Opposing new taxes hot topic in debate

Nevada's three Republican candidates for governor spent an hour Friday night arguing over who most opposes tax increases and illegal immigration and who can best cut the state's budget to handle the revenue shortfall.

Gov. Jim Gibbons, former judge Brian Sandoval and former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon debated each other over those and other issues in an event sponsored by Anger is Brewing, the organization that put together the Tea Party protest in Carson City last week. About 400 people attended, although almost half left after the governor portion and before the Senate debate.

All said they would oppose and veto any new taxes and fees, instead reducing Nevada's spending to match its available revenues. Gibbons said he has a record of fighting against tax increases and would continue to do so if re-elected.

Sandoval said that wasn't true, that Gibbons submitted a budget that included more than $200 million in tax hikes to the 2009 Legislature along with a $160 million loan and agreed to more increases during the February special session.

Gibbons responded by pointing to Sandoval's budget plan presented shortly after he announced his candidacy, saying, "You submitted a budget that didn't work, wasn't balanced. A $500 million proposal on his side would not cover the $880 million we had to take out of the budget. His idea was wrong."

Gibbons said the increases he agreed to support were supported by the industries paying for them.

Montandon disagreed that Nevada's tax system is broken.

"It has a proven history of generating more money than we need in times of prosperity," he said.

He said the problem is in flush times, government spending grows faster than the income.

Gibbons agreed with that, saying government services must be sharply reduced to match funding.

All three said they supported the new immigration law approved by Arizona.

Gibbons said racial profiling "should be for terrorism. If you look and act like a terrorist, yes, profile everybody who looks like a terrorist." But he said constitutional protections must be maintained.

Sandoval said he "absolutely would support the Arizona law."

"I do not support amnesty, do not support driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants."

Montandon, shaking his head, said simply, "I can't believe we hare having to sit here and debate and answer the question, 'Should illegal be illegal.'"

All three agreed Nevada should join the constitutional challenge to the federal health care bill. Montandon and Gibbons both said too much of what doctors do is driven by the fear of lawsuits. They called for tort reform to fix that problem. Sandoval said the bill is unconstitutional and that what needs to be done is "anything we can do to stay out of the way between the doctor and patient."

On Yucca Mountain, Gibbons said the nation "has been transporting nuclear materials around the country, storing them in Nevada for four decades now."

Describing himself as the only scientist on the dais - he has a degree in geology - Gibbons said, "I can assure you they can be stored safely."

 Sandoval said as attorney general he fought against the Yucca Mountain project and still opposes the dump.

"Continue to store it where it is at each of the sites," he said.

But he said he supports studying reprocessing the waste and studying renewable energy. He said Nevada has great geothermal, solar and wind resources which should be developed.

The gubernatorial debate was followed by a similar debate among six of the GOP candidates for U.S. Senate. Sue Lowden, John Chachas, Chad Christensen, Danny Tarkanian, Sharron Angle and Bill Parson. Of the 12 Republican candidates, they all have had at least 5 percent support in a recent poll.

To rebuild the country's economy, all six called for the federal government to get out of the way.

"The best thing government can do is get out of the way," said Chachas. "The more the government imposes itself on it, the worse this recession will be."

Lowden said she would add that taxes such as the corporate tax and estate tax should be cut or eliminated.

"Government shouldn't be involved in our economy here in Nevada," said Angle.

Tarkanian said the federal government should "get off our backs." And he said burdensome regulations should be eliminated. 

Christensen said a key is to get rid of Sen. Harry Reid.

Lowden told the crowd she doesn't think they'll have to raise $25 million to beat Reid, "But if he does raise $25 million and spend it, it'll be the greatest

stimulus he's brought to Nevada."

Much of the debate centered on the call by all candidates to reduce the size and scope of the federal government, returning many things the government now does to the control of the states.

"The problem is we do not follow the constitution," said Parson. "Nowhere in the Constitution does government have a role to control our economy, control our business. It's not a federal role."


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