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Public Statements


Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. HELLER. Madam President, I come to the floor today to highlight an issue I fight for every day; that is, jobs in Nevada. In Nevada, having a strong tourism industry means more jobs in the State. Las Vegas, Henderson, Lake Tahoe, and Reno have long been favorite destinations for millions of visitors both domestically and, more increasingly, internationally. The entire southern Nevada economy is heavily dependent on the hotel, gaming, and convention industry, which employs over one-quarter of the region's labor force. Plain and simple, tourism is the lifeblood for business and job creation in Nevada.

Like many taxpayers, I was shocked and disappointed to read the GSA inspector general's report that found inappropriate spending at the 2010 Western Regions Conference that was held in Nevada. This conference was excessive, wasteful, and it completely ignored Federal procurement laws and internal GSA policy on conference spending.

I believe it is appropriate for Congress to exercise its oversight authority on GSA to look into the agency's practices and provide corrective oversight to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely by this administration. However, I want to be clear: This is not an issue about location, this is the result of poor decisionmaking and leadership by the GSA. Las Vegas is one of the greatest locations in the world for a conference, a meeting, or a vacation. With over 148,000 hotel rooms and 10.5 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space citywide, it is ideally suited to host companies and organizations both large and small. In fact, this past January Las Vegas hosted the Consumer Electronics Show, which had more people attend than the Iowa caucuses. I fully agree that it was inappropriate for the GSA to waste taxpayer dollars, but it is not inappropriate to come to Las Vegas for conventions and meetings.

The actions of GSA should not reflect negatively on Las Vegas, and I am asking all of my colleagues to be mindful of that as they conduct their investigations. The viability of the economy in Nevada is dependent upon the volume of visitors to our State. Last year nearly 39 million visitors came to Las Vegas alone. These visitors came because Las Vegas continues its reign as the No. 1 trade show and convention destination in North America. Las Vegas hosts thousands of meetings and conventions annually and generates billions in revenue.

It is no secret that Washington politicians and this administration have had a negative impact on the Las Vegas economy due to their comments issued publicly. For example, in 2009 attendance at conventions and meetings in Las Vegas fell by 13.6 percent. The following year attendance fell by another 7.2 percent. In total from 2009 to 2010, Las Vegas lost 1.4 million convention attendees. While I recognize that it is unfair to blame total decline on a few ill-advised lines in a speech, there is no doubt that spoken words by politicians clearly have an impact on the Las Vegas economy. Las Vegas and the great State of Nevada should not be political targets because of GSA's misconduct. Las Vegas is an excellent destination for conferences, and I am proud of my State's ability to entertain and accommodate businesses, organizations, and individuals from all over the world.

Again, while several congressional committees investigate this issue, I would respectfully advise my colleagues that it is not the location that can be blamed for the misuse of taxpayer funds. The convention services my State offers are the best in the world. And no town in Nevada should be singled out due to poor judgment by the GSA. It is my hope that all of my colleagues will focus on the misconduct of the GSA and push for a new initiative that spurs growth in the tourist industry instead of blaming Nevada for the mistakes of incompetent government bureaucrats.

I yield the floor.


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