(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Two Republican members of the Assembly who both want to move into the Senate in District 18 faced off [May 17] in a televised debate that focused primarily on a controversial 2011 tax vote.
Two-term lawmaker Richard McArthur and freshman Scott Hammond emphasized their divergent positions on the tax vote during the match-up on the Face To Face television program.
McArthur emphasized his conservative credentials, noting he was one of the few Republican members of the Assembly who in 2011 voted against a measure to extend a set of expiring taxes into the current budget to balance state spending plan. He received the highest score in the Assembly from the American Conservative Union.
GOP Senate 18 candidate Richard McArthur.
Hammond, who is endorsed by the Senate Republican Caucus, said his vote to extend the sunsets still resulted in 70 percent of Nevada businesses paying less in modified business taxes. The sunset extension eliminated the tax on businesses that reported less than $250,000 annually in annual wages. A recorded statement from 2010 showed Hammond telling an audience that he would not raise taxes, however.
Asked about his vote, Hammond said: “In the 2011 session, what we voted to do was actually to decrease spending by $500 million and over 70 percent of the businesses in the state of Nevada are now paying less in taxes on their MBT (Modified Business Tax) than they were, or were going to. So basically when I took over office people now are spending less in taxes than when I took over.”
But McArthur said the decision to extend the sunsets, based on a Nevada Supreme Court ruling that some said called into question a number of elements of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget that relied on local tax revenues, was overstated. The ruling in the Clean Water Coalition case found that Sandoval could not take $62 million in local revenues to bolster the state budget.
The case created only a small $62 million hole in the budget and did not require the extension of the expiring taxes, McArthur said.
“The budget wasn’t in jeopardy,” he said. “There wasn’t any problem. That was $62 million. That was easily covered.”
Sandoval, a Republican, recently announced his intentions to extend the sunsets another two years to avoid any further cuts to education
The candidates also talked about what they would support to reform public education.
McArthur said the education reforms approved in the 2011 session were minimal.
McArthur said he wants to end social promotion, a practice of advancing students to the next grade regardless of their achievement. Sandoval has made this issue a top priority of his 2013 education reform plan. McArthur also supports vouchers, which would give parents tax revenues to pick a school, including religious-sponsored schools, for their children to attend.
Hammond said he supports more school choice, including an expansion of charter schools. There needs to be more competition, he said.
GOP Senate 18 candidate Scott Hammond.
The Senate 18 district in Clark County, newly created as a result of redistricting due to the 2010 census, has a Republican voter advantage, 40.7 percent to 37.6 percent as of the end of April. It is one Republicans are counting on in their effort to take the majority in the 2013 session. Democrats now have an 11-10 edge in the 21-member Senate.
In the GOP Caucus endorsement of Hammond, Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said: “Assemblyman Hammond is exactly the kind of candidate Nevadans are looking for. He has a thorough understanding of the issues facing our state and is not afraid to tackle the tough issues. He will be a great addition to the Senate.”
Two Democrats, Kelli Ross and Donna Schlemmer, are also running in a primary for the seat.
Hammond teaches government and Spanish for the Clark County School District and political science at UNLV. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife and their three children.
McArthur is a retired FBI agent with 25 years of service. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife of 41 years.