September 24, 2018

Rob Lauer Political Reporter

Carson City, taking a play out of President Trump’s play book, today gubernatorial Candidate Republican Adam Laxalt unveiled his economic plan for Nevada focused on reducing regulations and holding taxes at current levels. This comes just a week after Laxalt called for $500 million in additional Education spending if elected. Laxalt’s plan retreats from his promise to roll back the commerce tax passed by Governor Sandoval.

1. Protect our status as a low-tax state.

First and foremost, we must recognize that one of the most important things we can do to promote economic growth and opportunity is to protect Nevada’s status as a safe haven from high taxes. Nevada has long been a place where we have recognized that keeping taxes low on our businesses, families and individuals provides them with the economic freedom they need to prosper and get ahead.

A low tax burden empowers our private businesses to innovate, expand, and hire more workers. It leaves more money in people’s pockets to pay their bills, save and invest, and pursue the things they enjoy most in life. And it’s a big reason why Nevada has been such an attractive destination for businesses that are looking to relocate from higher-tax states like California that stifle growth and innovation.

Maintaining Nevada’s low-tax environment is crucial if we want to see our economy continue to grow, our businesses thrive, and our citizens get access to better jobs and opportunities. As Governor, I will oppose any and all efforts to raise taxes on hard-working Nevadans.

2. Rein in Nevada’s burdensome occupational licensing regime.

Nevada has the second-strictest occupational licensing requirements in the entire nation, with only California being worse. This severely limits opportunities, especially for Nevadans who wish to work in lower- and middle-income occupations. Further, there is no clear case for regulation of many occupations for which Nevada requires a license, as they pose almost no risk of physical harm to the public if practiced incorrectly.

Nevada is one of only four states, for instance, that require state licensure to offer interior-design services. To qualify for an interior-design license, a person must complete four years of education, plus two years of apprenticeship, pay more than $1,200 in fees and pass a state exam. This makes little sense: Interior-design quality is largely subjective and poses almost no risk of harm to the public, which is why 46 states require no licensure at all. Other occupations for which Nevada requires a special license that other states do not include: milk sampler, animal trainer, shampooer, sign-language interpreter, hair braider, door repairmen, high school athletic coach … and the list goes on and on.

Under Nevada’s unique “musical therapist” statutes, a person may be prohibited from teaching others how to dance, write songs or even listen to music without a state license. People who advertise these services to friends without the required license could be subject to criminal penalties even if they are unaware of the need for a license. In many cases, our licensing laws fail to specify that they apply only to for-profit ventures, so a person who helps out a friend or even gives a massage to his or her spouse could be committing a criminal violation. This goes far, far beyond what’s necessary to protect the public.

As Governor, I will take steps to:

  • Systematically examine all occupational licensing requirements in Nevada to identify areas where these burdens can be eased or eliminated. I will work with lawmakers to establish a licensing review commission to balance the education requirements and costs of licenses and to make recommendations about which licenses can be eliminated entirely.
  • Promote a “Right to Earn a Living Act,” which would give individuals who have been denied a license in an occupation that poses no risk to public safety standing to challenge the requirements in court and have them thrown out.
  • Adopt pro-worker reforms that have been successful in other states, such as streamlining requirements for skilled trades licenses (Michigan) and requiring licensing boards to use the least-restrictive means possible to regulate professions (Nebraska).

In short, I will work to ensure that every Nevadan who wants to work is not unnecessarily prohibited from doing so.

In addition, I believe we should examine our current structure of general business licensing. Nevada was once a leader in attracting businesses because it was easy and inexpensive to incorporate here. We didn’t even charge for a general business license until the 1990s. Since then, the cost of a state business license has grown from $25 annually to $100, $200, and now as much as $500. Further, businesses are charged a variety of other fees for required documents, such as articles of incorporation, listing of officers, and many others. These fees can cost a new business thousands of dollars just to form their company. In addition, most local governments charge additional fees.

