting any and all efforts to restore Yucca.”
She said she wouldn’t support a budget that cuts programs that helped Nevada’s economy rebound after the Great Recession, such as affordable housing services. She said a recently created department in her office will help bring federal grant dollars to Nevada.
Cortez Masto said it’s important to protect post-recession reforms intended to protect consumers. She also advocated for programs that help small businesses. Trump’s budget suggests a 5 percent cut to the Small Business Administration, saying the change removes redundant programs that can be better replaced by the private sector.
“We have made incredible progress in building our economy back up — but we still have more to do,” Cortez Masto said. “Now is not the time to be cutting back programs that have made this rebound possible.”
She commended the Legislature’s diversity and spoke in favor of policies that support minority communities and families, such as providing paid medical leave. The Legislature’s Assembly Bill 266 would set up tax credits for employers who give workers paid family medical leave.
Comprehensive immigration reform is needed, not deporting undocumented people and costing the state billions in economic activity, productivity and tax revenue, she said.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Cortez Masto said. “Embracing our immigrant communities is a commonsense way to grow our economy, create jobs, and ensure our state and our country will continue to succeed.”
Cortez Masto said she urged the Trump administration to protect funding for Title X Centers. These facilities, such as Planned Parenthood, provide affordable health care services.
The Trump administration recently approved a change that allows states to block funds for abortion providers.
“These centers are the solution, not the problem,” Cortez Masto said. “Thousands of Nevada women rely on these centers — not just in Reno and Las Vegas, but in Fallon, Yerington, Winnemucca, Lovelock, Pahrump, Tonopah — communities all across our state.”
Cortez Masto spoke against repealing the Affordable Care Act and said the goal should be to improve it. Cortez Masto told lawmakers that she is among the senators urging the Trump administration to work on “lowering costs and expanding access to care, instead of starting from scratch.”
She said veterans need timely access to care, and said she helped reverse a hiring freeze at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The White House budget proposes an increase in VA funding by about 6 percent.
“The status quo is not enough,” Cortez Masto said. “Our VA needs resources to ensure it has state-of-the-art-technology and high-quality doctors, nurses and staff.”
Green energy development and natural resources protection were also included as priorities in her speech.
The state’s technology, commerce, transportation, and energy sectors “are economic drivers and will only grow stronger,” Cortez Masto said.