(Nancy Dallas) – Jodi Stephens is a Republican candidate for Assembly District 32 which includes portions of Humboldt, Lander and Washoe Counties. Her campaign website can be found at http://www.jodistephens.com.
Jodi is a third-generation Nevadan, born and raised in Hawthorne. Upon completion of her education, Jodi joined then-Congressman Jim Gibbons’ Reno District Office, where she served as Rural Director.
In January of 2007 Jodi went to work for the State of Nevada, Office of the Governor. As Legislative Director for Governor Gibbons, she assisted in the development of the executive budget and corresponding legislative agenda. Jodi married Chad Stephens in 1998. They live in Sparks with their five-year-old daughter, Reagan.
Jodi participated in the following e-interview with Nevada News Bureau’s senior political reporter Nancy Dallas.
While you have been rather deeply involved with political entities for several years, this is your first run for an elected office. Why did you decide to run for the State Assembly?
I decided to run for Assembly because I care deeply about the community I live in – where my husband and I are raising our daughter, and I am proud of my roots in Nevada. District 32 is a great district, but it is a district that needs help with economic diversification, jobs, education needs and public safety. I’m a third generation Nevadan, and I want my daughter and grandchildren to know the Nevada I grew up in. I strongly believe that my understanding of what makes Nevada a great place to call home as well as the challenges facing our state today, make me the best candidate to represent the residents of Nevada Assembly District 32.
Do you have a ‘campaign team’ and a ‘game plan’ in place?
I have a team in place and I am happy with the progress of the campaign. The goal for my campaign is to reach out to as many residents and businesses in my district as possible and listen to their ideas and concerns. I am part of a great district and I am looking forward to getting to know more of the residents of Battle Mountain, Winnemucca, Sparks and all the surrounding areas. I am proud to say that volunteers will play an important role in my campaign and I am excited about the overwhelming volunteer support I have received early on.
How do you intend to ‘reach out’ to the voters in your widespread district?
While the district is large, I can be anywhere in the district within a few hours. I plan on plenty of driving, walking and knocking on doors to really get to know the residents of my district.
How much money do you intend to commit to this campaign? Will you be putting your own money into your effort? How much?
I have spent some money getting the campaign up and running but will not be personally financing the campaign. I’m doing the best I can to raise money in my campaign – while understanding that in this economic environment, it is difficult to contribute to political candidates. I’ll raise and spend as much as needed to win.
I am grateful for the support and I will make sure the campaign is run effectively and efficiently.
What do you estimate your campaign will cost? What will be your greatest emphasis/importance in allocating your campaign funds?
I do not know how much the campaign will cost. I will raise what I can and spend what I raise – dedicating most of my money and time to direct voter contact.
What personal attributes/experience do you think would best serve you as a newcomer to the State Legislature?
Those who know me and have worked with me in the past know that I am willing to address challenges head-on and provide clear, honest answers. My beliefs and values are deeply rooted and do not change with the political climate.
While this is my first run at a public office, I am not new to the Nevada State Legislature. I worked as Legislative Director for Governor Gibbons during a very tough legislative session. I believe my experience working with citizens and officials in all 17 Nevada counties on issues important to Nevadans, along with my ability to take ownership of an issue and work hard to provide solutions will benefit me as a legislator.
You have strong ties to current Governor Jim Gibbons. Do you feel this will hinder/help your candidacy?
I am proud of the work I was able to accomplish during my seven years with Governor Gibbons at both the state and federal levels. I had many opportunities to make a positive difference in the state and help shape policy on issues important to Nevada.
That said, I am running on my own ideas and my own experiences. I trust the voters of Assembly District 32 will look at my Vision for a Stronger Nevada, my strong Nevada roots and my conservative beliefs and will be assured that I will keep their interests at heart and fight for them in Carson City.
Are there any areas/issues in particular that you would separate yourself from the Governor’s position(s)?
Governor Gibbons and I have differing opinions on the subject of fee increases. If a fee is not covering the expense of the service being provided then it should be raised to cover the costs of the service. Programs that benefit or provide services to a limited number of Nevadans should not be subsidized by the Nevada taxpayer.
