Gloves off

Dina Titus faces a tough battle if she’s going to beat Jim Gibbons to the governor’s mansion

Clark County Sen. Dina Titus chatted with a group of Reno residents last year at a barbecue in Idlewild Park.

Clark County Sen. Dina Titus chatted with a group of Reno residents last year at a barbecue in Idlewild Park.

Photo By Dennis Myers

Dina Titus is not the first women to win a major-party nomination for governor in Nevada. Three women preceded her, but she has a better chance of winning than any of them. Some of this year’s candidates quickly lost their post-primary gains in second-round opinion surveys. Titus fell back only slightly and remains within striking distance of Republican Jim Gibbons. It’s sweet redemption for Titus, who was underestimated throughout this election year. In the primary election she faced a “she can’t win” refrain that was supposed to redound to her primary opponent’s benefit, but she clobbered him in the election.

Gibbons has shown signs of anxiety about her, trying to insist that minor-party candidates be included in four debates in order to reduce the air time the two major candidates have to spend actually engaging each other.

The general election has so far been an exasperating experience for Titus. Gibbons has run TV spots attacking her for voting for tax and fee increases, and the later news that Gibbons also voted for them never got the exposure that the spots did. That spot went off the air only to be replaced by another in which Gibbons inaccurately accused Titus of favoring drivers licenses for illegal aliens. Meanwhile, the positions of the candidates on things like health care and economic diversification have been lost.

Born in Thomasville, Ga., in 1950 (political junkies debate the impact of her thick drawl), Alice Costandina Titus entered the College of William and Mary without graduating from high school and later took a master’s degree from the University of Georgia and a doctorate from the University of Florida. She worked for U.S. Sen. Howard Cannon of Nevada in Washington and wrote a book on atomic testing in Nevada. She teaches at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She has served in the Nevada Senate since 1988 and as Democratic floor leader since 1992.

What are the top five things you stand for?

Well, I’m campaigning on five E’s: Education first because I am an educator, and I think that is the key to everything. Economic development, which of course is related with education, good jobs with good benefits. A big part of economic development could be renewable energy, energy is the third E. Environment is the fourth and, of course, renewable energy ties to the environment, and my record in the legislature was saving Red Rock and smart growth. And then finally ethics, restoring integrity in government.

Do you feel that there was an ethical problem with the government in Nevada as it stands?

Well, I think there are some improvements we can make in ethics laws. Certainly, I’ve talked a lot about pay to play, that’s where you can give a check in the morning and cast a vote in the afternoon. That’s not so true at the legislature, because you have a 30-day cooling off period during the session and 30 days after, but at the local level, it is certainly true. I think that’s what keeps infrastructure behind, the tail wagging the dog. That’s a big deterrent to smart growth when you have such a close relationship between developers and elected officials. So, I talk a lot about that. But statewide, I think some improvements could be no more gifts. There’s no reason to take a gift, whether it’s a golf game or a lap dance. [I also believe there should be] more reporting because you can list LLCs, and nobody knows who the partners are in the LLC. That should be listed out specifically in more frequent reporting. You know the next campaign finance report isn’t due before the election so the public really doesn’t have any idea who’s giving money or how much they are giving to a candidates.

It seems there were reports that you guys may have found some interesting campaign contributions for Jim Gibbons in recent history …

Right. He’s gone over the limit with a couple of contributions, but this is not anything new. He did the same thing when he was running against Bob Miller. He had to give the money back and [then, he] said he didn’t understand the law. Of course, he was in the legislature when the law was passed. Now he’s doing it again. This seems to be a pattern of sloppy bookkeeping and not paying attention to something that is very important. Those [campaign] caps were put in by a vote of the people. You know how much you can take, and so I think it’s something that deserves talking about.

A couple years ago, we had a politician take more money in Reno than the legal limit, and it seems there’s no criminal punishment for people who do that. Is that important? Would you consider that for ethics reform?