Since a business can be incorporated in any state, regardless of where it is physically located, these fee hikes have made Nevada a less desirable choice compared to much lower-cost jurisdictions, such as Wyoming, where a state business license fee is only $100.

  • Upon taking office, I will propose an immediate freeze on all business license fees at current levels until we can put forward a thorough, open-to-the-public review of the revenue and whether the fees are becoming too disadvantageous and onerous for Nevada’s job-providers, particularly our small businesses. I believe Nevada should not only be home to a great number of nonresident firms, but we should actively solicit these firms to hold their annual meetings here and patronize our world-class convention and hospitality industry.

Nevada also used to exempt home-based businesses from the requirement to pay for a general business license, but that exemption was revoked in 2012.

  • I support restoring the exemption from these fees for struggling home-based businesses. I believe that any entity that does not have to file a separate return with the Internal Revenue Service should not have to file for a Nevada state business license. Nevada should not be more punitive than the IRS.

3. Reform our regulatory structure so it allows Nevada businesses to grow and thrive.

In recent years, Nevada’s economic-development efforts have focused largely on attracting big, out-of-state firms to locate some offices in Nevada by providing large, targeted tax breaks or grants. Now, we have a tremendous opportunity to expand the focus of our economic-development efforts to Nevada’s current businesses and entrepreneurs — empowering them to build, expand, thrive and create more jobs. Research shows that nearly all job growth comes from the expansion of startup enterprises, and so we must pursue policies that allow our home-grown businesses to get a foothold in the marketplace while removing obstacles to their growth and success.

Responsible regulation of industries that engage in dangerous manufacturing processes or emit harmful pollutants is absolutely necessary for our long-term growth and safety. But sometimes regulations can go too far. As Governor, I will lead the fight to:

  • Reduce red tape: Policymakers are often unaware of the unintended ways the regulations they create affect various industries. Recent legislation passed in other states has recognized and sought to address this shortcoming, and I will work to adapt several of those ideas to Nevada, including:
    • Creating a “red tape” website, as was done in Arizona with RedTape.AZ.Gov, a site that allows business leaders to call specific attention to regulations that are particularly burdensome, outdated or harmful.
    • Exploring a Red Tape Reduction Pilot Program, as was done in Kentucky, which requires agencies to delineate each specific regulatory requirement they have created and identify those that are duplicative, outdated, overly complex or ineffective so they can be simplified or eliminated.
    • Promoting a state Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, as was done in Wisconsin, which requires specific legislation to authorize any new rule that would create more than $10 million of compliance and implementation costs over a two-year period.


  • Limit the scope of local ordinances: The most burdensome regulations often come at the local level as a result of zoning and development codes. In some Nevada jurisdictions, these codes range up to 800 pages in length and may impose requirements such as the minimum number of trees that must be included in the landscaping of a parking lot. The state can and should limit the proliferation of these codes, as it does in many areas.
    • I will support reforms prohibiting local governments from implementing any measure more restrictive than a clear, reasonable standard set by the state.


  • Embrace technology: Nevada has not always offered a receptive climate to technological advancement. In recent years, pioneering firms that leverage technology to replace legacy models for transportation and other services with an emerging, social-based sharing economy have been subject to punitive regulations that restrict their access to the marketplace. I don’t believe that shunning technology is the pathway to long-term economic growth and opportunity. Fortunately, recent reforms have put us on a better track — but we can do more.
    • As Governor, I will make sure Nevada actively seeks to become a global hub for technological innovation and maintains a flexible regulatory structure that invites these innovative businesses.