What will be your three (3) major issues? Explain your position on each.
Jobs, education and natural resource management are my top three priorities.
I believe private sector job creation and economic growth comes from citizens in my district taking risk – and providing a needed or desired good or service. My faith in achieving small, medium or large business job growth lies within the private sector, not the government. I believe in implementing broad-based reforms aimed at removing burdensome regulations and taxes that impede the growth and development of private businesses.
Could you specifically name existing burdensome state regulations/taxes that you would strive to change/eliminate?
I would start by fighting to eliminate the tax increases that were passed in the last session.
I support an education system that places more resources in the classroom, where they will help our kids learn. Simply adding more money to a flawed bureaucracy is not the answer. Some of the worst performing school districts in the nation are those with the most funds.
We need accountability on the dollars spent – and we can increase funding in Nevada classrooms significantly by simply changing the formulas to get a higher percentage of every dollar for desks, chairs, books, computers and teachers – where the actual educating takes place.
Finally, I strongly support charter schools and empowerment schools in Nevada. We must give parents more choices in determining what kind of education is best for their kids.
How would you propose improving accountability for dollars spent? How would you propose increasing the percentage of education dollars going to student needs – when this would lower the percentage going toward salaries and administrative costs? The teacher’s union would not allow this to happen, would they?
I strongly support lowering the administrative costs of education and would hope the union would have the same goal. Our education dollars need to go to our kids, not to an oversized administration. I also support rewarding and recognizing our best teachers and those schools that demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness. Schools across the state will exchange ideas and experiences on how to best teach our kids and operate efficiently.
The majority of our resources are managed by the government and it is imperative that Nevadans continue to have access to both state and federal lands. The management of these lands and the resources they contain affects the lives of every Nevadan. Our economic prosperity and quality of life is inherently dependent upon the responsible and sound management and development of our natural resources.
It is imperative that the state continue to play a key role in the management of our public lands to ensure access and preserve our way of life. Water is, and always will be a huge issue in Nevada. The state must manage our water supply consistent with Nevada’s strong water laws and must be thorough and reliable in the decisions it makes.
Do you support Nevada’s current mining laws? Do you believe the mining industry contributes its ‘fair share’ to Nevada’s economy?
Growing up in Hawthorne I witnessed firsthand the boom and bust nature of the mining industry. When times are tough mining plays by the same rules as when it is booming. I do not support balancing the state’s budget on the backs of any one industry, including mining.
Nevada will be facing some major budget decisions in the 2011 Legislative session. You indicate you would not want to raise taxes. What would be your priorities in balancing a budget that is projected to have a deficit of approximately $2 billion?
As difficult as the 2009 legislative session was, 2011 is shaping up to be even more challenging. We will have to evaluate the state’s priorities and fund them accordingly. I know this will not be a simple task and it will not be popular.
However, Nevada must not continue to spend at an accelerated rate. Taxpayers are struggling and they haven’t seen the same sacrifices made in government as we’ve seen in the private sector. I don’t see how further tax increases will solve this problem. We can also do a better job of fully implementing many of the suggestions from the Nevada SAGE Commission – for both short and long-term savings.
What specific SAGE Commission recommendations are you referring to?
I strongly support the recommendation to create a statutory Evaluation and Sunset Commission. This commission would seek to identify duplication of effort in state government, efficiencies to be achieved, and potential elimination of unnecessary boards, commissions or agencies.
I also support the recommendation that state agencies should review fees to ensure the fees charged cover the costs of providing the services. When fees for services are inadequate, all taxpayers end up funding part of the cost of a service provided to a small segment of the community.
A detailed real property inventory will distinguish performing from non-performing properties. This review will lead to a well-conceived real estate strategy for the state. Resources can be diverted to mission-critical properties and non-performing properties can be marked for disposal or other income-generating options.
Nevada’s Public Works process also needs to be reviewed. We must lower the costs of capital projects in the state.
Give me your top spending priority; your number one target in an effort to save money.
