By Ron Knecht
In 2018, I’ll be running for re-election as Nevada Controller. Why do I think I’ve earned your vote, and what will I do in a second term?
In 2014 I ran as a “plain-speaking nerd,” with 40+ years of management and senior professional experience as an economist and financial, policy and technical analyst, half in public service and a half in private business. I noted that my law degree, Stanford masters degree in Engineering-Economic Systems and California registration as a professional engineer are good assets. And I’ve been a founder, director or executive for twelve private businesses, charities, and public-interest groups, plus a college economics instructor.
I served eight years as a Nevada higher education regent, chairing the budget and audit committees two years each and being an active member of the investment committee that oversees over $1-billion in endowment and operating fund investments. As an Assemblyman in 2003, I cast the deciding vote against the proposed gross receipts tax that would have been Nevada’s largest-ever tax increase and very destructive.
I ran particularly to promote transparency and accountability in government by publishing analyses of state operations, spending, and taxes. That helps Nevadans determine whether their tax dollars are spent efficiently and effectively and debunks many erroneous political claims. So, I published Nevada’s first two Popular Annual Financial Reports. They won awards from a professional society and enthusiastic approval of citizens.
Our reports showed that over the last decade, as the Great Recession cut the incomes of Nevada families and businesses nine percent, state spending grew eleven percent – information the tax-and-spend Establishment desperately wants to hide from you. Working with others in 2015, I also produced an alternative budget that would have funded well all reasonable state needs while not requiring the largest-ever Nevada tax increase that the tax-and-spend crowd adopted, an increase including the despised Commerce Tax.
I promised close attention to the nuts and bolts of our daily work and that we would thereby cut costs and save taxpayers money. Because my deputy controller James Smack, former assistant controller Geoffrey Lawrence, managers, staff and I have taken care of business, you haven’t heard about any turmoil, scandals or trouble in the Controller’s office. There hasn’t been any.
Instead, while improving all services, we cut spending in our first full fiscal year by 13% from the levels approved by the legislature and governor based on the request of my predecessor. In our first two years, our 41-person office returned over $1-million to the state treasury to reduce your taxes and support meritorious spending elsewhere.
As Controller, I inherited a large and troubled contract to modernize and improve debt collection operations. We worked closely with the contractor, department of finance and attorney general’s office to successfully turn around this project, delivering on another major promise I made.
Further, I promised to put the state checkbook online for everyone to examine. This work has cost much less than budgeted due to the good efforts of our managers, staff, and contractor. However, as we were almost ready to go live with it, we discovered many state agencies have been putting personal identifying and confidential information into our computer systems. The online date has been delayed as we work with all state agencies to remedy this problem and avoid compromising safety and security for you and all Nevadans by exposing such information.
I also promised to help re-engineer and streamline state business practices and to modernize the financial, accounting and information systems that connect all state agencies to conduct business. Our managers and I have worked diligently on this massive long-term project with many other state agencies. In my second term, I want to see it through to completion.
Recently, I made major recommendations to the public employee retirement system to improve assessment of its financial position and reduce risks to taxpayers and state and local employees.
Finally, I’m leading the effort to repeal the Commerce Tax via a referendum on the 2018 ballot. In 2014, taxpayers rejected a version of this tax 79-21, and a repeal will finally kill it and the corruption it spawns.
I seek your vote, support and advice to keep doing all this work for you.