Candidates for state Legislative District 40
Bonnie Parnell says the financial crisis will be the focus of the 2009 Legislature but that now is not the time to raise taxes on Nevadans or their businesses.
“We’re facing a financial crisis and when that happens, everybody needs to look at what they’re doing,” she said.
She said that means lawmakers and agencies need to “think outside the box.”
And Parnell expressed confidence that lawmakers can balance the budget for the coming two years without higher taxes.
“We have to ask people where they think cuts can be made. A lot of these state agencies are stepping up to the plate,” she said. “They’re finding new ways of doing things and there are some exciting things happening in state agencies.”
She said there are a couple of ways the state can increase revenues without raising taxes. First, she said, the state needs to “make sure we’re collecting all the taxes due the state.” Taxation Director Dino Dicianno has estimated the state is owed at least $70 million in unpaid taxes and fees.
Second, she said Nevada needs to remove the constitutional ban on a state lottery.
“This is a way to create new revenue to the state without taxing,” she said.
Revenue from a lottery, she said, could be used to “build up the Rainy Day Fund.”
Parnell said during this economic crisis, neither residents nor small businesses can afford to pay more to government.
She said that means lawmakers, agencies, businesses and others need to work together on solutions. She cited the Wynn Group working with the teachers’ union on funding solutions for education, and the agreement between the Mining Association and UNR to help maintain funding for the Mackay School of Mines as good examples.
But she added that lawmakers also have to think of the future in their deliberations.
“One of the challenges for the ’09 session is to not only create short term solutions,” she said. “We will not be doing our job if we don’t create long-term solutions for the state.”
A former Carson middle school teacher and current chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, Parnell said she wants to expand on the program she created for high schools last session. That legislation focused counseling and other services on 9th graders to keep them from getting into early trouble as they move into high school.
She said that legislation accomplished a lot without costing more.
“There are a lot of things we can do that don’t cost money,” she said.
She said she is most proud of how she represents her constituents in District 40. She said her door is always open for Republicans, Democrats, all residents of the capital.
As a retiree, she said she spends most of her time being their Assemblyman.
“All legislators should really be doing that during their entire two-year term, not just during session,” she said.
Cheryl Lau said her core reason for seeking the Assembly District 40 seat is her passion to improve Nevada’s public schools.
“But when you just throw money at education, that’s certainly not a prescription for success,” said Lau, who said she was a teacher 12 years.
She said teachers tell her sometimes they feel as if their hands are tied ” and that needs to be fixed.
“We have to look at what is taught and how it is taught,” she said.
Lau is the Republican challenger for the seat now held by Democrat Bonnie Parnell.
She said the prime issue facing lawmakers in February will be Nevada’s budget shortfall but added she has experience with that situation. Nevada was in a similar crisis when she took office as Secretary of State in 1991.
“Learning how to do more with less was an experience that really helped me,” she said. Lau said tax increases aren’t the answer.
“I’m finding especially in this economic downturn that business expenses are going up, profits are going down, yet taxes are staying in.”
She called for the state to create incentives for new and existing small businesses to help them prosper.
But she said state spending must be reined in. Tough times, she said, “make you very creative” and she said agencies need to think outside the box.
Lawmakers, she said, will need to re-examine what the state does and what it shouldn’t be doing.
“When we look at the budget, we find a lot of programs that are not really necessary, that were put in place when we were rolling in money,” she said.
Asked for specifics, she said priorities on what to cut and what to eliminate should be determined in legislative hearings with all parties at the table.
“We need to make sure our money is wisely spent and I’m confident we’ll be able to balance the budget without raising taxes.
Pointing out that she and husband, former NDOT Director Garth Dull, are semi-retired, Lau said she can understand the problems of people living on fixed incomes.
“It’s important government realize the situation our citizens are in and let them keep more of their money,” she said.
She said one key to Nevada’s future economic health is developing renewable energy sources.
“We’re geothermal rich,” she said. “And there’s wind and solar. Besides, I don’t think we should be buying all this energy from countries that don’t like us.”
John Wagner said he was so fed up with the Republican Party he switched to Independent American. And he’s running against Republican Cheryl Lau and Incumbent Democrat Bonnie Parnell in Assembly District 40 saying it’s time for a serious change.
“What I would like to do is change the way the state does business,” he said. “I would like to see the state run kind of like a business ” zero based budgeting for every department.”
Wagner, who moved to Carson City from California after retiring, has been an advocate of putting a California-style Proposition 13 property tax cutting law in Nevada’s constitution. He was employed by Sony Corp.
He said the budget is obviously the big issue for the coming Legislature.
“We’re going to have to tighten our belt whether we like it or not,” he said. “To raise taxes now on individuals who are already hurting will hurt even more and to raise taxes on businesses may cause businesses to leave or close their doors.”
He said he supports the idea of eliminating some programs in state government but doesn’t favor a flat, across the board reduction. He said exactly what should be reduced or eliminated will have to be determined in committee hearings.
His second big issue, he said, is immigration. He called for an approach he said has been successful in Arizona: Cutting off as many benefits as possible for illegals and going after businesses that employ them. But he quickly said he doesn’t support attempts to deny, for example, emergency medical treatment to children of illegal immigrants.
“Without services and without jobs,” he said, “they’ll go home.”
He said Lau is incorrect when she claims to be the only one in the race who has signed the no new taxes pledge.
“I signed it well before she did,” he said.
He also expressed concern about the state’s unfunded liability in the public employees retirement system.
“How to fix it, I don’t know,” he said.
Wagner was one of Ron Paul’s supporters until the abortive Nevada Republican Convention shut down to prevent them from taking over and packing the national convention delegation. He said afterward he was so disgusted with the party he was switching his registration to IAP. He said a number of other Paul supporters did the same.