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Reno's New Debate Society Tackles Meaty Issues

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Julia Ritchey
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Are tax incentives that lure companies to Nevada good for Nevadans? That was the question posed at the inaugural event of the newly formed Debate Society of Reno — a citizen-led group encouraging a return to civic debate on important state and regional issues. 

Arguing for tax abatements was Republican Assembleyman Pat Hickey and Steve Hill from the Governor's Office of Economic Development, who helped craft deals that have brought companies like Tesla and Faraday Future to the state.

"And one of the most important tools in order to allow us to move forward have been tax abatements," said Hill. "What was the result of that effort? The recession is in the rear view mirror. Unemployment has dropped from nearly 14 percent in 2010, to five and a half percent now. This region leads the nation in wage growth."

On the other side, arguing against tax incentives, were entrepreneur Dusty Wunderlich and state comptroller Jeffrey Lawrence.

"Instead of awarding a huge package to a single company, who we happen to like for whatever reason, what if we said, every entrepreneurial startup in Nevada is tax-free for the next five years?" said Lawrence. "And then all of a sudden we have some of the best entrepreneurs from across the world moving into Nevada and really making it a dynamic economy."

Lawrence and Wunderlich's rebuttals were persuasive. The crowd of about 70 voted them the winner. Organizers say they plan to hold these events quarterly and will next be debating legalization of recreational marijuana.

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