We are posting these prepared remarks sent to us from Congressman Heck’s Washington office. Delivered remarks may differ slightly. – Ed.
(Congressman Joe Heck) – Governor Sandoval, Speaker Oceguera, Majority Leader Horsford, Minority Leaders Goicoechea and McGinnis, distinguished constitutional officers, honorable members of the judiciary, my fellow Nevadans: it is an honor and a privilege to stand before you today as a former member of this legislative body and as your federal representative for the Third Congressional District.
As a doctor, I learned that you can’t cure an illness until you understand the cause. The recession gripping Nevada is largely the result of a badly broken Federal Government. Far too often political expediency trumped sound policy as decisions were made. That lack of leadership seeped into our daily lives and rotted America’s economic foundations to the core.
Rebuilding our economy won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. This is an especially difficult reality for Nevadans because we have been hit harder by the recession than any other state. We must work together to get people back to work; we must work together to make sure our children have better opportunities than we do; and we must work together to maintain a strong national defense – because without our Freedom, very few of the policy issues that our Nation faces today will even matter.
I know firsthand that today’s elections are far from unanimous. I represent the most populous district in the Nation, more than one million people, and I won by two thirds of one percent – by one thousand nine hundred and twenty two votes. But, I don’t only represent the people that voted for me, I represent the ones who didn’t, and the ones who couldn’t. Two months ago, just a few weeks into my term, two votes came up on the House Floor of whether or not to terminate certain housing programs. The programs were very unpopular among many conservatives. I received information telling me how terrible these programs were and that they hadn’t live up to their potential. The truth is they haven’t.
I knew that many of the people who voted for me in November probably wanted me to vote to terminate the programs. I believe in cutting government waste and I have been a vocal advocate of eliminating programs that have outlived their purpose or have lost sight of their original mission. I also know that government does have a limited role in helping people help themselves.
I have to admit, I was a bit surprised that I was the only Republican voting to protect these programs on one vote and one of only two on the other. That fact has generated a bit of unfriendly criticism from some conservatives, and I understand that. Some asked if I regretted my vote, others if my vote was a mistake, but most wanted to know why I voted against my party. 17,000 Nevadans are the reason I voted against my party.
Those two housing programs have helped more than 17,000 Nevadans stay in their homes. They help the very people the government should be helping – the ones who are trying to do the right thing – folks who are trying hard to make their mortgages, but because of the dire economy in Nevada might be teetering on the edge of foreclosure: our friends, neighbors, and even family members who lost their jobs through no fault of their own; Democrats, Independents, and yes, even Republicans, who have come to my office seeking assistance.
I will continue to fight to cut government spending in Washington, but I will never lose sight that I was sent to Washington to fight for Nevada first. Even if it means voting against the majority of my party and incurring the ire of some who voted for me. I don’t only represent the people that voted for me, I represent the ones who didn’t – and the ones who couldn’t.
I often recall what I learned early in my career as a doctor, that you can’t cure an illness until you understand the cause. We will not cure the disease of foreclosures and unemployment, until we understand the cause. Both parties have been guilty of overspending and politicians from both sides have failed to prioritize, demand accountability, and make difficult decisions – they’ve failed to lead. To pretend otherwise simply perpetuates the status quo and guarantees an America defined by debt – instead of by Greatness. It guarantees an America tied to the fortunes of other nations and binds our children and grandchildren to a debt that we can’t pay. And it creates national security challenges that risk the very safety of our Nation and people. Thomas Jefferson warned against great undertakings on slender majorities. Rebuilding our economy is too great an undertaking to ignore this advice.
Both sides have sinned. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we must view each idea and each piece of legislation with an eye toward the future of our nation instead of its impact on the next election. The hundreds of constituents I’ve met with since being sworn in told me that they want to get back on their path to the American dream, and that path begins with a good job. They know that if they have a job and work hard, they can live the American dream.
95% of Nevada’s businesses are small businesses and they employ 43% of Nevada’s workers. Just under half of working Nevadans are living their American dream because of small-business owners. I used to own a small-business myself, and I know many of you are small-business owners as well. For those who are, or were, you know how gratifying it is to see an idea you had, and saw through, was good enough not just to sustain, but to thrive. You know how gratifying it is to offer someone a job and give him or her the opportunity to grow, shine, earn and be fulfilled.
When I visit with small-business owners I ask them what the number one reason is that they aren’t hiring, I ask them what’s preventing a recovery. Nearly all say there is too much uncertainty at the moment – uncertainty in the economy, uncertainty in their government and uncertainty about how they can compete in an evolving global economy. That’s a show-stopper for small businesses.
