A retired truck driver, Don Gustavson was born in Culver City, California, and moved to Nevada in 1967. He was first elected to the Nevada State Assembly in 1996, and is the incumbent Assemblyman for District 32 in the Reno/Sparks area.
Gustavson was one of the “Fearless 14” Republicans who banded together in opposition to the infamous 2003 tax hike, the largest in state history at the time. He remained consistent in the just-concluded 2009 session, voting against every and all efforts to increase taxes.
Gustavson is now seeking the Senate District 2 seat in Reno being vacated by term-limited Sen. Maurice Washington and was interviewed this week about that race by Nevada News & Views senior political reporter Nancy Dallas.
Dallas: What are the most pressing issues facing your district?
Gustavson: Foreclosures, unemployment, increased taxes, high utility bills, illegal immigration.
Dallas: You have served 5 terms in the State Legislature. What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments?
Gustavson: Stopping both the gross receipts tax in 2003 and the implementation of a Nevada style IRS; Winning the election in 2002 against Debbie Smith. If I had not won this tough election, we would not have had the tax fight in the 2003 Session and the Gross Receipts Tax would be law today;
I also had laws passed that would prevent counties and cities from suing a manufacturer or distributor of a firearm or ammunition; and, another one to help good Samaritans from being sued.
Dallas: Do you support the importation of water from one governmental jurisdiction to another within the state of Nevada to sustain the impacts of growth?
Gustavson: Generally, no.
Dallas: What long-term water sustainability efforts would you support for northern Nevada and the Las Vegas basin?
Gustavson: Undecided at this time.
Dallas: Nevada is one of five states without constitutional provisions, amendments or laws providing for home rule to municipalities or counties. A ‘summit’ was recently held by Nevada city and county officials to discuss ‘home rule’ – which, among other powers, could give local jurisdictions the power to tax without legislative approval and limit the ability of the Legislature to take local government tax revenue. What is your position in regards to ‘home rule’?
Gustavson: I am a very strong supporter of the 10th amendment and ALL of the amendments. I do support ‘home rule’. I do not believe that the state should be taking any local government’s tax revenue
Dallas: What is your position in regards to the State Legislature placing unfunded mandates on local governmental entities as a means of easing State budget woes?
Gustavson: I am against all unfunded mandates and most funded mandates.
Dallas: What is your position in regards to the findings of the SAGE Commission?
Gustavson: I agree with their findings and I believe that the SAGE Commission came up with many cost saving recommendations that when fully implemented would save the state millions of dollars a year.
Dallas: The 2009 legislature took no substantive action in regards to their recommendations. Would you support legislative re-funding of the SAGE Commission?
Dallas: What is your position in regards to the state spending $500,000 to fund an independent tax study of the State’s tax structure by an outside expert; and, appointment by the Interim Finance Committee (IFC) of a 15 member “Nevada Vision Stakeholders Group” to study how the state is preparing for its future in regards to funding for Commerce & Industry; Education; Health & Human Services; Public Safety; and, Infrastructure?
Gustavson: I do not believe that the state should be spending money not appropriated by the full Legislature. I would like to see a study on which unfunded and funded mandates from the federal government are not economically feasible. Such mandates from the federal government have been ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. The State of Nevada needs to enforce the 10th Amendment.
Dallas: Do you support the current IFC process, or similar concept?
Gustavson: No. It is unconstitutional.
Dallas: Without IFC, how should the State address interim financial issues?
Gustavson: If the state’s financial issues can not be completed during the regular session, then they should only be considered during a special session of the legislature so that all citizens have their voices and concerns represented. We should not be trying to spend more money or increase the size of government any more than population growth plus inflation.
Dallas: You support more accountability in the public school system. How would you propose this be administered and monitored?
Gustavson: The very first thing that must be done in our government schools to guarantee success of any student is to teach them to read in English, the language that all of their curriculum is printed in. English is the language of America and the international language of commerce. It is total absurdity to do otherwise. If they can not read, how can anyone give approval to pass them on to the next grade level? If you do, you are only guaranteeing failure and the student has no choice but to drop out of school. If foreign language students enter our school system at an age or grade level after reading is taught, they must be put into separate classrooms so that they do not hold back students that can read and write English.
Dallas: You support Charter Schools. To what degree should the state support Charter Schools and the students who attend them?
Gustavson: As long as the state believes that it is their responsibility to educate our children, then it is their responsibility to pay for their education regardless if they attend a charter school, private school or home school. The Legislature should allow the opening of more charter and empowerment schools and allow the parents to choose which school their children can attend. The only way our current educational system will ever improve is to open it up to competition.
Dallas: Do you support school vouchers?
Gustavson: Yes, I do believe in and support school vouchers.
Dallas: You intend to introduce a “Tax and Spending Control Bill” in the 2011 legislative session. Specify what this bill will propose.
Gustavson: This bill would propose to amend the Nevada Constitution by adding provisions preventing state and local tax increases and new multi-year indebtedness except when referred to voters by 2/3 of the Nevada Legislature or of the local governing board, and passed by a majority of voters casting ballots at a general election. It would limit spending increases by the state, and by cities and counties chartered by the state, to inflation plus percentage change in population; allowing increases of these limits by the amount of voter-approved tax increases.
Dallas: You are well known as a strong conservative advocate of lower taxes, smaller government, strong laws protecting victim’s rights, et al. In what could possibly once again be a Democrat dominated legislature, how do you propose to go about accomplishing your goals?
Gustavson: IF the Democrats control both houses of the Legislature, it would be very difficult for any Republican to get any common sense conservative legislation passed. If the control should stay with the Democrats, it will then be my goal to fight to stop any bad legislation proposed by the Democrats including new tax increases, etc.
Dallas: I believe that each session you have served in the Legislature you proposed a bill to eliminate the mandatory wearing of helmets while riding a motorcycle. Considering the deaths and horrific injuries suffered by motorcyclists not wearing helmets, what is your premise for doing so?
Gustavson: The truth of the matter is that states that do not have a helmet law, deaths do not necessarily increase, but in some states they have gone down. Any increase in deaths is not so much related to not wearing a helmet, but to the large increase in ridership. Many of the major injuries are to the body, not the head. The wearing of helmets cause spinal injuries and paralysis directly caused by the helmet itself. I have done extensive research and study on this issue. The main issue here is the freedom of choice and less interference by government into our personal lives.
Dallas: The Missouri Plan for electing judges will be presented to Nevada voters in 2010. What is your position on the election/appointment of judges?
Gustavson: I do not support the Missouri Plan. I support the election of judges.