As the days wind down to the Nov. 4 general election, three candidates to succeed District 38 Assemblyman Tom Grady agreed on most answers but disagreed on the tax incentives given to Tesla Motors and other businesses seeking tax abatements from the state.
Tim Fasano of Fernley, Independent-American party; John O’Connor of Fallon, Libertarian; and Dr. Robin Titus of Smith Valley, Republican, recently participated in the Lahontan Valley News Candidates’ Night. The winner of the race will take over from Grady, the former Yerington mayor, who is termed out.
While Fasano and O’Connor applauded the state legislature’s special session to approve a wide range of incentives to accommodate Tesla, Titus said she may have been the lone lawmaker to oppose it because she believes for the state to be business friendly, it must be fair with all firms who want to locate here.
She said Tesla will impact the infrastructure of the area with roads, fire and police protection and schools.
On the other hand, O’Connor said he would have approved it along with the other legislators.
“With the unemployment we have, I would have given them the business tax deals,” he said.
Fasano said Tesla would also bring in other businesses and provide jobs.
“We do need to grow the economy in the state,” he said, adding that new businesses will put people to work.
Later in their segment, they were asked about the possibility of Tesla pulling out of the state “down the road.”
Titus said she has been assured the deal to bring Tesla was set up in increments, a procedure Fasano favors.
“With Tesla they made sure all increments and milestones were met,” he said.” The state can monitor that.”
Fasano then reverted back to Nevada’s roots.
“Being in Nevada, we’re in a gambling state. We’re taking a gamble,” he said. “We need to be proactive in building more jobs in the state.”
O’Connor said he doesn’t see Tesla leaving.
“They will do very well here,” he added.
One question coming from the audience focused on the business model for the future.
Both O’Connor and Fasano said one of the reasons Tesla came to Nevada was because of the excessive amounts of lithium, which is mined in the central part of the state. Fasano said this is not a business model but an inducement for Tesla to come to the state, not only for the minerals but also for the opportunity to establish a regional distribution system to serve the West Coast, Intermountain West and Southwest.
“We are very centrally located,” Fasano added.
Along with Tesla coming in, all three candidates see the need for training a workforce in Northern Nevada. A hurdle to this, however, may occur because of a proposed new funding scheme to divert more money to Southern Nevada institutions of higher learning while trimming the budgets of Great Basin and Western Nevada colleges.
Fasano was direct in stating the legislature should look at the formula and protect Churchill County and then get the funding the local campus needs.
“We need to train our workforce, and Tesla is a good example. We can’t send people to Southern Nevada to learn high tech jobs,” Fasano said.
Titus, who had a son attend a two-year technical school, said the state cannot let jobs slip away and that training a workforce is important.
“We need to keep the locals and give them the opportunities,” she said. “Not everyone goes to a four-year college.”
O’Connor, though, said lawmakers from both ends of the state will huddle in a corner, and do whatever they want — even it means to cutting funds from two-year colleges.
Jim Falk asked the three candidates a question on United Nations Agenda 21, which, according to its website describes it as a “comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations system, governments and major groups, in every area in which human impacts on the environment.
“The United Nations seeks to co-opt, via individual governments, and eventually, a “one-world government,” privately held land under the auspices of ensuring its “sustainability’.”
Fasano said he opposes Agenda 21 and said it is a bad plan for any jurisdiction to think about it. He gave an example how Lyon County wanted to pass a nuisance ordinance, and because of the public swell of opposition, the bill was killed.
“We don’t need the UN coming into our country and telling us how to run our lives,” Fasano said.
O’Connor agreed, saying Agenda 21 is not good while Titus called it a “very scary proposition.”
Titus said she is passionate about property rights and Agenda 21 would strip away many of those rights.
Becky Dodd, president of the Churchill County Education Association, said she is concerned about education funding for grades K-12 and wonders if the legislature would have a plan for funding if Question 3, an Education Initiative that would annually tax 2 percent from a business’ gross revenue making $1 million, would sail to defeat.
All three candidates responded, saying they would like to see more accountability with education funding and spending.
“We have to ensure they (school districts) spend money wisely, and we hold them accountable,” Titus reiterated.
She felt businesses coming into the state should help more financially.
“I’m the grim reaper,” O’Connor said. “Close some programs that aren’t doing well and then channel the money to education. We have a spending problem.”
Fasano said school districts must exerciser smart spending, but he also felt the teachers’ unions were a problem. He would rather hear from the teachers of what is needed in the classrooms rather than from union reps.
“I want to talk to teachers … not what unions think,” he added.
With the West mired in a drought, water became a topic for all three.
O’Connor said older laws were supposed to turn control of the water from the federal government to the states, while Fasano said more discussion of which water issues are important should occur.
Titus said she has met with water officials to see what water issues will affect the area.
“We need to work hard to protect all water users,” he stressed.
Fasano said water should be available for all ranchers and farmers and to maintain the area’s agriculture industry. He also expressed concerns that existing water is flowing to the Stillwater Refuge Area.