(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Taxes, the state budget and a looming revenue shortfall in 2011 took center stage Thursday in the second debate between the two major party candidates for Nevada governor.
emocrat Rory Reid emphasized his detailed proposals to create jobs and balance the budget without new taxes, while Republican Brian Sandoval focused on the need for the state to cut spending and live within its means.
Reid spent much of the hour-long debate in Las Vegas criticizing Sandoval for failing to produce a plan to balance the state budget, which faces a huge gap between tax revenues and anticipated spending needs in the coming two years.
“And Brian can’t talk about his plan tonight, because he doesn’t have one,” Reid said. “It’s hard for me to point out the problems in his plan because he hasn’t released it. He said in June he would deliver a plan to the people of Nevada. It’s Oct. 7. He still hasn’t. Where’s your plan, Brian?”
Sandoval responded that Reid’s budget plan contained “fantasy” revenues of more than $1 billion.
“If you took the time to review his plan, it includes $615 million of fantasy money that we don’t have,” he said. “It has another $400 million of money that supposedly is going to come from modernization and efficiencies that isn’t there.”
Reid would raise taxes to balance the budget, Sandoval said.
“We’re going to have to go back to 2007 levels,” Sandoval said. “That’s the expenditures that we’re going to have to have. We’re going to have to continue the furloughs, but if we make these tough decisions we’ll be able to balance the budget.”
Reid countered that his budget plan is based on solid proposals that do not require new taxes, and he again complained that he could not comment on Sandoval’s budget proposal because he hasn’t presented one.
Sandoval said Reid has repeatedly said he would not raise taxes to balance the budget, but recently acknowledged that if he was presented with a budget from the Legislature that raised taxes, he would accept it.
“No tax ever created a job,” he said.
The debate produced no major gaffes or changes in script from either candidate. Sandoval continues to lead Reid, the son of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in polls.
Reid emphasized his experience as chairman of the Clark County Commission, balancing budgets as large as the state budget.
Sandoval said he has experience with the state budget as a member of the Legislature, and prepared and worked within an executive agency budget as attorney general.
Both rejected any notion of increasing a variety of taxes, from mining to a sales tax on services, to balance the budget despite the anticipated revenue shortfall needed to fund basic programs.
Reid said Sandoval would have to cut public education and lay off teachers to balance the budget.
Sandoval said his plan would not lay off teachers, and he countered that Reid’s plan to continue furloughs for public employees and teachers would result in a cut to education despite his comments to the contrary.
The two candidates also differed on the new federal health care legislation, with Sandoval saying he supports the legal challenge to the constitutionality of the law.
Sandoval said the law is driving up the cost of health insurance premiums in Nevada, and that it could cost Nevada $500 million over 10 years in increased Medicaid costs.
Reid said the challenge is politically motivated but acknowledged the potential cost issues for the state.
“There is potential for it to put significant pressure on states because Medicaid rates could go up significantly,” he said.
Reid said better management of Medicaid, including more managed care, can help deal with the cost issues raised by the new law.
Reid suggested in his opening statement that Sandoval would be beholden to special interests as governor, a theme in one of his television ads that portrayed the former federal judge as a lobbyist for the banking industry.
“Brian seems like a nice person, but I’m concerned about whether he is his own person,” Reid said. “The people behind him, the lobbyists that recruited him, the one’s that will write the bills and the budget that he proposes, they are the ones I’m concerned about. Because if he doesn’t have the strength to stand up to them, how will he ever stand up for you.”
Sandoval said he has experience, integrity and is opposed to tax increases in any form to balance the state budget. He said Reid has flip-flopped on taxes.
“When he was presented with the question that said: If you were presented with a budget that includes a tax increase, would you sign it,” Sandoval said. “And his response was, ‘I would.’ So the answers have changed tonight compared to the answer that was given previously.”