Legislative candidates: No margin for this tax | RecordCourier.com

Legislative candidates: No margin for this tax

by Geoff Dornan

They might be running against each other in the primary but candidates for state Senate and Assembly all voice opposition to the passage of the margins tax.

The candidates for the seats representing Carson City faced off Wednesday night in a chamber sponsored forum.

Jed Block and P.K. O’Neill are running to replace retiring Pete Livermore in Assembly District 40.

Incumbent Ben Kieckhefer and Gary Schmidt are opponents in the state Senate District 16 seat representing Carson City and south Washoe County.

All four faced the same questions in a joint forum at the Brewery Arts Center Performance Hall.

Schmidt started off accusing Kieckhefer of being “supported by the Republicans for Harry Reid group.”

“I’m the authentic conservative,” he said charging that Kieckhefer backed tax increases on Nevadans.

But Kieckhefer said he worked with fellow Republicans in the Senate to block implementation of the margins tax and the so-called “family fun tax” which would have imposed the live entertainment tax.

All four candidates agreed the margins tax must be defeated. Block said it’s a new version of the gross receipts tax he worked to help defeat in the 2003 Legislature.

“The margins tax must be killed,” said O’Neill. But he said if that tax does pass, he would look at what other taxes could be reduced to lighten the load on Nevada businesses.

All four also urged the state and Nevada System of Higher Education to protect and strengthen community colleges, describing them as the backbone of vocational and technical training needed by business and industry in Nevada.

Western Nevada College funding was cut by the last legislative session as lawmakers pushed to move more funding south.

Kieckhefer said merging or eliminating community colleges is a bad idea and they need to be kept within the higher education system where they play “a pivotal role in economic development,” as well as providing a smooth transition to the four-year universities. He was joined by O’Neill and Block who said community colleges provide vital services and need to be protected and properly funded.

Block said Great Basin and Western Nevada College need to become four-year schools.

Schmidt said he would advocate any professor making more than $100,000 should have the amount above that limit cut by 20 percent and use the money to expand trade schools and make Nevada more business friendly.

“We need fewer highly paid professors,” Schmidt said.

He said the problem isn’t a lack of educational opportunity in Nevada: “It’s a lack of work ethic.”

Schmidt said the state should force anyone on unemployment to attend community college and get the skills to earn a living.

All four candidates said there are savings by cutting government spending. Kieckhefer said one change that could cut government spending would be to remove the prevailing wage requirement which forces government contracts to pay far more than the going rate for labor.

All four candidates also backed the idea of turning the old Nevada State Prison into a tourist attraction but Schmidt said to be a success, it would have to feature restaurants, shops and other attractions.

The primary winner between Block and O’Neill will face Democrat Dave Cook, a member of the state Board of Education, in the November general election.

The winner in the Senate 16 race will face Democrat Michael Kelley and Independent American John Everhart in November.