Absolutely. That’s just one of my 12 steps in my 12-step plan for ethical sobriety, I call it. That’s to take away that “willful” defense. If you make a mistake or you don’t report something or get more than you deserve, you just say, “I didn’t mean to do it. It wasn’t willful.” Blame the secretary, or it was an adding mistake. That’s what makes people think that you always get away with things. There aren’t any teeth in the law. You go out and go 95 miles per hour, and the highway patrolman stops you. You can’t say, “Oh, well that wasn’t willful” or “I didn’t mean to do it,” “my foot fell asleep” or something like that and get off. So why should ethics laws be any different?

It’s a Class A felony, you know, when you look up the statutes. So it could be 1 to 4 years in prison if they actually enforced it. … It’s also a felony when you take more than you’re supposed to and don’t return it like after the primary. There’s a certain deadline by which that has to be returned, but nobody has ever really looked at it much because it’s always the loser who has to return it. People just don’t care once the election is over.

What would you say is the single most pressing issue facing Nevada?

Well, all the polls show that it’s education. I think that it’s education. One in 5 teachers leaves in the first year and half within five years. Everybody’s concerned about quality education, so we’ll have a qualified work force, so we can get better jobs. All day kindergarten—everywhere I go, people support that because the earlier you start, the less likely you are to drop out. And also more vocational education programs so people who aren’t going to college will proceed to have some other options besides dropping out. So if you had an apprenticeship, say your junior and senior year, where you are working as a chef or a banker or a skilled craftsman then at the end of your high-school years, then you now only have a diploma, you have a job. So programs like that people are very enthusiastic about and interested in.

We have ACE charter school here in Reno, is there a way to increase that state wide?

I think you can. I like charter schools. I think there have been some problems with some of them early on but there are some that are very successful down here. Look at the Agassi School. So the more creative you can be and the more decision-making you can put at the level of schools, the more empowered our teachers feel and the more involved parents will be. And I think the better off our students overall would be.

It seems that the school districts don’t necessarily like charter schools. Lots of times they hold them accountable to things that couldn’t have been planned for in advance. Is there a way to encourage charter schools?

Well, we have a charter school statute that we enacted and we reformed last time. Certainly, we could look at additional ways to tweak that statute to help make charter schools more successful or take away some of the deterrents to allowing them to be creative and to move forward. But you have to be careful because when you give state dollars to a charter school. If you don’t have some constraints on them or some way to hold them accountable, you’re not going to know where those dollars go.

Do you support No Child Left Behind?

No, I think it’s terrible. I think it has left a lot of children behind.

Would you support a lawsuit against it?

Photo By David Robert

Yes sir, I would. I think that we ought to join in with Connecticut, which just filed a suit saying that it’s an unfunded mandate, which it definitely is.

What are your budget priorities going to be?

I met with the governor last week and looked at the budget that he’s drawing up now to think about a transition and apparently there’s not going to be nearly the size of surplus that some people anticipated early on. We talk about 600 million, now it’s down to between 100 and 200 million, so that’s not a whole lot of extra money with the growth, medicaid, and the growth of school age population roll over costs eat up a lot of that anticipated surplus. The first thing I’d do though, is resolve that kindergarten. There’s enough money for all day kindergarten. I think you have …

Is that out of the surplus?



The rest of the surplus, I don’t think that we can spend on ongoing programs so much because when the extra money is not there, you either gotta cut the program or raise taxes. Nobody wants to do that. But there are a lot of one-shot investments that we could make with that surplus, whether that’s buying down the liability of PEBS, putting a little into capital improvements, more infrastructure, restoring or rehabilitating schools that are in really bad shape to give them smart class rooms. I’d like to see some of it in a collaborative effort with the University and the communications industry to put fiber optics along our major corridors to bring high-speed Internet to rural Nevada to help with economic development out there.

What would you do to ensure that the Millennium Scholarship survives?

