Where they stand, what they think
Incumbent Ron Knecht missed no chances during Thursday’s League of Women Voters candidate forum to raise the 2003 Legislative tax battle and the “contract with Nevada” Assembly Republicans say would prevent future tax hikes.
But Democrat Bonnie Parnell, painting herself as the veteran in the District 40 race with two terms to Knecht’s one, stressed her ability to work with other lawmakers rather than make war and her record of service to all constituents in the Capital.
Knecht won the office two years ago after Parnell retired from it.
Knecht began the debate by saying the district elected him in 2002 “to protect their pocketbooks, improve education and support their families.” He said the efforts by himself and the other Assembly Republicans who voted against the tax plan “were able to stop the tax and spenders.” He said this next session, they will support major bills that he has written restoring tax fairness, allowing no tax increases, providing comprehensive education improvement and limiting the growth of government as well as restraining the cost of health care insurance and housing.
“I’m the chief sponsor of five measures that cover pretty much all seven points in the Republican contract,” he said. He said most important is the cap on growth in government spending designed to “restrain ourselves from the irrational exuberance we got into last time.”
Parnell refused to debate the “Contract with Nevada,” but said she believes in balancing fiscal responsibility with the need to fund state programs that serve people. She said she would represent all her constituents on the important issues including health care, education and protecting Nevada’s seniors – “Republicans and Democrats, old and young.”
“We have to try to get a handle on the outrageous cost of health care,” she said. And she said part of the answer is reinstating the screening panel which formerly reviewed and eliminated frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits.
Knecht was joined by District 38 incumbent Tom Grady, also a member of the Republican tax opponents, who also made numerous references to the Republican “Contract with Nevada.” He too raised the battle over the tax package in 2003 saying the $833 million two year tax increase should not have been tied to the education budget.
Both Parnell and Grady’s Democratic opponent Cathylee James agreed on that point.
But James said, “once the vote was taken, I’m a firm believer whatever you’re given you work with.” She said her answer is to keep talking and work something out, “not to say I just draw the line here and I won’t go any farther.”
Knecht was alone in the group on suggesting it’s time to negotiate on Yucca Mountain rather than put more state money into the fight. “We need 319 votes and we have five,” he said. “We need to talk about alternatives to throwing good money after bad and negotiate.”
While Knecht and Grady both said they support the Keep Our Doctors in Nevada initiative, Parnell and James argued initiatives are a bad way to legislate issues. Parnell said she opposes both the initiative by doctors and the opposing ones by trial lawyers that would restructure malpractice lawsuits. She and James said lawmakers should handle the issues instead and work out a compromise that meets everyone’s needs.
The two sides split on school vouchers as well with Parnell, a former teacher, and James opposing them. Grady said he doesn’t know the issue well enough yet but Knecht said “absolutely yes I’m for vouchers. He described the public school system as “an unmerited monopoly.”
“We not only need vouchers, we need parental choice in terms of what school your child attends and what teacher. If you’re going to pay the bill, you should have absolute choice.”