Murren calls out selfish ‘just say no’ set By Steve Sebelius, Las Vegas Review-Journal February 13, 2015 at 10:18 am Las Vegas is back from the near-dead. Now what are we going to do? That’s the question posed by MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren as he surveys post-recession Nevada in the early days of the 2015 Legislature. Murren says the state ought to use its new lease on life to make real progress instead of simply re-creating the life it had before 2007. “We had a near-death experience [but] we’ve been given a pretty good screen, good health check. What are we going to do with this time?” Murren asked. “If we revert back to the pre-recession days of marginally funding projects, hoping that the next guy will take care of it, we’ve failed ourselves.” For the record, Murren is as optimistic about the future as he’s pessimistic about where Nevada is today. “[Gov.] Brian [Sandoval] has taken a very, I think, bold and admirable step here. [He] doesn’t have to do it it, he could punt the ball. But he is [doing something],” Murren said. “It has to be done. I’ve lived here 17 years, I’ve raised my kids here. We cannot ignore this issue. It’s a failure.” Murren heads up Nevada’s largest private employer (more than 55,000 workers) and the state’s largest taxpayer. He was speaking at a Thursday news conference put on by the American Gaming Association to announce a nationwide bid to increase the profile of the industry among would-be elected officials and provide information about the contributions casinos make to the states where they’re located. Here at home, MGM has never been shy about getting involved in politics. In 2003, then-Chairman Terry Lanni boldly upbraided some in the business community for opposing then-Gov. Kenny Guinn’s gross receipts tax proposal. (It was ultimately defeated at the Legislature.) Last year, Murren was vocal in his opposition to the Education Initiative, a proposed 2 percent margins tax that was defeated by voters 79 percent to 21 percent. But he made it clear during that debate that the state does need more money for its school system, and he hasn’t changed his mind about that. Murren was in the audience in January when Sandoval outlined his plan to increase education funding with a new progressive business license fee that will range from $400 to more than $4 million, depending on a company’s gross receipts. Although Murren says he’s still studying the details of Sandoval’s proposed tax and hasn’t decided whether to support it or not, he allowed that he likes where the money will go. “I loved what I heard that night,” he said. “I think there was a good balance of reform with revenue, targeting some really important initiatives.” And Murren has no patience for what he calls the “just say no” crowd. “This [Sandoval’s plan] is more broad-based, the larger employers will pay more, but [it] does bring in other employers that pay little or nothing. It will be hard for them to say that they can’t go for that. I’d love to hear their counterpoint that ‘I can’t pay a few thousand dollars on a license fee to help education.’ That’s a pretty selfish view that will be hard to defend.” Added Murren: “He’s [Sandoval] got some good, bipartisan support. But there are the ‘just say no’ people in this state that need to be held accountable and called out on why it is they think this is not good for the state,” Murren said. (And one suspects that “because I don’t want to pay” isn’t an answer that’s going to fly with Murren and his like-minded colleagues.) “I know one thing for sure: MGM is going to pay more of this incremental tax than anybody, and I’m OK with that, because leaders have to lead. The ‘just say no’ is selfish and it’s hurting the people that are the most vulnerable in our state and I just can’t live with that,” Murren said. Spoken like somebody who’s town has cheated death and wants to make the most of its second chance. Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.