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When Business Interests Conflict with Public Policy

One of the more dishonest scams going on in the Legislature this year is the practice of pointing to various heavily conflicted “businessmen” and using them as examples of “business leaders” who support higher taxes to fund Nevada’s non-essential government services – such as UNLV’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion ($800,000….priceless!).

For example, some gaming executives and their lobbyists are often cited as supporting higher taxes – but only higher taxes on other businesses or individuals (such as tourists), not themselves. Ditto the mining industry.

But among the more egregiously conflicted “business leaders” are some construction company owners and their lobbyists who are calling for higher taxes without disclosing that at least some of the additional revenue would be used for construction projects which they are likely to build themselves and thus benefit from.

For example, John Madole of the Associated General Contractors – often cited as one of those “business leaders” who support higher taxes – recently called for raising both the diesel tax and the gas tax in Nevada by 5 cents per gallon. Much of the millions of dollars of new revenue which would come from that tax hike would go to AGC members in the form of new government construction contracts.

You’d think the media would at least note this huge self-serving conflict of interest whenever quoting “business leaders” such as Mr. Madole who are likely to benefit, directly and indirectly, from a tax hike – but somehow they rarely do.

Certainly not the way they do when anyone in Nevada takes anything but an absolute anti-Yucca position. I mean, if you even suggest that Nevada simply open a dialogue with the federal government over Yucca, the press looks under every rock for even the slightest connection to the nuclear energy industry to undermine the argument. Because in their minds, it’s impossible to hold a contrary Yucca position unless you are bought and paid for by Big Nuke.

But it’s not just tax hikes where Mr. Madole and some AGC members have a serious public policy conflict of interest and yet are trotted out to defend indefensible public policies.

The state’s prevailing wage law artificially forces companies to pay above-market union wages on government construction projects, thus costing taxpayers millions – probably even billions – of dollars in higher construction costs while freezing out many non-union construction companies which could do the jobs just as well but for a fraction of the cost. Many, if not most of AGC’s member companies have unionized work-forces.

So when proposals are put forward to save taxpayers money by eliminating the prevailing wage law and open government construction projects to all construction companies based on merit, not just unionized ones, some “business leaders” come out of the woodwork to defend this welfare program for organized labor. And rarely does anyone in the press, when quoting these folks, point out that their position defending this cost-inflating policy is primarily designed to stifle competition from non-union firms.

What a shame there isn’t a truth-in-labeling law in politics the way there is for Whoppers.