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TAX NEWS - may 2010

State Senate District 7

The June 8 Democratic primary for the state Senate District 7 seat is unlike any in the history of the state.

For the first time, two term-limited Assembly incumbents, Kathy McClain and Mark Manendo, are battling each other for a Senate seat.

But their Republican foes, Trish Marsh and Anthony "Tony" Wright, consider it a perversion of the term-limits law that longtime Assembly members can leave one house and run for another.

"They are career politicians," said Marsh, making her first bid for office after working on others' campaigns.

When voters approved the term-limits amendment in 1998, Marsh said they thought they were limiting legislators to 12 total years of service, not 12 years in one house and then 12 years in the other.

McClain represented Assembly District 15 for 12 years, while Manendo was the District 18 Assembly member for 16 years. Their adjoining Assembly districts make up parts of Senate District 7, a district where Democrats hold a 2-to-1 registration advantage.

The district includes the Strip, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and most of metropolitan Clark County east of Interstate 15.

Wright, a registered nurse, also doesn't like the fact that McClain was a career Clark County government employee before her retirement, while Manendo formerly worked for a community college.

"McClain and Manendo both have been there before and haven't gotten it right," Wright said. "No more civil servants in the Legislature. All they know how to do is raise more taxes and pass idiotic bills. When tax receipts are down, we need to tear the budget down."

Marsh said, "I don't want anymore taxes. The legislators have forgotten the public and businesses. We cannot keep giving."

To revive the economy, she favors giving businesses tax breaks and incentives.

Marsh said she sees waste by the schools, including shredding books and paper.

Schools need to go back to the basics, according to Wright. They also need to track students and investigate why there is such a high dropout rate in Clark County.

"No more unions in the schools," Wright added.

Manendo and McClain both believe the winner of the Democratic primary will win the November election. They have been hitting the pavement and knocking on doors.

"I am a grass-roots machine," Manendo said. "I have been knocking on a lot of doors in Kathy's (Assembly) district, and people say they haven't seen her in 10 years."

Manendo has been attacking McClain from the get-go. He reminds voters that McClain was found guilty by Secretary of State Ross Miller of a civil violation of campaign laws. She used $7,276 in campaign contributions last year to cover her personal retirement pension costs.

McClain thought the expenditure was permitted, however, and reported it on her campaign expenses report. Miller ordered her to make a $7,276 donation to a domestic violence prevention program.

"Just because Kathy McClain didn't mean to break the law doesn't change the fact that she still broke the law," Manendo said.

McClain pointed out that if she were trying to hide something, she never would have reported the expenditure.

"I thought it was an expense related to the office," she said. "I wouldn't have had the expense if I had not been serving in the Legislature in Carson City."

Manendo, assistant director of a group of auto body repair shops, also carries baggage into the race. He was accused of sexually harassing two volunteer female interns of then-Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, R-Reno, in the 2003 session.

While Manendo denied he did anything improper, he was stripped of the chairmanship of the Assembly Government Affairs Committee following that session. He never has chaired a committee since then.

McClain has been chairwoman of the Assembly Taxation Committee for two sessions.

When it comes to voting, there is little difference between the two. They voted the same way on 658 of the 662 measures before the Assembly in 2009. Both voted to raise taxes by $1 billion, and both voted to override bills vetoed by Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Although he has supported tax increases in the past, Manendo said he is taking a wait-and-see approach on whether he will support tax increases to fill what has been projected as a $3.5 billion budget hole.

"I don't believe we can fill the entire hole," he said. "All you have to do is drive around to see the mom and pop businesses are dying. Sales taxes hurt the poor. A lot of people are upset about the DMV (car registration tax increase) we passed."

Manendo said legislators should consider taxing services that now are not taxed. They also need to ensure that huge businesses like Wal-Mart pay their fair share of taxes.

McClain said she isn't going to lie to voters and say taxes won't be increased in 2011.

The Legislature could impose sales taxes in 2011 on services that are not now taxed, such as haircuts, car repairs and legal and advertising fees, she said.

Haircuts often are just $10, so a sales tax on one isn't going to break someone, McClain said. And if someone can afford a $100 haircut, then they can afford the sales tax on it, she said.

If services are taxed, then the overall sales tax rate might be reduced, McClain said. "We need to fix our revenue structure. A sales tax on services is long overdue."

Either legislators fix the revenue structure, or they will say goodbye to ever properly funding public education in Nevada, she said.

"We cannot say we can cut here and cut there," said McClain, pointing out that 92 percent of state spending goes to education, health and human services and prisons. "There is little left to cut."
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