Ray Masayko is seeking the Republican nomination for the Capital state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Mark Amodei (term-limited). The seat includes portions of Douglas, Carson, Lyon and Story Counties. At this time there is one other declared GOP candidate, Assemblyman James Settelmeyer.
Masayko is a former two-term mayor and 25 year resident of Carson City. After leaving elective office in 2004, Masayko earned his credentials as a Registered Investment Advisor and is currently affiliated with HD Vest Financial Services as a Financial Advisor. Mayor Masayko completed an e-interview with Nevada News & Views freelance contributor Nancy Dallas this week.
Dallas: The Republican Senatorial Caucus has endorsed your opponent. Has it negatively affected your campaign in any way?
Masayko: No, it has not. I have seen no public pronouncement by the Caucus to announce their endorsements, nor explain their strategy and reasoning. Regardless, I plan to continue questioning both their presumptiveness as well as the motives for even engaging in an endorsement process at this time.
It has been reported to me that other announced Republican candidates are finding some traditional funding sources denying them contributions as a result of their “non-endorsement.” I’ve not experienced this personally, as I intend to self-fund my primary campaign.
Dallas: While you served eight years as Mayor and considerable time dealing with legislators, your opponent served two terms as a State Assemblyman. Why do you feel you would better represent the Capital Senate District?
Masayko: I’m focusing my campaign on Ray Masayko, who, as a conservative Republican, was concerned and disappointed that the 2009 legislature chose to raise taxes in the middle of a recession, instead of focusing their efforts and political capital on balancing the budget within existing revenues. Opportunities for curtailing or eliminating outdated or ineffective spending programs and demanding more efficiency within our state government were hardly addressed.
I can point to my political courage and leadership during eight years as Carson City Mayor, when our Board of Supervisors dealt with revenue downturns by reducing spending and curtailing or eliminating lower priority programs instead of raising taxes or increasing fees. In addition, both my political and business background are examples of successful leadership: as an Executive Manager for Sierra Pacific Power Co., Chamber of Commerce President, Mayor (permanent chair of the Board of Supervisors), President of the Nevada Association of Counties, Chairman of the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway and, since leaving elective office in 2005, as a self-employed Financial Advisor.
I point this out in the context that the state senate will lose virtually all of its Republican leadership after the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. As a result, new leaders will need to emerge in times I foresee as challenging, to say the least.
As a State Senator, I believe my background of proven leadership experience, coupled with my conservative Republican principles and a passion for serving the citizens of Nevada, will set me apart from the other candidates.
Dallas: Eight years as the Mayor of Carson City gave you insight into the problems caused by the Legislature imposing ‘unfunded mandates’ on local governments as a means of funding state needs. The 2009 legislature made several ‘raids’ on local funding sources, leaving some counties in severe financial straits. As a State Senator on the ‘other side of the fence’, how would you address these issues?
In my view, the issue of “unfunded mandates” is not so much one of the legislature handing the state’s local governments “inappropriate laws and programs to implement and enforce,” but rather one of virtually refusing to subsidize the costs with enabling state funding or a local funding mechanism as part of the bill.
As Mayor, I have experienced this “disconnect” first hand. As a State Senator, I will both advocate and argue for full disclosure of an accurate cost to the local government, as well as identifying its associated funding means as an integral part of the bill. I fully recognize that the funding part of the equation may not be possible. But, as an open government advocate, I would try to force my legislative colleagues to accept the accountability of disclosing the costs associated with passing bills that contain an unfunded mandate on to local government.
Dallas: Your website states you support school vouchers, charter schools, allowing additional control to local school districts and changing the legislative allocation process from strictly per pupil to an outcome based formula. Who should oversee/administrate the ‘schools of choice’ option and Charter schools?
Masayko: To me, this is a key element necessary toward changing our K-12 educational paradigm from one of “head count entitlement funding” to one based on “competition and positive outcomes.”
That having been said, I understand the political realities of K-12 education reform, but believe that increased competition through charter schools and schools of choice must be one of first steps taken if we are to commit to real reform. That first step includes the premise that a portion of the total local school district “cost to educate a student” in addition to the state determined “per pupil expenditure” follows the student. I would support our state legislature creating laws to both enable and mandate the state’s local school districts, through their elected school trustees, the duty to create, administer and oversee those alternative educational options.
School districts would need to handle the application process with an understandable, fair and equitable process as defined in the law. The process would be overseen at the state level, preferably by an agency in the executive department, for which the Governor is accountable.
Dallas: To what degree should the State support Charter schools and those students opting to attend a school outside their district?
Masayko: I alluded to my approach in the previous answer. While I believe the funding must follow the student, the formula is probably a little trickier. My position is that the minimum threshold of funding should be 50% of the approximately $6,300, on the average, per pupil expenditure now provided by the by the local school districts (about a $13,000 average for all school districts in 2009) which is in addition to the approximately $6,700 provided by the state’s per public expenditure under the current law and formula, should be allowed to “follow the student.”