Facilities management in the state (maintenance, repair, and custodial work) is an area where waste can be eliminated and savings realized. Competitive outsourcing of these services will eliminate waste and improve service.
The private sector has laid-off thousands of employees to address the economic recession. So far, Nevada’s government hasn’t done this. Is it time to look seriously at layoffs of non-essential government workers?
Yes. We have a responsibility to spend our citizens’ hard-earned tax dollars wisely. How could I possibly tell the residents of my district to go out and work hard – work more hours, so the government can hire more non-essential workers? Nevadans deserve better. Nevada government needs to be run more like a business. Waste, abuse and inefficiency needs to be eliminated.
You support privatizing ‘those services the private sector is more efficient and effective at providing”. Explain what services you believe would fit into that category.
When determining what services to privatize we must look at the cost benefit to the State. Analysis of private versus public will help to provide substantive answers to the common arguments against privatization.
Private solutions should be seriously considered when budgeting for Nevada’s future. Competitive contracting could be used to expand competition throughout the state systems.
The ultimate goal is to reduce costs, and increase quality of service to Nevadans. We must not be afraid to change the way Nevada does business and we must look at all areas of government for opportunities to improve efficiency.
What government services would you target to assess the viability of privatization?
All government services should be assessed to determine if privatization or partnership is a viable option.
How would you address the issue of increasing government accountability to the public?
Nevada currently has a website where all aspects of our state’s finances are detailed. I support an expansion upon this initiative so Nevadans know exactly where their tax dollars are being spent and how much goods or services are costing. Nevadans are fed up with their hard-earned money being wasted by irresponsible government spending. Giving Nevadans the opportunity to scrutinize the state’s checkbook and contracting practices will help to eliminate waste and abuse in government. The results of all state audits and the makeup of the audit teams must also be made available.
What entities under the state’s purview do you consider to be ineffective, unnecessary, or failed programs? Explain.
Instead of lawmakers inserting their personal beliefs on to specific entities and programs, I would like to see facts used to make such determinations.
In the December 2008 SAGE Commission report to Governor Gibbons the Commission recommended the creation of a Sunset Commission. The Sunset Commission would base their findings on facts and present them to the Governor and Legislature for action. This system of evaluation will take the politics out of the process and help to ensure that the State does not continue to fund entities and programs that are not having the desired results.
Nevada can no longer afford to fund programs just because we have in the past. Instead, we must evaluate our systems to determine what is working, what can be improved upon and what needs to be eliminated to maintain a government that is meeting the needs of its people.
Do you have any particular programs, tax exemptions, agencies in mind that exist today that you think need immediate attention?
Nevada needs to increase tax abatement programs for renewable energy development and manufacturing companies. These abatements could be tied directly to job creation. We need to take advantage of the current renewable energy pursuit and strive to become an energy exporter.
How would you define what constitutes an “essential” government program or service?
An essential government service is that which directly supports the safety and health of the citizens of Nevada.
Would you support the elimination of the taxes imposed by the 2009 legislature and set to sunset in 2011?
As a legislator, what would you propose doing to encourage bringing greater diversity to Nevada’s economy?
We should base our economy on a positive work ethic, a well trained and well educated work force, a business-friendly environment, and a safe work place. We must implement broad-based reforms aimed at removing burdensome regulations that impede the growth and development of private businesses. This can be accomplished by enacting sensible business regulations that attract new industry to the state and supporting vocational and technical training options in our education system.
Companies in the continually-evolving energy, technology, and logistics industries, among others, are looking for a place to grow. Nevada must provide the incentives and the trained workers for these job-creating markets.
The competition with our neighboring states will be fierce in the coming years. Some in Carson City have the opinion that if we provide abatements or incentives to companies then we will be “giving away the farm.” I believe Nevada will truly lose when companies wanting to set up shop in Nevada are forced to locate elsewhere because of the tax-and-spend greed in Carson City.
I gather you support the tax abatement programs currently in place and would support additional efforts along this line?
What do you see as the best means of providing sustainable, affordable energy to Nevada?
