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Public Statements

Vegas Is Mad And Is Not Going To Take It Anymore

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. BERKLEY. A few weeks ago, Madam Speaker, I came to the floor of the House and gave a very spirited defense of my congressional district which encompasses my hometown of Las Vegas. I did that because my community was under horrific attack by Members of this body, and it did us tremendous financial damage.

I wanted to speak more than 5 minutes to talk about the importance of travel in this country, the importance to our economy, and why we should be encouraging people to travel, and why we should be encouraging businesses to continue to conduct their meetings in destination areas like Las Vegas, but there are so many others. And I would like to talk to you a little bit about my community. But before I do that, I think I would like to yield to my very good friend, Ron Klein from the great State of Florida, who also depends on tourism as its lifeblood in its economy.

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Ms. BERKLEY. A few weeks ago, Madam Speaker, I came to the floor of the House and gave a very spirited defense of my congressional district which encompasses my hometown of Las Vegas. I did that because my community was under horrific attack by Members of this body, and it did us tremendous financial damage.

I wanted to speak more than 5 minutes to talk about the importance of travel in this country, the importance to our economy, and why we should be encouraging people to travel, and why we should be encouraging businesses to continue to conduct their meetings in destination areas like Las Vegas, but there are so many others. And I would like to talk to you a little bit about my community. But before I do that, I think I would like to yield to my very good friend, Ron Klein from the great State of Florida, who also depends on tourism as its lifeblood in its economy.

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Ms. BERKLEY. I would love to make two points, and it dovetails beautifully with what both of you are saying. I know you just mentioned that legislation that you're either introducing or thinking of introducing that would put some dollars into advertising the United States of America abroad so people will come and travel in the United States, which I think is a wonderful idea. And you're right, we're light years behind other countries in promoting our own.

But there are smaller ones that I was wondering what you thought of.

I tried to get in the stimulus package--and wasn't able to do so--but a $500 tax credit for business travel. If you're a business traveler and you want to bring your spouse, I think we should be--I think there should be a tax credit that will encourage men or women to take their spouses. It doubles the number of people that are coming to any one of our communities, and it also will help stimulate the economy and also keep families together. So I think that's wonderful.

The other thing--and we call it the three Martini lunch--but the reality is it is so much more important and significant than that. I would love to see a 100 percent deductibility of meals tax. I am sure the same is happening in your towns as mine, the restaurant business is kaput. People aren't coming to the towns so obviously restaurant business is down. Wouldn't it be a good idea for a business to help stimulate business? Most small businesses don't have boardrooms. What they have is the back booth of the local deli. And if they could get a 100 percent deduction on their meals, I would think that would not only help them to do their business, but it would also help the restaurant business as well.

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Ms. BERKLEY. It's as American as apple pie. Ball games, sharing them with your kids, with your spouse, I mean, what could be better? And if you could bring your whole business team with you, too, that's a wonderful way to bond and be more effective as a team.

There was something you said earlier, but I wanted to share something very personal. You know, even though we're friends, and you know, we know each other here in Congress, sometimes we don't know about each other's personal background. But something that you said touched a chord with me because it seemed like you were talking about my own family.

My parents were driving across country. Everything we owned was in a U-Haul hooked up to the back bumper of our car. And my father was a waiter when I was growing up. We lived in upstate New York. We drove across country because my dad had a letter of introduction to get a job in a restaurant in southern California.

We stopped in Las Vegas for the night, and obviously we never left. And on a waiter's salary, my dad was a waiter at the old Sands Hotel which was very famous for the Rat Pack and just a very exciting time in Las Vegas' history. But on a waiter's salary, he was able to put a roof over our head, food on the table, clothes on our back, and two daughters through college and law school. That's not so bad on a waiter's salary. As a matter of fact, he's 84 years old now, still working, and very proud of his accomplishments.

That's what the tourism industry and that's what business travel means to
me. It uplifts families. It gives people jobs. They don't have to be lavish jobs. We're not talking about people that make millions of dollars. We're talking about people, middle-income families, that make enough money because they are part of the tourism industry, because they are part of the business travel industry, that they can support their families.

And then, I'm a first generation college-goer. No one in my family ever went to college until I did, and it changes lives. And making sure you've got that job, that good job security, you have a healthy economy, that's what we're talking about. And business travel is so much a part of this country and so much a part of our economy.

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Ms. BERKLEY. Well, you know, you and I have lived in Las Vegas for an awfully long time and have been very active in the community. I know that Las Vegas has this reputation and the people think of it as a gaming community, and indeed, we do have the best gaming on the planet. The most fabulous hotels, restaurants, you name it, we've got it, great entertainment, but there's much more to our community than that.

And I was just heartsick when Las Vegas was attacked so savagely over the last few weeks here in Congress and frightening businesses. They didn't want to come to us for fear there would be some kind of taint.

Now, you and I know you raise families in Las Vegas. There's Saturday soccer. We have per capita the most churches and synagogues and mosques of any other city in the United States. It's a wonderful place to raise a family, but we can't raise our families unless people come and spend their tourist and their business dollars in our town.

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Ms. BERKLEY. Well, I think that's a great idea, and you know, we are a southwest town with a bit of a kick, and we love our kick. I mean, it's just a wonderful community. You didn't grow up there. I grew up there. A great town, great facilities, great convention town, get a lot of business done, almost patriotic to do this.

When we heard from Congressman Grayson, he was talking about your health depends on coming to Las Vegas and Monterey and South Florida.

There are so many communities in this country that have really been hard hit because businesses aren't holding conferences. You can go to Miami, Atlanta, Atlantic City, New York, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Monterey. You name it.

We've got to get people traveling again and we've got to get our business community to come back and start conducting their business as they've become accustomed to. And, again, the caveat is we are not suggesting that these companies use taxpayer dollars in order to do their travel. But that is just a little itty bitty speck on business travel.

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