By Anne Knowles, Nevada News Bureau: Helmuth Lehmann and Tim Fasano were caught in the crossfire last night as Mark Amodei and Kate Marshall threw rhetorical punches at one another during an hour-long debate between the four candidates for Nevada’s second congressional district.
The former state senator and current state treasurer stood on opposite ends of the podium trading jabs about taxes and jobs for much of the live debate held in Reno’s KNPB TV studio and broadcast statewide.
Democratic candidate Marshall proposed offering tax breaks to companies who create jobs and endorsed a so-called infrastructure bank, an idea also promoted by President Barack Obama, which would lend money to private companies to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. She used the topic to chide her Republican opponent.
“It has bipartisan support unless, of course, you signed the tax pledge, then you’re not supportive of that bipartisan piece of legislation,” said Marshall. “In order to come together you have to not box yourself in a corner you can’t sign a tax pledge which has Grover Norquist telling you when and whether you’ll raise taxes.”
Amodei recently re-signed a pledge not to raise taxes if he were elected to Congress, a pledge promulgated by Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington-based advocacy group headed by Grover Norquist.
“I think it signals a willingness to acknowledge the facts. Compromise is not spending 40 cents of every dollar on debt. Compromise is not running up the debt until it equals the GDP, ” said Amodei when asked earlier in the debate whether signing the pledge signaled his unwillingness to compromise. “It’s not being intractable, it’s recognizing we cannot tax your way out of this.”
For his part, Amodei rebuked Marshall for latching onto loan guarantees made to private enterprises by the federal government.
“We need to start telling the people the truth,” said Amodei when asked what he would do to restore confidence in Congress. “How maybe loan guarantees aren’t a good thing. Remember the ones to Chrysler and General Motors? They cost the taxpayer. Remember the ones to AIG and some of the Wall Street folks.”
Amodei, like Marshall, repeated ideas he’s been touting on the campaign trail to solve the state’s economic woes. He talked about expediting the process for permits to use public lands and, on a national level, suggested a hiring freeze for the federal government.
Amodei said 85 percent of the land in Nevada is publically-owned and should be better utilized for ranching, mining and energy resources in order to create jobs, but permits to use the land can take up to 10 years to acquire.
“The processing times are phenomenally slow to the point where we are de facto closed for business,” said Amodei.
When the candidates were asked when they disagree with their own party, Amodei said his party over the last couple decades has sometimes lacked courage.
“Not having the courage to say we don’t need special healthcare for members of Congress, that we don’t need a special bank for member of Congress,” said Amodei. “There’s a good bunch of people serving there, but the culture has overtaken.”
Marshall said she parts way with the Democratic party on the so-called Bush tax cuts, reductions in the tax rate passed under President George W. Bush that are set to expire at the end of the year.
“I think we need to keep the Bush tax cuts,” said Marshall, saying that small businesses needed the cuts to create jobs.
Only Lehmann, a non-partisan independent, favored letting them expire, but only to raise rates on the wealthy.
The candidates also agreed that they would have not voted to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, but for varying reasons. Lehmann said he is opposed to the balanced budget amendment that was attached to the bill.
“I think it’s a ruse to make people believe that Congress is actually doing something,” said Lehmann.
Fasano, the Independent American Party candidate, said he wouldn’t have voted for it either.
“We have a problem in government and that problem is spending,” said Fasano.
Marshall said she was opposed to the deal because it cut defense spending and Medicare and didn’t close tax loopholes.
“It was the wrong priorities and those are not my priorities,” said Marshall.
Amodei said that he would have voted no because Washington needs to learn spending discipline.
Early voting for the special election to fill vacant seat starts on Saturday. The election is Sept. 13.