Nevada Controller candidate questions

Catherine Byrne

Catherine Byrne

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Party: Democrat

Occupation: Accountant/CPA

Age: 54


Record of service & education: Catherine has worked her entire career in accounting, tax and auditing for a variety of public and private companies, not-for-profit and government entities. She is an expert in governmental accounting and financial reporting. She is experienced in major accounting systems implementation, collection of debts owed to governments, cash reconciliations of large bank accounts. She is subject matter expert (SME) to establish cash control policies and procedures for government entities. She also has worked as a grant accountant and prepared many Schedules of Expenditures of Federal Awards.

From 2002 to 2006, while working as an independent CPA she provided liaison services with new federal defense contractors and the Defense Contract Audit Agency. From 2006 to 2010, Catherine worked at California State University, Bakersfield in the division of Business and Administrative Services which she was the Administrator II of Student Financial Services. In 2012, she started working for the State of Nevada. Currently, she is a CAFR I Accountant in the Office of the State Controller.

In 1997, at the age of 33, she graduated from California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, California, earning a Bachelor of Science in Accounting.

A brief statement about your platform: I believe Nevada deserves an experienced, qualified, licensed accountant for the chief financial officer. I value my integrity and professional work standards. I believe the State Controller must be independent of the Governor and Legislature. An independent controller will be guided by professional standards and not influenced by other branches of the government about Nevada’s revenues and expenditures. We must report the numbers as the numbers. I respect the decisions of our legislature, governor and other branches of government. I will work towards legislation to gain collective bargaining rights for state workers. State employees here in Nevada are paid less, have fewer benefits and poorer working conditions than their counterparts in school districts and local governments in Nevada. To improve this, State workers must have a seat at the table, a collective voice to improve their lives and the lives of their dependents.

When elected, I will work to transfer the authority of our Division of Internal Audit from the Governor’s office of Finance to the Office of the State Controller. We can gain greater efficiencies by combining the State’s top accountants. By removing any influence, the division of internal audit will be able to produce results without potential backlash.

What is one issue affecting the lives of Northern Nevadans that you would work to fix?

One issue affecting all Nevadan’s is our lack of trust in our government. This is an issue I can improve. When I am elected, I will increase the communication between government and the public by publishing brief, plain language reports of Nevada’s financial information. I believe speaking clearly to the public is important because in general, citizens don’t trust the information that comes out of government. I will publish relevant reports for citizens that speak to the lives of working families in Nevada. I will communicate with businesses across Nevada about taxes collected and the money spent on programs and services. In Nevada, our state government can improve the communication between the agencies and the executive branches of government. By improving the communication with the public, we will achieve greater transparency and trust in our government.

Ron Knecht

Party: Republican

Occupation: Nevada Controller; economist, financial, policy and technical analyst

Age: 69

Contact:; phone 775-882-2935 (home); 775-684-5777 (office)

Record of service: 1) Controller, 2015-present; member of Transportation, Finance and Audit boards. 2) NSHE Regent 01/01/07 – 01/05/15; Chaired Budget & Finance and Audit committees two years each; seven years active on Investment and Major Projects committee; served on five other standing committees and various presidential search and performance review committees, chairing two. 3) Nevada Assembly, District 40 (Carson and Washoe Cities), 2002-04; served on Transportation, Commerce and Labor and Government Affairs committees. 4) Chaired Carson City Water & Sewer Utilities Advisory Board, 2002-03. 5) Founder, executive or director for 12 firms, charities, community-service and public-interest groups, 1974-2015 (IL, CA & NV). 6) 48 years in managerial, executive, senior professional and expert witness positions in public service and entrepreneurial small business (IL, CA & NV, 1971-2018). 7) Taught “Managing Your Life and Family Finances for FISH, 2005-09. 8) Regular speaker, panelist, moderator at institutional investor conferences around U.S., 2014-present. 9) Chairman, Carson City Republican Central Committee, 2005-06. 10) Columnist, various print and on-line Nevada publications, 2004-present. (Other stuff in CA & IL before coming to NV.)

