As Biden touts infrastructure investment, Nevada voters grapple with price tags

Since President Joe Biden took office, billions of dollars have been funneled into Nevada and other states through public infrastructure and clean energy investments.

But amid stubbornly high housing and gas prices, voters in Reno who spoke to NBC News are split on whether they notice a benefit.

“Everything is exceptionally expensive for no reason,” said Nicole Cooley, a food-truck-business owner and a Democrat, pointing to the cost of gas, meat and bread.

“It’s outrageous,” she said of gas prices. “It’s crazy. It hurts every time I put that pump in my tank.”

The average gas price in Nevada is $4.47, according to AAA. That’s down from the average cost of $4.91 a year ago, but it’s still higher than the current national average of $3.85.

In recent months, the Biden administration has blitzed across the country to tout the president’s economic agenda, dubbed “Bidenomics.” Last week, he touted the Inflation Reduction Act, a signature part of his economic agenda, on the first anniversary of the legislation’s signing.

“Bidenomics is anchored in what’s always worked best for the country: investing in America, investing in Americans,” Biden said at the anniversary event. “Because when we invest in ourselves, when we strengthen the middle class, we see stronger economic growth that benefits everybody.”

But the message isn’t always sinking in with voters. An August Quinnipiac poll showed that 58% of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy. Seventy-one percent of Americans in the poll described the economy as either not so good or poor.

Independent voter Bob Forse, a lifelong Reno resident who worked for the city for 20 years, said he’s satisfied with some of the president’s policies, though “it’d be nice to have a little relief from gas prices.”

Although he said he would like to see a third option outside of a potential rematch between Biden and former President Donald Trump in 2024, he thinks Biden is “doing a fair job,” pointing to his satisfaction with the stock market’s performance.

“I think the president has worked as hard as he can to overcome a lot of obstacles, and I think some of his policies have been very good for the country,” he said.

Housing prices have followed a similar trend to gas prices. The median listing price in Reno stood at $699,000 in July, according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data. That’s up from July 2022, when the median price was $640,000. Go back to pre-pandemic times, and the median price stood at $472,995 in July 2019.

Nevada home prices sit far higher than the national median price of about $416,100.

“A house that somebody could have afforded maybe two years ago is probably not in the cards based on interest rates now,” said Kara Harris, a Republican and a fourth-generation Reno resident.

Mortgage rates are at a 23-year high, and the Federal Reserve continued raising interest rates to 5.5% in July. Higher interest rates are typically used to reduce demand and lower inflation rates.

Harris said she’s not experiencing the gains from “Bidenomics.”

“I think there’s been a lot of hits, you know, with interest rates, with just how much things cost, inflation, and it definitely affects especially larger families,” said Harris, who has five children.

Nevada leaned blue in the 2020 and 2016 elections but will be crucial for Biden to hold onto in 2024. In 2020, Biden beat Trump there, garnering 50.1% of the vote over Trump’s 47.7%. In 2016, Hillary Clinton beat Trump in Nevada by the same margin, earning 47.9% of the vote to Trump’s 45.5%.

Biden is currently vacationing in the Lake Tahoe, Nevada, area.

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