(Nancy Dallas) – Jim Gibbons has earned degrees in geology and law. He was elected to three terms in the Nevada State Assembly, five terms in the U.S. Congress and is completing his first term as Governor of Nevada. He achieved the rank of Colonel in the Air National Guard, and was a decorated fighter pilot in both the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars.
• You have been under considerable, primarily negative scrutiny during your first term as Governor, both politically and personally. The Nevada Republican ‘political establishment’ is apparently supporting one of your opponents, Brian Sandoval. Your poll ratings have been notoriously low. Taking all of this into consideration, do you think you have a realistic chance of winning re-election? Elaborate.
I have long been a supporter of limited government, and have promoted the philosophy that “The People of Nevada need a government that works FOR them, not AGAINST them.” I am proud of my record of standing up for Nevadans and against the political establishment. Over the past year I stood up for Nevadans to infuse stimulus funds and new jobs quickly into our communities, hold the line on state government spending, bring new industries and employers to Nevada, and fight against federal encroachments on states through new expansions of federal power such as the health care reform bill.
I believe the voters of Nevada recognize and appreciate these efforts, and will show up on primary election-day. That is where their votes and opinions count and will make a difference. Now more than ever, I am proud of my record of standing up for Nevadans and not being a puppet of the political establishment. Every Nevadan is feeling the impact of our current recession. More and more people are realizing the need for limiting the size of government and controlling taxes.
Over the last few months, my polling numbers have risen to the point that poll results show a virtual dead heat. Yes, I have a realistic opportunity to win this election.
• What personal attributes do you feel best qualify you for the position of Governor?
Given the breadth of my positions in elected office, I offer an array of experiences at the local, national and state levels. Clearly in my first term I learned a lot; this job was unlike any job I have ever held.
Nevada continues to be in the midst of the worst economic crisis in our history. Heading into the 2011 session of the Nevada Legislature, we are facing a hole in our state budget funding that exceeds $2 billion dollars. The state will also have to begin repaying $1.5 billion in federal funds borrowed to pay unemployment benefits, as well as paying more than $150 million in interest on these funds in 2011 alone.
The 2011 session will be the most brutal in Nevada history, and Nevadans need a Governor with experience dealing with Nevada state government, our federal government, our current state budget, and our revenue situation. Nevadans can’t wait for a new governor to get up to speed on the issues. The Governor will need to be ready to hit the ground running in 2011.
• You appear to have a well-organized campaign team in place. What is your basic ‘game plan’ to reach out to the voters in the state? What do you estimate the Governor’s race will cost? Are you investing your own money in the campaign? To what degree?
My campaign team is working at grassroots level to deliver my message to the people of Nevada – those affected by our economy, declining revenues, high unemployment, and education system. We are working via personal contacts, rallies, group meetings, and internet and e-mail based technologies to make contact with Nevadans and exchange ideas and opinions about the direction in which Nevada needs to go.
This is an election, not an auction. I don’t believe you can or should put a price on an election. Voters should become informed and involved on the positions of each candidate and choose the most qualified candidate, not the candidate who has the most TV ads or direct mail pieces.
• I don’t think most believe (or want to believe) a political race should become a ‘bidding war’, but reality has shown such events are becoming increasingly expensive. What would you estimate the race Governor will minimally cost? Are you willing to invest your own money in this effort? To what degree?
Given the recent marital events, most of my assets are being restricted to the distribution of the divorce. I believe that within the primary competition, I have the money and support I need to win. The general election will be one that has two very clear choices. If the philosophy does not win it, money will be of little consequence.
• You have two announced Republican opponents in the race for governor. Why should the voters of Nevada select you over them?
Though I admire and respect my primary opponents, neither has the experience necessary to run Nevada, especially in the difficult times we are facing. Mike Montandon has no statewide government experience, and Brian Sandoval barely has more than that.
Sandoval only completed a full term in office once, his first serving the legislature. He quit his second term in the legislature to join the Nevada Gaming Commission. He quit the Gaming Commission to run for Attorney General. He didn’t have time to hang family photos in the AG’s office prior to accepting an appointment as federal judge. Now he has resigned his judgeship and expects the people of Nevada will believe he won’t quit on them – again.