Dallas: If school funding was changed from a per pupil basis and based on state set academic guidelines (outcome based), how would you address the issue of funding public schools that fail the set standards?
Masayko: First, one must assume that the results of the educational improvement outcome standards are based on a fair, accurate and objective methodology. I’m under no illusion that creating this methodology is an easy task, but there are some models which measure the individual student’s progress from grade to grade.
My approach does not necessarily punish, but largely relies on rewards. Thus, I suggest that funds, over and above the state’s per pupil expenditure formula, be awarded to the schools in the school district that exceed the established standards of student progress. I further propose that these awards be restricted to rewarding teachers and administrators who are responsible for the successes.
Dallas: What specific areas should local school districts be allowed greater control than what they currently have?
Masayko: My answers to the three previous questions regarding school choice, funding to follow students and outcome based funding incentives all provide an accountable role for the local school districts and their administrators. Additionally, and in the interim, school districts need the authority to create “empowerment schools,” which begins the process of enabling more innovation, funding decisions and limited rewards for success in the individual schools.
Dallas: Do you support the current Interim Finance Committee (IFC) process, or any similar concept? If not, how should the state address state interim financial issues?
Masayko: While I believe the IFC serves an important function, I am aware there are questions that its present enabling legislation may not meet constitutional muster. But, I also believe it, or a similar decision making body, is necessary to deal with some level of legislative appropriation and spending deviations during the 20 month interim between legislative sessions.
That having been said, I think it’s incumbent on the legislature to address the legal shortcomings (if there are determined to be some) associated with the duties and powers of the IFC with appropriate legislative action or a constitutional amendment, if necessary.
Dallas: You support refunding of the Governor’s Spending and Government Efficiency Commission (SAGE) commission. Explain.
Masayko: My business background and experience argues strongly for ongoing performance audits or other independent, professional reviews of government’s internal controls, spending practices and organizational effectiveness, which was part of the SAGE Commission’s charter. I also believe these reviews and analysis must be conducted by skilled, experienced professionals and not be a volunteer committee relying on cursory reviews.
When Governor Gibbons established the SAGE Commission, he did not provide funding for professional staff or consultants to conduct an exhaustive review and produce a report with an action plan. I’m aware that SAGE Commission Chair Bruce James agreed to secure funding for the Commission from private sources. This approach appeals to my conservative spending principles, especially given Nevada’s fiscal situation, but it’s now obvious that these funding sources are not materializing, especially in this economic downturn.
I would be in favor of the IFC granting the SAGE Commission a modest appropriation of up to $100,000 to conduct an analysis and produce recommendations, which I predict would produce permanent savings of many times this appropriation.
I find it unconscionable the IFC is in the process of appropriating some $500,000 for yet another “study” of Nevada’s taxation policies and forming a “stakeholder’s committee,” yet seems to have no appetite nor intention of providing any funding for the SAGE Commission to report on ways to reduce government’s costs.
This approach “speaks volumes” about the intentions of some members of the legislature when it come to raising taxes vs. controlling costs. If Ray Masayko were a member of the state legislature, I would consider it my duty to speak publically regarding this unfair and unbalanced policy.
Dallas: The Missouri Plan for electing judges will be presented to Nevada voters in 2010. Do you support the Missouri Plan? Why/why not?
Masayko: I am opposed to the “Nevada version of the Missouri Plan” being presented to the voters as a constitutional amendment on the 2010 ballot. I will not vote for the plan and I will publicly ask the voters to vote against it when asked.
Laws and my ethics dictate public disclosure and stating potential conflicts arising from contributions in the course of my duties. I, personally, have never had the situation arise where a campaign contribution or contributor expected anything in return which represented a vote or decision for either their or my personal gain. I believe the electoral system now in place works for Nevada’s other elected officials and it works for judges also.
Even in Missouri, the “Missouri Plan” is drawing criticism because of political favoritism, cronyism and even alleged corruption with appointment and the make up of appointing authorities. I agree there may be opportunities for mischief and favoritism in any open election process, but assuring that voters have their say in electing district judges in open elections is important enough for me to say “The system isn’t broken and doesn’t get fixed by a Missouri Plan!”
Dallas: Reapportionment will be a major political battle in the upcoming 2011 Legislature. You state that you would not support an increase in the number of legislators in either house. Explain this position and how you feel the rural counties can continue to be fairly represented.
Masayko: While I can fully appreciate and share the concerns of voters in Nevada’s rural counties of being “fairly represented,” increasing the size (members) of the legislature is not a workable solution in my mind. The constitutional principle of “one man, one vote” must prevail.
If the size of the legislature were increased, the voters in rural counties may get to share an Assemblyman or Senator with the voters in fewer sister counties or in smaller districts; however, I hope one also considers that a legislator’s vote is, in essence, diluted because his or her vote has less power in a legislative body with more members. The same argument can be made at all levels of our representative democracy – from federal, to state, to counties to cities.