Well, last time I voted in favor of taking the unclaimed property fund and to shore it up because tobacco money is going down. I think you have to keep the Millennium Scholarship. I totally support it. I see it every day in the classroom. When I ask, “How many of you are on the Millennium Scholarship?” hands go up proudly. Black hands, white hands, girl hands, boy hands. So it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. You can take some of that surplus money to help endow the Millennium Scholarship so you’re just living off the interest, and that would keep it going.

Now what would you do, there are many environmental problems caused by mining in this state—Anaconda, clean ups like that—where would that money come from or what could be done about?

Well, some of that money could be federal money if it became a superfund site out in Yerington for example. Now that’s been controversial. My opponent has said that mercury is not that big a problem. Other people seem to think that mercury is a serious problem.

I think that is a problem. I think part of it is the state environmental protection agency that holds people’s feet to the fire. I worked with Alan Biagi as a chair in the Natural Treasure’s Committee to put in legislation next time to establish some mercury transport and storage regulations and move mercury into hazardous material because of all this that they think about shipping to the depot so those are the kinds of things that the state has to do. And it’s not so much money; it’s more just making those things a priority

How much control do you have over environmental issues as a governor? How much of it has been preempted?

Well, some of it’s preemptive, but some of it is that you just can’t be less than the federal government. You can be more than the federal government. So the person we appoint as the head of the environmental protection agency, that environmental commission that exists out there, I think you can make it a priority and have some say.

Your opponent has talked a lot about taxes, about keeping them down but not so much about who pays them.


Do you think Nevada taxes are fairly distributed?

Well, [Gibbons is] calling me Dina “Taxes” and accusing me of voting for things that he voted for himself. I’ve always tried to keep property tax low and the sales tax low because that’s what everybody pays. It’s interesting though, this last session we raised the gaming tax some, 8 percent, we raised it. We put it on cigarette tax, liquor tax, so that’s something if you choose to do that then you pay. Sales tax and property tax—everybody has to pay that so we should keep it as low as possible. I think the state’s done a good job with that. I had the property tax freeze that resulted in a 3 percent cap and Randolph Townsend gave me the credit for doing that. I’m pleased with that. We’re still one of the—I think it’s the third-lowest— lowest-taxed states in the country because so much of the burden is placed upon tourists instead of on the residents. We have the exemption for food and medicine when it comes to sales tax. No income tax so it’s really not much of a tax burden here. But that “lower taxes, less government,” I guess [Gibbons] seems to think that plays.

Do you think that it’s fairly distributed? Is it progressive? Or regressive?

Well, I wanted to see a business tax to help take part of that burden, but the best we could do was an increase in the payroll tax. I think that business has a great climate here and that’s wonderful. We want to keep business coming, but at Dillards in Nevada, you pay a lot less taxes than Dillards in California. But as a customer you go in, and that sweater costs the same as it costs you in California because they do regional pricing. They’re getting a whole lot better of a deal here than they are in some other states.

Do you think the gaming taxes should be increased beyond what you did last session?

Nobody is talking about raising taxes because there is a surplus. Gaming taxes right now as a percentage is going down because so much more money is now coming in with peripherally related things, whether it’s retail or entertainment tax or sales tax on all the construction with all the creation of these condominiums and time shares, not just hotel rooms. I think if you see an increase in the gaming tax, it will be down the road, and it will be an adjustment of tiers. You don’t just raise the tax across the board so that the little casinos in rural Nevada or some of the smaller-level casinos in urban Nevada aren’t hit as much as say the mega resorts. But nobody is talking about doing that, but I anticipate that would be the way to go. Also, I think with the initiative though, if you were to get somebody like Gibbons in there for governor who just wants to ratchet everything down, roll back business taxes, roll back some of those taxes when the public needs to pay for something with the initiative process, that it would be the gaming tax that would be raised. So, to me it’s short-sighted for gaming to be supporting Gibbons at all because it just makes the target on their backs bigger and bigger.

