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Panel Examining Recession's Causes Meets In Vegas

OSKAR GARCIA

LAS VEGAS (AP) â¿¿ From mortgage problems to education and budget issues, Nevada leaders on Wednesday delivered a sobering assessment of the state's future as a result of the Great Recession during seven hours of testimony before a federal panel investigating the country's financial meltdown.

And while the bipartisan Federal Crisis Inquiry Commission isn't expected to deliver its formal report to Congress and President Barack Obama until Dec. 15, commissioners told state leaders they need to be bold in fixing widespread problems.

"It is a very bleak picture that you paint," said Commissioner John Thompson, board chairman of Symantec Corp. "While it's hard to say that you'd ever want to invoke an income tax or invoke things that have been heretofore considered taboo, arguably in a time of crisis that's when you have the best opportunity to capture the hearts and minds of the citizens."

Nevada, which leads the nation in unemployment, foreclosure and bankruptcy rates, had unrealistic growth expectations before the nation's financial meltdown battered its tourism industry and erased billions of dollars in real estate equity, an economist told representatives of the 10-member commission.

"The state was overbuilt and some 100,000 jobs were predicated on a level of growth and consumer spending that seemed to evaporate almost overnight," testified Jeremy Aguero of the Nevada research firm Applied Analysis.

The commission questioned bank executives, analysts and public officials during the daylong hearing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Vice Chairman Bill Thomas, a Republican former congressman from California, said the commission created by Congress was seeking testimony to deliver to Wall Street bankers and others "who have no real on-the-ground knowledge of the suffering that goes on in a number of areas."

"Laying the record is very important," Thomas said.

Commissioners Heather Murren and Byron Georgiou, who led Wednesday's hearing because they live in Las Vegas, said the panel is still debating causes for several aspects of the meltdown and is using testimony from Sin City, Bakersfield, Calif., Sacramento, Calif., and Miami to connect the causes with their effects.

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