• The large, disproportionate concentration of population in Clark County creates unique concerns and issues for the state. What do you perceive as some of the unique differences in issues between northern and southern Nevada? How have you addressed them?
There are many policy issues where not only the geographical size of Nevada differentiates the needs of each region, but where the disproportionate population distribution makes a vast difference. As Governor, my responsibility is to balance the needs of all Nevadans and all regions of the state, and I believe I have done that.
• What specifically do you perceive as some of the unique issues and concerns that you have addressed. Elaborate.
My education plan is set up so that the parents and the teachers within each district can address individual issues for each school and each district. For example, the more urban areas probably do need more emphasis on class size reduction and mandatory kindergarten. The more rural areas do not necessarily, as a whole, need those issues addressed and would be better off addressing the concerns in other areas.
Transmission lines, with studies by the RETAAC groups, addressed transmission issues by analyzing each area with there own unique geography and economic issues.
Garbage recycling has been studied by our office with an emphasis on how each county has regulated and/or charged fees for garbage service. A pilot project is being started in Carson City and the rest of Nevada is being studied due to the variance of urban versus rural.
• Your budget proposals have faced considerable criticism. Are you pleased with the outcome of the recent Special Session? Please elaborate on what you are satisfied/dissatisfied with.
Progress toward streamlining state government and limiting expenditures was made through the special session. However, I believe more needs to be done.
I was satisfied with the recognition that the state must reduce spending. I was dissatisfied that, over and over again, legislators expressed their demand that Nevada’s citizens must pay more taxes. Our neighbors to the west have taken the same stance; they are now tens of billions of dollars in debt.
I am dissatisfied that some members of the legislature still believe we can tax our way to prosperity. With continuing declining revenues, Nevadans and our legislature need to understand the state government of our future will not look the same as today. State government cannot be all things to all people. Programs funded when our economy was booming will have to be downsized or eliminated.
We must commit to a fundamental evaluation of what problems require government intervention and what problems we must fix ourselves. We must accept that limiting government means expanding personal responsibility. I am asking our citizens to accept less from government and to take more personal responsibility. Government must make sacrifices, just like our families and businesses.
• As Governor, you have dealt with a Democrat dominated legislature. A similar imbalance could very possibly exist in 2011. To this point in the campaign, you have come forward with a rather strong conservative agenda. Clearly you will continue to have trouble advancing your agenda without getting more conservative Republicans elected to the Legislature. What specifically, if anything, do you plan to do this election cycle to assist GOP candidates running to fill seats currently held by Democrats in the state Senate and Assembly?
Coordination with Republican Party officials is a key component of getting Republicans elected at all levels of government. Sadly, the turnover at Nevada’s Republican headquarters is worse than what it had been within my own office. I was able to rectify the problems in this office and will do all that I can to encourage volunteers, seek National Party assistance and donations, as well as help support those candidates who have the best interests of Nevadans in mind.
I believe the legislative process worked as it should have during the 2010 Special Session. Despite the Democrat majority, I worked with leadership in both parties to facilitate a resolution to the $887 million revenue shortfall. While no individual, party or caucus was happy with the entire solution, we each had input and were able to work cooperatively to achieve consensus on the goal. This progress will continue into the 2011 legislative session.
• How do you intend to address and succeed with this agenda if the Democrats continue to dominate both houses? What will be your primary legislative goals?
I believe conservatives will gain seats in November. That will bring a better balance to the Legislature and there will be real opportunity to pass the changes Nevada needs.
In 2011, I will work toward continuing to develop our economic base and create jobs, to modernize and reform our K-12 and higher education delivery systems, to develop renewable energy and green technologies, to reduce the size of state government, and to grow our economy.
If a democrat majority still exists, I vow to continue to stand for Republican philosophies, alone or with a team of veto proof Republican officials.
• To what degree should the Governor participate in the legislative process? Do you feel you were an effective participant during your first term?
As the head of the Executive Branch of government, the Governor should play a key leadership role in presenting a budget that facilitates policy development at the legislature and its implementation at the state government level.
I have philosophical differences with many legislators regarding the size and role of state government and taxation. Despite this, I was an overriding presence in the 2009 session. My explicit dogma of vetoing any taxes forced the democrat controlled legislature to work with Republicans on any tax package.