The number one rule in running a successful business is: assess your risk, then plan for the worst and hope for the best. Uncertainty increases risk and when risk increases more small-business owners say “maybe I’ll wait to hire that new person until things clear up.” What we need to do is cure the disease of uncertainty. When we do that, entrepreneurs will take risks, small business owners will hire that extra employee, add more space and grow their businesses.
The way to give them certainty starts with a single word: listen
Listen to the people who operate 95% of Nevada’s businesses. They know what they need to get their businesses back on track and back to hiring. I put together an economic advisory council that had getting the answer to what’s causing uncertainty as its singular goal. The council consists of the elements that constitute a small business – entrepreneurs, lenders and labor – and includes people from all across the political spectrum. Despite a variety of personal and political views, the problem was easy to diagnose: A government that spends your money, gets in your way, regulates your business, raises your taxes, requires almost no accountability and runs up a debt that its citizens cannot pay. This group worries that if the government’s current spending level continues, taxes will have to go up to sustain the spending
They worry about how new government regulations will affect their competitiveness and their ability to grow, thrive and provide good jobs.
We must work together to address these causes of uncertainty our small-business owners have said are preventing a recovery.
Government has spent without accountability for years – under both Republicans and Democrats. If elected leaders choose to maintain or increase current spending levels, it is not a question of if taxes must go up – it’s a question of when. Taxes will either be increased immediately to pay for the spending now, or taxes will be increased in the future to pay for the interest on the money the government borrows, or both.
We must work together to return government spending to responsible levels. That means making difficult decisions to bring government in line with the private sector, it means demanding accountability and performance, and it means forcing government to do more with less. That’s what our families have done. It is what our businesses have done and it is what our government must do.
I applaud Governor Sandoval for having the courage to put forward a balanced budget that doesn’t raise taxes and I applaud those of you who have agreed to stand with him. And Senator Horsford and Speaker Oceguera, I thank you for your willingness to work with Governor Sandoval and Lt. Governor Krolicki to further enhance Nevada’s economic development efforts. I want each of you to know that I will do all I can to help you make Nevada the most business-friendly state in America.
Nevadans have talked about economic diversification for decades – I would guess that Nevada’s first governor, Henry Blasdel, and legislature probably talked about it as well! I am sure our state leaders thought they solved the issue when Nevada transitioned from a one-industry economy, mining, to a two-industry economy with the addition of gaming and tourism. But as we have seen, twice in the last decade, that as important as mining and tourism are to Nevada’s fiscal health, we must expand our horizons and look to the future. Many have talked about Nevada’s potential to be a leader in renewable energy, and I agree. That is why I supported the continuation of the federal loan guarantees for renewable energy projects, so Nevada can continue to build and grow in this area and projects from the Eldorado to Amargosa Vallies to Tonapah and beyond could bring desperately needed jobs to the surrounding communities.
But we must also look past the energy production side of the equation. We must have serious discussions about bringing the research and development as well as the manufacturing components of this industry to Nevada. That is where the sustainable, good-paying jobs will materialize. I will continue to support research and development tax credits, work to streamline the bureaucracy to access Nevada’s lands that remain under federal control, and expedite the federal permitting process while protecting the environment and maintaining safety.
The recession has touched every corner of our Nation – every region, every demographic, every industry and every person. We have all felt the pain.
But, there are some reasons to be encouraged as we look at some success stories in other places. In fact, a number of states have begun to recover more quickly. It is because they listened to small businesses, they listened to the people who create jobs and they reduced government spending without increasing taxes. They did this to inspire confidence and establish predictability.
Between 2008 and 2009, Virginia lost nearly 150,000 jobs. Yet, since early 2010 they have created nearly 100,000 new jobs. They’re on the way back.
Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell testified before congress on January 26th. During his testimony I asked him how his state recovered so quickly from the recession. Governor McDonnell explained how he worked with state legislators to close their entire $2 billion budget gap by reducing government spending – without raising taxes. Yes, there were painful reductions to programs people cherished, but I would trade the criticism resulting from cutting or eliminating a handful of programs if it meant 100,000 more jobs in Nevada right now. People want a paycheck, not a government check.
In addition to the harm government overspending is having on our recovery, government regulations are just as culpable. Government regulations are being created at a historic rate, and often without regard to the regulation’s impact on the economy. That is why I am a co-sponsor of the REINS Act which requires any regulation with a fiscal impact of more than $100 million to come before Congress for review. Small-businesses are often left in the dark and don’t know when a regulation is coming out – or how they will be impacted by the regulation – until the last minute.