4. Make Nevada attractive for new businesses and industries.

I believe Nevada can benefit greatly by embracing the technological revolution, and can become the land of the future if we encourage businesses to locate here and experiment with innovative new technologies. However, traditional approaches to business and industry regulation have proven unresponsive to the rapidly evolving worlds of technology and finance. We must move quickly to establish a nimble regulatory framework that allows entrepreneurs to experiment, without the need to constantly await the development of new regulations to address each new innovation. I will support reforms that:

  • Create a “regulatory sandbox” in Nevada. Earlier this year, Arizona created the first regulatory sandbox in the United States. This innovative concept is based on the explicit recognition that financial regulators cannot develop new regulations as quickly as new financial instruments are developed. The sandbox instead gives firms wide latitude to experiment with new products as long as they’re up front with regulators about the risks involved. Firms apply with a thorough description of the products they hope to offer as well as the risks, and once they are vetted by financial regulators and the appropriate disclosures are recorded publicly, firms gaining approval become free to operate outside the traditional regulatory frameworks for their new products. Nevada cannot afford to fall behind this cutting-edge trend that allows regulation to adapt and innovate alongside industry. As Governor, I will work to implement this concept in our state and seek to expand it to more and more industries.


  • Allow Nevada’s small businesses and entrepreneurs to easily access capital. Access to capital is a critical component of the success of any business venture. Although federal and state securities laws are intended to protect the public from certain bad actors, they can also increase the cost and complexity of raising money, especially for small businesses. I don’t anticipate, nor advocate for, major changes to federal securities laws in the near future, but we need to ensure our state securities laws do not impose unnecessary burdens on small business owners who are trying to raise money to finance their projects. North Carolina recently implemented a policy allowing small businesses to register a Local Public Offering with the state securities division if they intend to advertise and raise small amounts of money from in-state sources. A Local Public Offering framework would allow Nevada’s small businesses to grow by crowdfunding their projects in ways that are traditionally only cost-effective for very large firms.


  • Encourage local governments to become business-friendly: No matter how innovative we get with state regulations, the success of a small business can easily be hampered at the local level. Often, local officials may not even be aware of the ways in which their local regulations are harmful to business and which alternative approaches would create a better environment. We can leverage state resources to provide this needed information. In 2016, South Carolina created a Local Government Competitiveness Council tasked with analyzing the factors that affect local governments’ ability to attract and retain a thriving business environment that offers economic opportunity for their citizens. The Council was composed of business leaders that surveyed the differences among local governments in the state to determine the optimal mix of public infrastructure balanced against taxes and regulation. I believe it is crucial that Nevada complete a similar exercise to create a cohesive framework for economic development — from the Governor’s office all the way down to the local library district.

5. Prepare Nevadans with the skills needed to succeed in a growing economy.

Successful businesses result from the collaboration of talented leaders and employees. Without access to skilled labor, even the most innovative businesses will have difficulty succeeding. That’s why we need to ensure that our citizens have access to the skills training they need to expand the opportunities available to them. I will help create a Nevada where we:

  • Expand access to Career and Technical Education (CTE). I believe the broad education platform I have put forward will create a wide array of choices for Nevada’s children to achieve success in life. And one of the top priorities of my platform is a firm commitment to CTE, which for many students offers a better path forward than pursuing a traditional four-year college degree. As Governor, I will work to significantly increase funding for CTE programs, engage our business community in supporting CTE programs, and remove barriers to these programs’ success. Read more about my vision for CTE in Nevada here.


  • Grant more autonomy to community colleges to respond to local workforce needs. All of our neighboring states allow their community colleges to operate independently of their four-year state universities. This greater freedom allows community colleges to assess the needs of their local business community or partner with major employers to offer training courses that will translate directly into job opportunity for graduates. Nevada’s consolidated governance structure for higher education tends to treat community colleges as a stepping stone to a four-year university, even though many students may never intend to go that route. Nevada should examine the approach of our neighbors and explore how to give greater autonomy to our community college system while maintaining our commitment to a strong higher-education system overall.


  • Teach entrepreneurship. All people have a passion they wish to share with the world. However, not everyone knows how to translate that passion into the creation of a business. We should integrate the study of entrepreneurship into our curriculum — as the University of Nevada, Reno is now doing at the College of Business — and offer a wide array of entrepreneurship classes at our universities and community colleges. No business succeeds without a knowledgeable leader, but productive synergy can abound when an entire community understands the basics of successful business planning and entrepreneurship.