I shaped and forged an agreement with legislators from both parties and houses to solve an $887 million revenue shortfall during the recent 2010 special session. Nothing was accomplished before the third day of the special session when I went to the building and began speaking with legislators. Working together, we crafted an agreement which none of us completely liked, but which resolved the issues and allowed the state to move forward.
I commit to doing what needs to be done in the 2011 session including a budget that is as close to zero-based budgeting as we can get.
• If the 2011 legislature votes to suspend the ‘sunset’ and continue the tax increases passed by the 2009 legislature, would you veto this action? Elaborate.
The “sunset” provisions are not a tax increase and so it will take a simple majority vote to remove the sunset. I fully expect the Legislature to continue the last session tax increases. There is no simple yes or no answer regarding a veto. Clearly I have proven, time and again, that I want the lowest taxes possible and the smallest government necessary. I will look at the big picture budget solution that comes out of the session and decide what will be in the best interest of Nevada.
• Yes, there is a statute barring unfunded mandates to be passed from the State down to local governments; however, we all know the legislature has used various loopholes to skirt it. Would you veto any bills allowing the State to impose unfunded mandates of any sort upon local governments and/or taking current local government revenue sources in order to alleviate the state’s fiscal woes? (Elaborate)
During the recent Special Session I made it very clear to local governments that I understand their financial conditions are as dire as the State of Nevada. I will not support legislation that continues to pass unfunded mandates down to local governments. I will continue to support legislation which eliminates collective bargaining at the local government level or makes it subject to the Open Meeting Law. I will continue to work toward legislation that helps all levels of government get the job done as efficiently as possible.
• You have presented some strong education reform proposals. The Democrats and teacher’s union, along with your opponents, are uttering words of criticism. Elaborate your position in regards to the current public school funding formula, current classroom reduction law, full day kindergarten and collective bargaining for public school educators.
In order to improve Nevada schools for our students, we need to implement true change – real change. We need to get parents and communities involved in their local schools, and in charge of their children’s education. We need to empower local school boards to make decisions which are right for the children in their community. Local school boards are ultimately responsible to parents and voters in their community. Parents have the most vested interests in the outcome of their children’s education.
The cookie cutter approach has not worked in K-12 education. Not all schools need class size reduction programs. Not all schools need full-day kindergarten. School districts must be empowered to choose the right programs for the students in each of their local schools.
Parents must be afforded the ability to choose and guide the education which works for their children. We need to make better use of existing resources, and give local school districts the flexibility to use funding to deliver the right programs to the right kids to achieve the best results.
Some key reforms include:
Streamlining K-12 school funding and creating empowerment school districts. Delete special earmarks in the K-12 education budget for programs such as class size reduction, full-day kindergarten, and other legislatively-mandated expenditure items, and create a state level block grant program to flow such funds to the school districts in a manner similar to the current Nevada Plan. Local school districts would be empowered to use their basic school support dollars at their own discretion, depending on the needs of the students and the individual schools. This will return control of the education system to parents, students, and school boards in the local communities.
Eliminating local government and school district collective bargaining as provided for in Chapter 288 of the Nevada Revised Statutes. This will return control of the education system to parents, students, and school boards in the local communities. Parents need to work with school boards and participate in the education process. Teachers are an essential component of the educational system and play a vital role in its direction and delivery. The manner in which education is delivered to children should not be dictated by unions, which by definition promote only the interests of their members to the exclusion of other interests and stakeholders such as parents, school boards, and mostly importantly students. Companies around the country have cut back on wages and employees. Salaries which were barely sustainable in a growth economy are simply not realistic or possible in the current economy. Both salaries and benefits must be reduced, or jobs will be lost. This is true in education, government, and the private sector.
Adopting a statewide school voucher program for all parents and students to exercise school choice, and authorizing local school districts, boards of charter schools, and private schools to set enrollment caps at the school level to prevent overcrowding.
Eliminating the elected body known as State Board of Education, and establishing a five-member advisory State Board of Education consisting of three members appointed by the Governor and one each by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Majority Leader of the Senate. The members of the State Board of Education would have statutory criteria for experience and education relevant to serving as a member of the Board. The Superintendent of Public Instruction would be appointed by the Governor, report to the Governor and serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The Superintendent would receive advisory input from the State Board of Education relating to relevant issues necessary for a consistent system of public instruction in Nevada, such as academic standards, professional licensing, etc. The proposal would also eliminate some of the many duplicative education boards and committees relating to K-12 education, and combine the necessary advisory functions into a few boards with a very narrow focus. This would create a broad framework and standards for academic achievement, while leaving the delivery of services at the local level where parents and school boards can make the best decisions for their communities.
