Same themes, different solutions
Randi Thompson and Richard “Skip” Daly compete in Assembly District 31
Both Republican Randi Thompson and Democrat Richard “Skip” Daly think diversifying Nevada’s economy, improving its schools and getting more people back to work are important goals. Both think their backgrounds lend well to making the sorts of decisions that can impact people’s lives if elected to represent Assembly District 31, which covers much of Sparks.
Thompson is a media and government relations consultant and chair of the airport board. Daly is business manager for Laborers Union Local 169.
The post they seek is currently held by Democratic Assemblymember Bernie Anderson, who is term limited and endorses Daly. Both candidates say their main goal is to make their community and their state a better place to live. But their approaches to reaching that goal vary significantly.
Thompson has some specific ideas for bill drafts. Daly says he’d like to address what issues are already underway if he’s elected.
One of Thompson’s ideas comes from a man she met while seeking votes door to door. He broke his neck while swimming and is now a paraplegic. He’s been fighting with the state about home health care versus care in an institution, which he says is more expensive. If elected, Thompson says she’d like to draft a bill to address that issue for him and others. She’d also like to revise the “construction defects” statute to address getting defects in people’s homes fixed without class action lawsuits against builders. And she’d like to draft a bill to encourage “intangible” businesses—businesses that could work anywhere in the world, such as financial organizations—to come to Reno.
Which brings us to job creation.
“The obvious first thing we need to look at is the emerging industry surrounding renewable energy,” says Daly. But, he adds, “If we’re going to make an investment to encourage that development, we need to make sure the return on that investment—the return to taxpayers—will have the desired effect, which is to create local jobs for local families.”
Thompson also thinks clean energy could help create jobs. “The key for that is to have more control of our land,” she says. “We don’t control these big land masses where we can do big renewable energy projects. That’s where our federal delegation needs to help us. Our state laws don’t allow incentives for economic development, so we can’t draw a big solar array here and say, ‘We’ll let you operate here for two years and not pay taxes.’ … We need incentives from the state to lure companies here.”
However, according to the Nevada Commission on Economic Development website, there already are state incentives for renewables: “For those companies involved in the production of energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and others, or a facility for the production of an energy storage device, there is a package of abatements available including sales/use tax and property tax. This abatement is intended for independent power providers.”
Thompson thinks a friendlier business climate in Nevada would help create a range of jobs, not just in clean energy.
“Government doesn’t create jobs, businesses do, industry does,” she says. “But government needs to create a solid environment for businesses to come to Nevada. … When people are getting ready to move here and see the legislature ping-pong on ideas that change their bottom line, they will pass us by. So we need stability, not just in our tax structure, but in our overall governance.”
Thompson thinks any kind of energy production makes sense.
“This country is 50 percent coal. I’d like to get away from that. To me, nuclear makes the most sense, but that doesn’t make sense for Northern Nevada. I see the potential for that at Yucca Mountain. A long-term site for storing this stuff for 10,000 years is a stupid idea. What I’ve said is we should take possession of these fuel rods for a short time, and when—it might be 50 years down the road—it becomes economically viable to process them, I think Yucca Mountain is an ideal site.”
Daly disagrees. “Once you start that process of being a facility for storage, temporary or otherwise, it will be very difficult to stop the increase of the storage of nuclear waste in Nevada,” he says. “If there was some offer from the federal government, it would have to be considered, but as it is—as a person from Nevada all my life—I’m skeptical of the benefits versus the risks.”
Energy-related jobs—green or otherwise—can take years to create. For now, Thompson says the warehousing and logistics industries are promising. Daly says Nevada should look at projects that involve direct government spending for public benefit, like building roads or a water treatment facility, which could better attract industry, he says.
A more educated workforce could also attract businesses here, say both candidates. However, their approaches to improving education are quite different.
“Funding isn’t an issue,” says Thompson. “How we spend it is. There are ways to reduce spending without affecting programs.” For schools, that means looking more at magnet, charter and virtual schools, and merit pay for teachers. It means consolidating rural schools and “frankly, breaking up the Clark County [district].”
“Esmeralda County has 67 students, but it got $12 million,” she says. “So we’ve got to look at how we’re doing things and funding education and say, ‘Does this make sense?’”
She’d like to see a third-party analysis of the state’s education system take place and cut out what she considers “bloated” areas, like schools with numerous assistant principals.
Daly, however, says, “If you’re trying to improve education, I don’t think you can do that if you continue to cut.” As for Thompson’s ideas, he says, “Virtual schools are difficult to monitor—like taking college classes online. Yes, it’s available, maybe it’s an option, but I don’t think it’s optimal. Are you learning? Who’s taking the test?—unless you have a video camera on the computer to make sure it’s the kid at the computer and not [an adult] taking the test. … My opponent’s position that if you live in a rural area of Nevada, those kids are less deserving of the same education as people in the cities is the wrong direction.”
So how to improve education and infrastructure and increase jobs all while facing a $3 billion projected deficit? Taxes are “a last resort,” says Thompson. She thinks we should do “zero-based budgeting” where you start from zero and set priorities from there.
Daly, however, is more open to them.
“Nobody’s running on a platform about raising taxes,” he says. “However, I do not believe the $3 billion projected shortfall can be solved by spending cuts alone or by revenue increases alone. … We’ve been on a 40-year experiment of low tax, low tax, low tax. If that’s so beneficial, why are we suffering so much more than other states in terms of jobs? I don’t think it can all be blamed on Washington, D.C. I think we have to look here, as well.”