The new health care law is 2,700 pages. The US tax code is 74,000 pages. The regulations recently released by the Department of Health and Human Services for just one section of the Healthcare reform bill are 500 pages! 500 pages are significant, but the biggest problem is the unknown. When businesses see that these 500 pages cover only 6 pages of the 2,700 page health care law, you can begin to understand why they’re concerned. If this ratio holds true, health care regulations, just from the health care law, will total 225,000 pages. That makes the tax code look like a pamphlet!
These are today’s challenges. Despite the challenges, we have an opportunity to remake Nevada for the future. That future is through education. You can’t cure an illness until you understand the cause. We will not fulfill our economic potential as a state or a nation unless we fix our educational system. We will not successfully recruit high tech industries and research and development opportunities to Nevada without providing a world-class education to our children. Education will ensure our children have the tools they need to compete in today’s global economy.
As a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, we have started debate on the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. America’s educational system isn’t doing our children justice. It has become stagnant and full of red-tape. My undergraduate degree is in education, I first went to school to become a teacher. The people I studied with were deeply passionate about teaching our children. It isn’t our teachers who are holding our students back, it is the system. The Federal Government’s one size fits all approach is a disservice to our children.
We must explore ways to give more local control over education. That is why I am committed to returning control to parents, teachers, and the states. Finding ways to provide increased local control will benefit our children, and Nevada’s long-term economy. We must embrace and support career and technical education – as well as science, technology, engineering, and math programs – to prepare our students for the global marketplace.
I recently attended the FIRST Robotics Competition at the Thomas and Mack Arena. High schools from around the world, including eight from District Three, competed, and two local schools, Cimarron Memorial and Boulder City, advanced to the World Finals next month in St Louis, Missouri. I was incredibly impressed by the ingenuity of these high school teams. We must ensure that all children have opportunities to harness their greatest potential. Those opportunities include the ability for parents to choose where their child is educated, whether it be public, charter, private, or home schools.
I’ve talked a lot tonight about sacrifice, about working together to do what is right. We could learn a lot from the men and women in our armed forces that lay it all on the line every day to protect our Freedom. Every day they put aside their personalities, their ideologies and their individual goals to advance the cause of our Nation.
Last week I visited our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. There, I met two Las Vegans, LCPL Jacob Swanson and Hospital Corpsman Jose Padilla, at a dusty combat outpost near the village of Marjeh. I’m proud of them, I admire them and I know how much we all appreciate them.
I’m proud to represent those who wear the uniform, past and present, their families and survivors. We can’t lose sight of the fact that Nevada plays a key role in America’s national defense. From Nellis to Fallon and from Creech to Hawthorne – Nevada is critical to maintaining America’s freedom.
Because, in many ways, we are an international symbol of capitalism’s risk, reward and success – we are a potential target. We must keep America safe, and more specifically we must keep Nevada safe. Never before has it been so clear that our freedom is what separates us from so many countries around the world, many of which would like to rob us of that freedom. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am working to make sure our local and national security is maintained, and that our military men and women have the tools they need to get the job done.
When our parents talked about the American dream, part of that goal revolved around knowing that everyone has the opportunity to improve their own life and create their own success. That is important to all of us, but what makes so many of us work so hard is the belief that we can give our children a better starting point than we had.
We have the chance, right now, to be an example for our children. We can show them that sometimes our problems are too big to hold grudges. Too large to let personalities or ideologies get in the way. Sometimes they are so large they can bring the greatest nation that the World has ever seen – right to its knees. But, our problems are never too big to tackle with hard work, discipline and a willingness to tap the best of the American spirit. When we forego what is easy for what is right – and when we accept responsibility instead of pointing fingers – we will have taken a significant step toward reviving our economy and putting Nevadans back to work. These are critical ingredients to ensuring our children have a better future.
Ladies and gentlemen, Governor Sandoval, thank you for allowing me to address you today.
I sat in this chamber as a senator a few years ago. I recognize the extraordinary dedication you all have to Nevada and the extraordinary challenges that you have ahead of you. From balancing the budget to ensuring a quality education for our children, and from managing essential services to passing a fair redistricting plan that puts the people of Nevada above partisan politics, you have a lot of work ahead.
I look forward to working with each of you – regardless of party or ideology – to get our spending under control and our government back on track. I am honored to be your guest today and wish you the best of luck, the spirit of cooperation, and the dedication and discipline to do what is right. The people of Nevada need your best and I have every confidence that when the final bell sounds you will have given them your best.
It is in that spirit of cooperation that we will return our state and our Nation to prosperity, restore America’s exceptionalism, and, in words used by both a Democrat and Republican president, have our rendezvous with destiny.
(Congressman Joe Heck represents Congressional District 3 in Southern Nevada.)