Some of these national rankings, quality-of-life rankings that Nevada recently were low in have started to turn, teen pregnancy is going down and that sort of thing, do you attribute that directly to the 2003 tax package or how do you account for it?

Photo By David Robert

Well, that helped with the surplus last time. We were able to put some money into programs that helped to shorten waiting lists. I chaired the disability committee, you know the whole homestead plan and the money that we put into programs to help people get those services with a shortening of the waiting list helped with some of that surplus. Money that we put into mental health last time, more than we had since Bob Miller cut it how many years ago, helped some. I think those are all moving in the right direction but when you say we are improving, we are still you know down there in the bottom four or five. We’re just not last maybe in some of those areas. That’s why I say if we have whatever the surplus is this time, we need to reinvest it within the state because we need to get off of the bottom of every good list and the top of every bad list.

You are against Yucca Mountain, what would you do to stop it?

I have long been against it. I’ve sponsored resolutions and written books and all that against it. I’ll be one of the people that’s chained across the road when it comes. I think that you use the governor’s office as the bully pulpit to fight it. You make that office a nuclear projects priority. You can’t say I’m opposed to it and then ‘wink, wink’ support the President who wants to ram it down our throat.

Do you think that Guinn used his power more as governor properly?

Well, one of the things he did that I thought was good and I contributed personal money to this, was when he set up the fund to try to raise some money to do some advertising and lobbying across the country. I thought that was a good idea. It’s kind of fallen by the wayside, but at the time, it was a good statement. Once you had George Bush coming in here and having all the Republicans supporting him at the same time they said they were opposed to Yucca Mountain, … I don’t see how you can have it both ways.

Have you encountered anything about you being a woman that has been …

Well, that’s something we’re real enthusiastic about … being the first woman governor. Some people say it’s about time that we had a woman. Other people say, “Well, we should give a woman a chance. She can’t mess it up worse than people already have.” But I’m not running as a woman; I’m running as Dina Titus with my record.

Sounds like you’re saying that it’s not the issue that it would have been say 20 years ago.

Right, I don’t think it is the issue that it would have been because, well look how many more women governor’s you have. You have [Arizona Gov. Janet] Napolitano, you have [Kansas Gov. Kathleen] Sebelius, you got [Washington Gov. Chris] Gregoire, women governors in some very conservative states dealing with some main issues. They no longer just ask women candidates about fashion and fertility, now we’re talking about Homeland Security and tax policy.

Politics has gotten very mean spirited, even governor races, why do you want this job?

[Chuckle.] Well, mean-spiritedness is not anything new in politics. It goes back to George Washington. In those days they threw animal excrement at each other, so this is not quite as bad as that. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of shit out there.

I want to be governor. I’m ready for it. I have spent time in the legislature. I know the issues. I know the people. I know the budget. I have a plan to move Nevada forward. I have compassion. I’m excited about it. I think it’s time. I think we can do great things. That’s one of the things about Nevada, is that it’s not like California. You can see the fruits of your labor. If you have a good idea in the morning in Nevada, by the afternoon you can find five crazy people to go along with you. You know, it’s that kind of entrepreneurial spirit, whether it’s business or politics or gaming or whatever it might be.

You had some quotes that suggested maybe you think less of Northern Nevada than you do Southern Nevada. I’ve heard you say, “Look at my record, compare it to Raggio’s” but that doesn’t really answer the question. The question is, why should Northern Nevadans trust you to represent us?