  • Create pathways to employment for former inmates. Sadly, our inmate population is often overlooked when it comes to skills training. Research shows that recidivism is highly associated with the inability to obtain and keep employment, and it can be difficult for a former inmate to find a job. Some states have taken measures to reduce these barriers, and Nevada should embrace a similar approach. Arizona, for example, recently partnered with Uber to provide former inmates a free ride to a job interview or to their first day of work. I believe we can go further by giving inmates the skills to launch and manage their own businesses once they return to society. Illinois recently launched a pilot program along these lines that I believe can serve as a model for our state. All Nevadans will benefit if we are successful in providing former inmates, who have served their time, with the tools and skills to re-enter society as productive participants in our economy.


  • Expand apprenticeship programs: A good mentor can put a young professional on a trajectory of career success, which is why apprenticeship programs have historically been a primary means to pass along skilled trades. I believe we should give our young people every opportunity to benefit from these relationships. We can learn from recent efforts in other states such as Kentucky, which created a database within the state labor department to identify businesses and sponsors that could fill workforce gaps with apprentices, and Alabama, which created a tax credit for businesses that hire apprentices. I’ll explore opportunities to apply these ideas and others to Nevada in order to foster greater apprenticeship opportunities.


  • Help the most needy become independent: Often, those most in need of a positive mentor have the greatest difficulty finding one. Children who grow up in poverty often have few positive role models from whom they can learn how to build a successful career. Sadly, this can perpetuate a cycle of poverty for families living in low-income neighborhoods. Recently, Kansas launched a program to combat this cycle by directing a grant to assign mentors to families living in poverty — a concept I believe we should explore for Nevada.

6. Build the infrastructure needed to prosper in a digital age.

In today’s economy, business, education, medicine and many other forms of commerce are increasingly practiced remotely and facilitated through internet connectivity. This great social development improves access to highly skilled professionals, particularly for those who don’t live in close proximity to such professionals.

In order to participate in this digital economy, however, we need the infrastructure to ensure every Nevadan has access to a broadband connection. I was pleased to see that the FCC awarded Nevada $29.2 million through the Connect America Fund to expand broadband Internet access throughout rural Nevada. That investment will help reach 14,000 homes and businesses over the next 10 years. That shows how we can work with our federal officials to help build this infrastructure. But we need to do more here. Other states have taken bold steps to expand broadband access, and Nevada should do the same.

Wisconsin launched an initiative within the state’s Public Service Commission that aims to reduce regulatory barriers to the expansion of broadband. Likewise, Tennessee implemented a measure providing grants and tax credits to encourage broadband development in the state’s rural and underserved areas.

As Governor, I pledge to be an advocate for aggressive expansion of broadband connectivity to the many rural areas of our beautiful state.

7. Reduce barriers that limit Nevadans’ access to affordable housing.

Nevada’s housing market has seen marked volatility in recent years, but the state is again growing, and housing prices have soared to the point that affordability has been strained, particularly in Northern Nevada.

While many factors influence home prices, and it is beyond the purview of state and local governments to attempt to control the market, those governments should not actively contribute to a deteriorating affordability that places the dream of home ownership beyond the reach of our citizens.

Many of our local governments assess permit fees for home construction that are far beyond the levels seen in other states and which substantially increase the cost and time necessary to build a home. The permitting fees alone for new construction in Reno, for instance, can amount to $40,000 for a single-family home as site plans, electrical, mechanical, grading, plumbing and pool permits, and total plan review are all assessed on a per-square-foot basis. In many parts of the country, each of these permits is available for a flat fee in the range of $50.

As Governor, I plan to actively engage our state agencies as well as local governments and planning jurisdictions to determine how we can reduce these costs, duplicative processes, and the barriers they create to home ownership and housing affordability across Nevada.