Education: BA, Liberal Arts & Sciences (math major, physics/chemistry minor), University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), 1971 (also additional undergraduate and graduate work in engineering, including completion of masters project on power generating economics). MS, Engineering Economic Systems, Stanford University, 1989 (included studies in taxation and public finance). JD (law degree), University of San Francisco, 1995. Taught college economics and telecommunication regulation and technology, 1992 and 2003-06 (Golden Gate University and Western Nevada Community College). Co-taught about ten two-day seminars for regulatory, utility and finance professionals and policy-makers from U.S. and Canada, 2009-13. Registered Professional Mechanical Engineer (in CA) since 1986. Also, attended NSF summer math program, St. Louis University, 1966.

A brief statement about your platform: I’m running on my record and qualifications. Leading 41-person office, we’ve compiled a strong record on nuts-and-bolts ministerial and back-office functions, including accounting; no turmoil, troubles or drama, just quiet and effective service. We cut spending by 13 percent and returned over $1 million to state treasury, while improving service. We’re working with all state agencies to modernize business processes and develop IT system “SMART21” to integrate and handle functions such as accounting, finance, payroll, personnel and budget for all agencies. Worked hard with many folks to rescue troubled large project we inherited; it’s now producing $1.3 million new annual debt collections for state. Also assuring your personal information in state IT systems is protected.

I’ve done unprecedented things on Controller’s statutory charge for transparency, accountability and improving/reforming government performance. Published Nevada’s first Controller’s Annual Report, which won awards. CARs tell you many important facts establishment politicians won’t. Led a group in producing 2015 alternative budget to fund everything reasonably but not raise taxes. I’ve been leading efforts to repeal the Commerce Tax, which is similar to tax voters rejected 79-21 in 2014. Also been working to reform Public Employee Retirement System practices before its continued underfunding damages taxpayers, employees and retirees.

What is one issue affecting the lives of Northern Nevadans that you would work to fix?

Three particular things are very important: Completing the SMART21 project; making PERS open, transparent and accountable and having it use reasonable assumptions to protect taxpayers, state employees and retirees; and repealing the Commerce Tax. More generally, we need extensive reforms to restore hope, growth and opportunity and leave our children the kind of legacy previous generations left us.

Via the CAR and other publishing and speaking, I’ve been presenting key facts on state finances and policy we must know to restore the legacy. First, state spending has grown much faster than Nevada’s economy, thus imposing an ever larger burden on families and businesses, whose real incomes have fallen significantly. Spending growth has been driven by greatly increased outlays for health and human services and K-12 education, which together total 63 percent of state spending; other spending declined in real terms. Non-tax revenues grew fast, but won’t in the future; so, tax increases are coming unless we rein in spending. State employee pay is at market levels, but retirement and benefits are much higher; without reforming them, Nevada finances will spiral downward.

Nevada must also revitalize its economy and promote genuine entrepreneurship for sustained growth and economic development. Occupational and professional licensing laws are more onerous here than in other states, and that places artificial barriers before enterprising individuals, limiting their earning potential and diminishing the contributions they can make to Nevada.

We must abandon crony capitalism and embrace entrepreneurship. The promise for Nevada’s future is found in the dreams, talents and creativity of its people, not in political deals with cronies regarding tax dollars, abatements and regulatory favors.

Economists now know that economic growth, and thus aggregate human wellbeing levels are determined more by the economic, political and social institutions, practices and policies of a society than by geography, infrastructure and resources. The following are important for growth and fairness: the rule of law; constitutionally limited government; separation of powers between national, state and local units; separation of functional powers at each level of government; individual sovereignty and personal liberty; individual rights, not group rights; strong property rights; and high levels of economic freedom.

Economic growth is being retarded by excess government spending and regulation at all levels and by three other long-term trends (demographics and declining labor force participation; excess debt; international economic problems). As discussed in the economic outlook section of the CAR, growth in public spending is a prime reason economic growth in our nation and state has slowed and will continue to be anemic. Claims that budgets have been cut are misleading when actual spending and taxpayer/feepayer burden have increased as they have. Public-sector excess is a drag on the economy and it diminishes human wellbeing and fairness in our society. It, not some alleged failure to adequately fund HHS and K-12, is the main threat to our prosperity and children’s welfare. So, for a long time to come, Nevada spending must grow slower than our economy. And we must rein in excess regulation and cronyism.


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