Well, I’ve addressed that probably a hundred times over the years. I said that in my first session in a tough tax-shift battle, but do I wish I hadn’t been as exuberant in my rhetoric? Absolutely. I have apologized, yes. Have I learned now to not say those kinds of things over the 18 years I have been in the legislature? Of course. But I say, “Don’t you want a fighter?” The whole state will be my district; I will fight just as hard for all parts of the state. And I think that I have proven that over the years since I’ve been the minority leader, sitting on finance and caring about all the districts, not just my own district. I have a record that is unmatched in the things I have been done for the whole state. Whether it is the Elko Rail Port or the Flood Fund or White Pine County Court House or Reno the University and the medical center. Over the years I have voted for hundreds of bills that have benefited Northern and rural Nevada so I think that record shows. My opponent, on the other hand, if you ask people, “How has your life improved since he has been in office?” or Southern Nevada because his signs up North say, “This is Gibbons Country,” not down in Southern Nevada. They don’t say that. Where he’s not really done anything for this part of the state. I think that argument just is moot.

How do you feel about importing water to Clark County from Rural Nevada?

I served on that interim water committee that is chaired by [Nevada State Senator] Dean Roads. We have been all around the state and it used to be just Clark County sucking up everybody else’s water. Now it’s a statewide issue. Fallon is concerned about Fernley using their water that they used to use for alfalfa and cantaloupes now going for a bedroom community. Reno’s importing water from Winnemucca. Pahrump is turning into a cesspool. The water table’s going down the septic tanks are going up. Lincoln County is fixing to change drastically as Harvey Whittemore develops Coyote Springs. He told us he’s the biggest land owner in the county, next to the federal government, because he’s bought up all the ranches for the water rights to put golf courses. White Pine County now is negotiating with Clark County. First, the county commission was going to sell out its birthright for a million dollars, then they backed off of that. Now the federal government has pulled out its objections but what would you expect from this administration anyway? So that’s about all that’s going on. I have said everywhere I go urban and rural, that you need an inventory of just how much water is out there and you need a plan for how much water do you need? Not how much do you want but how much do you need. That’s why in the last session I had the bill to recreate the water planner office and the water engineer because what the state has done up to now is to get in at the end of the process, as opposed to at the beginning. If you don’t get in at the beginning, you need a better planner, more of a mediator/moderator, the big counties will always gobble up the little counties. And the policy that has to be the over riding principle when you’re making these decisions is that it has to be sustainability. You sustain agriculture, you sustain ranching, and you sustain the environment and you give the urban areas enough water to grow. And you have to sustain the environment, not only because it’s the right thing to do but because that’s where people in the urban areas go for recreation, so you’re not not going to be able to hunt or fish or camp if everything out there dries up.

You said awhile ago that you had apologized for comments about Northern Nevada, I don’t recall that when did that happen?

Well, God how many times do I have to do that? I’ve done it on Sam Shad, I’ve done it on debates, I’ve done it on the floor. I’ve done it at a dozen public meetings, you know, but I don’t apologize for the position that I took. That tax shift was the right thing to do. I apologize for the exuberant rhetoric. Certainly, I’ve learned a lesson over the years. Look at the record, not at the rhetoric.

What’s your perspective on Homeland Security?

Well, I just did a press conference on that about a week ago. Mark Warner was here, and that was kind of the topic because it was around 9-11. We were talking about it. One is that you got to go back and use that bully pulpit to get those federal dollars back in our state. When they use a formula—and they did it for political reasons—that excludes all of our tourists, that makes no sense whatsoever. … We gotta get that money back in here. The first priority has go to be communications inter-operability. … Highway patrol can’t talk to fire, can’t talk to the police. We’ve got to get people to communicate statewide. Also, I think, you got to streamline it because now you’ve got a Director of Homeland Security; you got a commission; you got an advisory council; you’ve got FEMA over here. You need to streamline that, create a direct channel to the governor and better cooperation with local governments because right now I think that local governments, in some instances, like Clark County, are doing a better job than the state’s doing.

We lost, or the state lost money, was that you said for political purposes, what does that mean?

Right after Harry Reid called the president a liar, we got cut from the list. I suspect there was a connection. I mean I can’t prove that, but it’s hard to imagine any kind of rational decision-making would have cut us from the list.

I mean New York City got cut, too, and that also seemed to have political connections. Where do you come down on issues of illegal immigration? Driver’s license and that kind of thing?