Ray Masayko believes that, if elected to the state senate, I technically have a representative duty to every voter in the state. I certainly recognize that I enjoy a closer relationship to the voters within the Capital Senatorial District who elected me, but also realize that the vast majority of my legislative votes have an effect on every voter in the state of Nevada.
I’d like to think that technology and communications advances make it easier for elected representatives to stay in contact with constituents; however, the reality is that we in Northern Nevada are going to have more space between our constituents than in the past.
Finally, not only is expanding our legislative representatives going to cost the taxpayers more money, the key question is how much more can one expect the membership of a legislature to increase before it becomes virtually unmanageable due its sheer number of representatives?
Dallas: What is your position on Initiative Petitions? Should the process be more strictly governed? Or not? Should those petitions advocating a measure that would cause a tax or fee increase be required to pass under stricter guidelines than a simple majority?
Masayko: I view an initiative petition as an expression of the will of those governed, and I believe these expressions have an important role in our representative democracy. I agree with the people’s constitutional right to petition their government.
I do not support any sort of “super majority” to pass an initiative question, similar to not requiring more than a plurality to elect the people’s representatives or pass a bond question. I also think it’s reasonable to require that an initiative petition need to obtain a reasonable indicator of the voter’s support, such as the 10% threshold now required in Nevada, to gain a place on the general election ballot.
Dallas: How would you address the issue of the legislature being mandated to follow the same open meeting laws that local governments are subjected to?
Masayko: I am a strong advocate of the open meeting law concept for governmental deliberations and actions at every level of government in Nevada, including the State Legislature. I believe in the fundamental right of the governed and taxpayers to have their public business conducted in the most open and transparent methods possible.
Dallas: Explain how you would tackle increasing accessibility/transparency in regards to government budgets, spending, et al?
Masayko: I’m an advocate of complete transparency in the public’s access to their government’s spending of public money.
I believe the government must make good faith efforts to present the information to the public in an understandable and organized format. The old phrase of providing a “core dump” is not a reasonable compliance. Obviously, the Internet is a powerful and useful tool for providing access to this information e.g.: The government’s checkbook will be on line. Progress at the state level has begun, but much more needs to be done in order to complete the commitment.
I also believe government must make a reasonable accommodation to have the same information available to citizens who may not have a computer or online access.
Dallas: Health care in Nevada………give me some viable suggestions for improvement/reform?
Masayko: My position refers to healthcare insurance issues, and I’ll confine my answer to that. While the healthcare insurance and delivery before Congress is likely to significantly change how healthcare insurance and payment is delivered in the future, my positions represent Nevada’s insurance and liability laws.
• Nevada currently has some 24 health insurance “coverage mandates.” I advocate reducing or eliminating these costly and, in some cases unnecessary coverages, in the interest of allowing the Nevada consumer to purchase only the coverages they need or can afford.
• Group health insurance rules need to be relaxed to allow smaller businesses and associated groups to access the better priced group rates, coverages and rules.
• Pre-existing conditions should not be a sole reason for an out and out denial of a person trying to obtain health insurance; risk pools need to be available to offer an alternative of “last resort.”
• Affordable portability needs to be offered to those who leave employment group plans.
• Finally, the current cap of $350,000 awards on malpractice lawsuits under “pain and suffering” is reasonable and must be retained in law.
Dallas: UNR/UNLV state tuition support…..would you support lowering state support to national levels? Wouldn’t this adversely affect already cash-strapped students/parents?
Masayko: Access to a university education is an important goal for Nevada’s citizens to enhance their standard of living, and it is important to our state’s future economic viability in proving an educated workforce. I also believe that we, as individuals, have a personal stake in obtaining the education and skills necessary for success as productive members of society.
The basic question for me is: Should Nevada’s taxpayers continue to offer highly subsidized cost sharing to enable relatively low cost access to our two universities as a privilege or a right? Perhaps the following statistic will help sort out some of the answers.
Our two state universities are currently graduating less than 50% of their students within six years of enrollment. These are not positive results given the amount of funding our legislature provides. This statistic is somewhat shocking, but may help explain the cost to value decisions made by students.
In developing spending priorities, especially during times of limited resources, I believe it’s prudent to examine the levels of all spending, including our university system. In 2008-2009, the state of Nevada provided some $912 Million total funding to our higher education institutions, with over $677 Million coming from the general fund. The general fund spending for 2009 amounts to almost $10,200 per student.
It was reported in the Freedom Budget developed by Nevada Policy Research Institute during the 2009 legislative session that Nevada’s historic general fund contribution to our university system has grown faster than enrollment and inflation and is also some 30% greater than the average support provided by the other 49 states. The Freedom Budget called for a reduction of some $205 Million, which would have brought Nevada’s funding to the national average. That amount could have been reallocated to the community colleges and other tax supported state programs without the ability to adjust user fees.
The University System Board of Regents must share the responsibility and accept some of the accountability for keeping Nevada resident’s fees as low as possible – by trimming costs and increasing efficiencies without passing on a $3,100 per year tuition increase onto students. If we’re all in this tax and spending crisis together, it’s critical we all do our part to work together.