Expanding the charter school system, and providing an enhanced support structure for charter schools.
Modernizing the Nevada System of Higher Education by giving it greater autonomy and reducing its independence on the state General Fund and, thus, not subject higher education to the inconsistencies relating to fluctuating General Fund support.
Facilitate communication between K-12, higher education, and industry so that students are better educated and prepared for life after graduation, whether they continue into the workforce, post-secondary education or a university. Education is the intellectual infrastructure of Nevada’s future.
• What specific steps would you advocate to promote greater economic diversity and broadening of Nevada’s economic tax base? How would this differ from steps taken during your first term?
I would continue the direction and momentum we have been pursuing, which includes: aggressively pursuing new businesses and industries to relocate to Nevada, developing green and renewable energy and a market for same, capitalizing on Nevada’s geographical position as a transportation hub of the west, and collaborating between workforce training and economic development and industry to ensure an adequately trained and educated workforce for existing companies as well as new industries we would like to establish in Nevada.
We are working with industry icons such as GE, Boeing, MicroSoft and Chevron to create technology incubators for renewable industry which manufacture infrastructure parts, create training opportunities, foster public/private partnerships, and create new long-term good paying jobs in emerging industries.
• Would you veto legislation allowing for state employee collective bargaining? Elaborate.
Yes, collective bargaining is responsible for raising local government employee salaries to a level which is now unsustainable given existing revenues. At the same time, collective bargaining contracts prevent local governments from making necessary salary reductions in times of economic downturn. With 70 to 75 percent of each government agency’s expenditures allocated to salaries, collective bargaining hides the vast majority of public fund expenditures from the public and hinders both transparency and accountability.
• What affordable energy producing programs would you promote and how would you propose implementing them? Do you support bringing nuclear power to Nevada?
The Nevada Department of Energy is actively pursuing numerous solar projects around the state, and at least two geothermal projects are in the works. We are also working to get transmission lines to the areas where this energy will be produced, and to connect to grids in neighboring states.
I believe Nevada will soon become an excess producer of energy, and will have a future as a renewable energy producer and exporter to our neighboring states as their production capacity peaks and their requirements for renewable energy increase. Nuclear power plants require a very large water supply and nuclear waste remains an unsettled issue. I would consider nuclear generating facilities on a case by case basis.
• Explain your position in regards to Yucca Mountain.
I cannot support Yucca Mountain as a repository. I am currently vetting ideas as to other potential uses. At this point, the risks outweigh the potential benefits.
• Some strides have been made in creating greater transparency in Nevada government, particularly in regards to fiscal actions. What measures would you promote to further increase public access/visibility?
I would support legislation to make the Nevada Legislature subject to the Open Meeting Law and to repeal the Interim Finance Committee. Several states have extraordinary websites that give the public access to budgets, spending and various accountability and performance measures. We continue to strive for the same access for our citizens.
• Health care reform is the hot topic of the day. What specific measures would you advocate in addressing Nevada’s health care concerns?
The health care “reform” bill recently passed by Congress is not the solution; rather it makes the situation worse. The bill will make insurance coverage for both individuals and for government programs such as Medicare increase exponentially. I am exploring ways to increase access to primary care at the state level, while decreasing costs. I have many meetings over the coming weeks with industry and government officials to explore efforts to contain costs for both individuals and businesses within Nevada. I am working on a health care reform plan similar to my education plan.
• Is there a subject/topic I did not address that you would like to expound upon? Go for it……..
Nevada’s economy is still very fragile. Just as in the story of the tortoise and the hare, to win the race we must move forward steadily and deliberately. A burst of new taxes and spending might look good in the short run, but we will ultimately lose using that approach. We must build a stable economy that creates jobs. A solid foundation of diversified businesses will provide the stable revenues that too many think can be generated by even more tax increases. Nevada is a wonderful place. I am dedicated to keeping the good things we already have and to creating a business climate that will return the prosperity we recently enjoyed.