Titus visited with other mourners at a memorial gathering for the late women’s rights leader Maya Miller at the Miller ranch in Washoe Valley last month.

Photo By Dennis Myers

Well, he’s running that ad too, which is absolutely untrue. My position is that I would send the troops to the border, just like Jan Napalatono did and Arnold Shwartzenegger did. You have to close the border because if you don’t there’s nothing you can do to fix the problem here cause it’s just like a sive. It just continues to grow so I support closing the border. Nevada’s laws are already pretty good. You can’t get a driver’s license if you are not documented and if you have a green card your license lasts only as long as your papers. You can’t get medicaid if you’re not documented. So those things are already on the books. I said that if congress, we have to wait for congress and they haven’t done anything for more than a decade and that’s why the problem is so critical now. And they won’t do anything before the elections because it is too hot of an issue. They don’t want to do anything. So if they ever react, if they come up with some kind of pathway to citizenship of some kind of quest worker program, people who are recognized in those programs I would support having a driver’s license. I said that, but the Las Vegas Sun just printed that I support drivers licenses. We called them. They ran a correction and said you’re right you said that driver’s licenses were for people in that program. The correction ran in the paper but now Gibbons is running an ad saying that I’ve backed off, that I changed my mind, that I flip flopped. That’s not true. We’re gonna try to make him take that ad down. I don’t know if we are going to succeed or not but it is not true and we’ve got the proof to show it is not. He, however, stood before the Latin Chamber yesterday and said that he would look at the Utah plan, which is driver’s licenses for illegal. Now that was to the Latin Chamber, to other people he says something different.

As governor, you may have opportunities to sign laws that decrease the amount of choice, like parental notification, or requiring that medical providers talk about the downsides to abortions. Do you see yourself [signing legislation] limiting abortion in any way …

I don’t. My feeling is that abortion is terrible. It always results from some kind of tragic situation. That’s a decision that the legislature shouldn’t be involved in. It should be between a woman, her God, her family and her doctor, not some legislatures. The public thought that, too, and they did Question 7. I think Question 7 stands, but if it is challenged that will always be my position.

There are ways to, if there were a parental notification …

We had parental notification in the legislature before, and I think, you know, sure you want young girls to tell their parents if they are in trouble. Most would, and those who come from good families can do that, but sometimes there are young women who are abused by members of their own family and don’t, can’t tell their parents. Unless you can have some kind of viable option for alternatives for those kinds of situations, parental notification won’t work. We went round and round and round on that issue in the legislature and finally quit trying to do it because we couldn’t agree with some kind of alternative and who would provide that.

You’re a scholar, you’re accustomed to writing things, noting them, keeping the lines straight, getting them down basically, is it exasperating for you when, first you’ve got the Dina Taxes spot and about the time you get that, could you respond to that and ease off on immigration and driver’s license and by the time you get that out, he’ll probably have another spot out there. Is that process exaggerated?

Well, it is. You know I just want to say, “You’re not telling the truth. Let’s just tell the truth.” We’re not going to just try to respond to everything that he does. We’re going to talk about our own message. A lot of people are sick of negative ads. They’ve had it with them. Tell me what you’re going to do, not the problem with other people, so I’m not sure how effective they are being. But he’s calling me Dina Taxes, we’re calling him Congressman Fibbons instead of Congressman Gibbons because he’s just not telling the truth. He’s fibbing to the people of Nevada.

But, isn’t there a danger of not responding to those things?

Well, you have to respond in some way, absolutely. And we are, but you can’t let him direct this campaign. We have a plan, just like in the primary, it was laser-focused. We went after it, and we’re going to come after him and his record. Then he’ll have to respond to that because, if you want to look at taxes, his record on taxes— besides having voted on a lot of them himself in the legislature—has giving tax breaks to big corporations like oil companies while we’re paying over $3 a gallon. Let’s explain that. Or big tax breaks to CEO’s who make 300 times what the average worker makes. Let’s explain that. So those are the kinds of things that we’re going to come back with calling him on his record. Like yesterday at the Latin Chamber, he stood up there said he’d look at the Utah plan, and “You people are my friends,” well then when we laid out all of his record on bad votes, his zero score on issues effecting the Hispanic population then people start going, “This guy is fibbing to us.”