Transmission lines are the key to providing sustainable, affordable energy to Nevada and until we have a grid connecting the north and south we will be running to catch up. Energy independence is crucial to a vibrant economy. We must work with our federal partners to ensure that transmissions lines can access our renewable energy resources while continuing to be mindful of the current energy demands in the interim. Public private partnerships in renewable energy development will not only provide clean energy and jobs, but will reduce energy costs to the state and help to meet the state’s renewable energy goals.
Would you support exploring the possibility of building Nuclear energy plants in Nevada?
I support all areas of energy development, including nuclear power development. However, I do have concerns about locating nuclear plants in Nevada. Nuclear power generation consumes vast quantities of water and may not be the best addition to Nevada’s energy portfolio.
Would you support the transporting of water rights from one water basin/governmental entity to another in order to support the demands of growth?
Any policy related to transporting water to support growth needs to be based on the sustainability of Nevada’s water basins. A complete water inventory in the state is necessary to make these types of decisions. Only when we have an accurate and up-to-date accounting of water resources in Nevada we will be able to make informed decisions regarding a particular basin’s ability to survive water exportation.
You oppose any moving of water until such a study is completed?
You served as Rural Director for former Congressman Jim Gibbons; and, growing up in Hawthorne, you certainly are aware of the federal efforts to buy/divert water rights from the Smith and Mason Valley water basins in order to maintain Walker Lake as a healthy habitat for the cutthroat trout, migratory waterfowl, and freshwater ecosystem. What are your opinions in regards to this effort and the overall effort to ‘save’ Walker Lake? And, realizing this is not directly affecting your district, would you attempt to assert your power as a State Assemblyman in support of your view?
I love Walker Lake and would welcome the sight of a rising water level. The Lake is a vital part of the economy in Mineral County and an important and unique desert habitat. Acquiring water rights from willing sellers in Smith and Mason Valley, along with conservation measures such as alternative crops, have been suggested as possible moves toward saving the lake.
I would not support any action by the government either state or federal that would seek to take away water rights from unwilling sellers. For any diversions that are negotiated and approved, measures need to be in place to make sure that water reaches the lake and assess the impacts of the additional inflow. I grew up swimming and boating on the Lake and continue to visit the Lake with my family and friends. It would please me immensely to support legislation brought forward by the stakeholders that addresses the numerous conflicts surrounding Walker River and as such Walker Lake.
Should the selling of water rights (by willing sellers) in the Mason and Smith Valleys be allowed prior to a state water basin assessment/inventory being completed (as noted above)?
This is a system that has already been allocated and differs in the legal and socioeconomic impacts from the issue of transporting water across the state. Nevada water law must be followed and common sense must be used to make these types of decisions.
What if removing water rights from upstream basins via willing sellers proves detrimental to upstream uses?
Obviously selling one’s right to use water upstream will have an effect on how that land will be used in the future. This is why I only support acquiring rights from willing sellers.
Do you support schools of choice? School vouchers? To what degree do you believe the State should support these programs?
As part of the 2007 Empowerment legislation that I helped shape, there was a provision for school choice which I supported and continue to support. The benefit of affording parents the opportunity to choose which schools their child attends is the creation of competition among the schools. This competition leads to effective and accountable schools, and better performing students.
The same principle applies when discussing school vouchers, a concept I also support. If we can reduce the cost of education while improving the quality, the state should fully support schools of choice.
Is there an issue I failed to address that you would like to expound upon?
In the 2011 Legislative session the difficult task of redistricting will be undertaken. It is important to me that this process be transparent to ensure fair representations for all Nevadans. The Assembly lines as they are today are unconstitutional. There are some districts that represent over 100,000 Nevadans while others have only 12,000. This is not fair or equal representation.
Even though Democrats have a 2-1 advantage in the State Assembly, there were as many total votes for Republican candidates for Assembly in the last election as there were votes for Democrat candidates. This demonstrates how unequal the lines are today.
Do you think increasing the size of the Legislative bodies would allow a more fair representation?
I’m not opposed to increasing the number of legislators if that is determined necessary to ensure fair representation – but I am strongly opposed to increasing the length or frequency of the 120 day biennial sessions.