Las Vegas drew a mention early on in Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, when the president alluded to the Oct. 1 tragedy as one of the challenges the nation faced during his first year in office.
But how might Las Vegas be affected by the policies and initiatives that Trump went on to discuss for the next 120 minutes? Here are a few takeaways.
Trump promoted what he called his “down the middle” immigration package, but that initiative has been blasted as a severe curtailment of legal immigration that includes a relatively minor concession to allow a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. Reduction of legal immigration, deportations of immigrants who have received Temporary Protected Status and similar moves could have a profound effect on Las Vegas, where recent immigrants make up a significant portion of the workforce. For example, it’s been estimated that losing the 4,8000 Salvadorans who are living in Nevada under TPS would create a $255.3 million reduction to the state GDP, according to the Center for American Progress.
“They want to build up their deportation force to drive millions out of the country,” the immigrant advocacy organization Make the Road Nevada said of Trump and immigration hardliners in a release after the address. “They want to build a big, wasteful and insulting border wall to extend the middle finger to Latin America. They want to slash legal immigration by nearly 50 percent, the largest such reduction in nearly 100 years. They want to eliminate most categories of legal immigration. They want to cut immigration from places that Trump describes with vulgarities. They want to gut our nation's asylum laws so they can send Central Americans who are seeking safety back to the violence they fled. They want to end America as we know it, but we will not let them. Our fight is barely starting.”
Trump called for a $1.5 trillion spending package, which could be significant for Las Vegas if it included funding for improvements like a light-rail system or to fast-track projects like Interstate 11 between the city and Phoenix.
“Connecting two of the country’s most dynamic economies will have significant positive benefits to the entire Intermountain West, including a potential $24 billion economic benefit that would generate approximately 240,000 jobs, as well as $39 billion in potential travel benefits,” said Mary Beth Sewald, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce.
But Trump offered few specifics. A key question is whether Congress has any appetite for a major spending initiative after approving a tax package last year that is projected to add $1 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years. However, the infrastructure plan actually would cost the federal government $200 million, NPR reported, as the costs of projects would be shared by state and local funds. Public-private partnerships would also help reduce the federal government’s outlay.
Trump didn’t go into any depth on this topic, but he clearly indicated he wasn’t planning to break from the GOP’s pro-NRA dogma on gun control.
“We are totally defending our Second Amendment,” he said. No surprises there. Don’t look for Trump to give any ground to advocates of bans on bump stocks, high-capacity magazines or assault weapons, all of which resurfaced in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting.
Again, no surprises. Trump boasted that his administration had “ended the war on American energy and we have ended the war on beautiful clean coal.” He made no mention of renewables, which isn’t good for a state that is looking toward the sector as a key to diversifying its economy.