Do you think that who you are gets voters through all of this stuff? When they go to the polls to vote are they going to know where you are on caring for the environment and that sort of thing?

Well, I think they are going to know Dina Titus. That’s who they are going to know. Look, in the primary, all they did in the primary was hitting me with the comments in Northern Nevada, with distortions of my record on taxes. And we came back with what I stand for, what I’ve done in the legislature, who I am: integrity, hard work. I think people know me for who I am as well as for policy issues.

If elected, what kind of people would you hire around you? What kind of people would you bring together?

People who reflect all the faces of Nevada, and I won’t have the same old people whispering in my ears. Sig Rogich isn’t going to control the state if I’m elected, but he will if Jim Gibbons is. I’m not one of the good ol’ boys, and I’ll tell you something else: I want people around me who are smarter than I am. I don’t mind not being the smartest one at the table, that doesn’t threaten me, that makes me stronger. Give me people who are experts, who can bring their expertise and their experience to bear, being on the front line. I don’t want the guy who knows about Arabian horses running FEMA. I want somebody who’s been out there working when the dam broke. So it would be that kind of people.

Fifty years from now, when some grad student does a master’s thesis on the Titus administration, what do you want him or her to include?

I want him to say that Nevada went in a new direction. It was a new day and a new millennium, and we went in a new direction with things like renewable energy. That we became the first in renewable energy because that’s the potential that’s there. And that it was time for a change, and that that occurred.

After four years as governor, do you think that those national rankings will show a difference?

I think you will see a trend in the right direction. Will we move from 50th to second? No. But you can certainly start moving in that direction. That’s just like spending on education. We’re not going to be able to get the national average in one bi-annum, but certainly if you make it a priority, you can move in that direction. And once you start the movement, it’s hard to turn it back.

How do you react when you hear people say, “Well, we are just throwing money at the problem about a range of issues?”

Well, I think that what you have to do is have accountability for the money. Nobody likes taxes, but they are willing to pay taxes if they think that the money is needed, if they think the tax is fair and that they are getting their money’s worth. So, you’ve got to show that the money that you are taking from taxpayers is producing some results. And I think you can do that. It’s just a little creative thinking, a little thinking outside the box. Don’t tell me why something won’t work; tell me how to get it done.

When you’re imposing a tax program, is it going to include tax equity as well as a stable source of taxation, as well as the other issues that we’ve looked at in the past?

Well, I’m not talking about raising any kind of taxes now. And, in fact, I just was quoted in terms of this blue ribbon commission for the infrastructure, highway needs $3.8 billion in the next 10 years. That blue ribbon commission is coming with a whole menu of things that they are going to cobble together, which is the way that we’ve done tax policy in the past, which is not a very good way to do it. A little liquor, a little cigarette, a little real-estate property, gas tax, which I think you absolutely cannot raise. I think it will end up being a vote of the people. Let the people vote it, like they voted on bond issues for building schools to see how they want to pay for it. What’s been most popular with initiatives recently has been sales tax.

But, do you think Nevada’s tax base is fair?

Well, I think you, the more you broaden in the base, the fairer it gets.

That increases the stability but, does that necessarily make it fair?

Oh, what’s unfair about it? What are, I don’t know what you’re trying to say.

Well, do you consider the reliance on the sales tax fair?

Well, sales tax nature regressive, but what makes it acceptable here is that we have exemptions for food and medicine and such a large percentage of the sales tax is paid by tourists, so that’s why there is a willingness to pay sales tax when there is say not a willingness to pay more property tax.

RN&R intern Molly Hofmann contributed to this article.