My name is Catherine Cortez Masto. I’ve spent my life and career fighting to protect the families of Nevada. And today, I’m proud to announce that I am running to become the next U.S. Senator from Nevada.
As Attorney General, I stood up to special interests and fought for consumers in Nevada. I worked with local law enforcement to crack down on meth labs to help combat our state’s growing drug problem, protected domestic abuse victims and children preyed upon by sex traffickers and looked out for seniors who have been cheated by scam artists.
As a native Nevadan, former prosecutor and Attorney General I care about the people of our state and that’s who I’ll be standing up for in the Senate. I was proud to be the first Latina elected to serve as Attorney General. To be the first Latina elected to the United States Senate would be an honor, and an incredible opportunity for me to fight for all Nevadans.
I’m running for the Senate to continue my work standing up for Nevada seniors, consumers, homeowners, women and children. But these days, campaigns aren’t as simple as which side has better ideas. Outside groups and special interests will try to tear me down. Outside money and attacks will flow into the state. It’s not a battle I can fight on my own.
With agency budgets currently being wrapped up in committee, one budget, for the Nevada System of Higher Education, is of special concern to residents of the rural counties. Chancellor Klaich requested bridge funding for Great Basin and Western Nevada Colleges to facilitate their smooth transition to the more austere funding model approved by the Legislature in 2013. The current leadership at these colleges have taken a can-do, entrepreneurial approach to the task, pulling out all the stops to grow their institutions into sustainable long term viability within the new budget constraints.
Since GBC President Mark Curtis came on board three years ago, he has had to cope with the defunding of 58 full time positions, representing a 27% cut, with the college’s share of state operating funds plummeting 25%, from $16 million to $12 million. At the same time, graduations rose by 60% between 2010 and 2014, a minor miracle made possible by Dr. Curtis’ adept reallocation of resources and tireless efforts to seek out gifts and grants to fill in the gaps.
Now GBC faces the prospect of an imminent $1.45 million budget cut, necessitating a further staff reduction of of 25 full time positions, leaving state-funded headcount 38% below pre-recession levels. Even a miracle worker like Dr. Curtis can only do so much with so few resources in such a limited amount of time. It can’t be done.
WNC President Chet Burton is also working to better serve the needs of students in the five counties the college serves, most notably the highly successful and rapidly expanding “Jump Start” program that allows high-achieving juniors and seniors at 14 high schools to earn resident college credit in core courses prior to graduation.
Chet Burton has put his business experience to good use in coping with the ongoing budget squeeze without resorting to further faculty or curriculum cuts, and none are in his plans going forward. His decision to defund the baseball and softball teams hasn’t been popular, but when you put the interests of students first, something has to give. Like Dr. Curtis, he has a plan in place to live within the constraints of the new funding realities, but fully implementing that plan in the next 90 days is not humanly possible.
The Chancellor’s budget request for the next biennium includes more than $40 million to start up a medical school at UNLV, and $3 million to compensate for a drop in enrollment at that university’s law school. I have little doubt that those are worthy goals, but they must not be allowed to eclipse the higher education needs of the rural counties. GBC and WNC are already doing more with less, and deserve to be provided with the resources necessary to finish the job.
Since 2001, the United States has lost more than 60,000 factories and millions of decent-paying jobs. Enabled by free trade agreements like NAFTA, corporations shut down factories in this country to move abroad where they can get away with paying workers pennies an hour.
Fighting against these disastrous free trade deals has been a principal focus of my 24 years in Congress. I voted against NAFTA, CAFTA and permanent normal trade relations with China, because we need trade policies that rebuild our manufacturing sector, not agreements that will lead to fewer jobs and lower wages.
The newly-proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, written behind closed doors by corporate lobbyists, is the biggest free trade agreement of all. It’s part of a global race to the bottom to boost the profits of large multi-national corporations by outsourcing jobs; undercutting worker rights; and dismantling labor, environmental, health, food safety and financial laws.
Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry and major media companies that stand to benefit from this agreement are now pressuring Congress to authorize the TPP treaty without allowing lawmakers due process to revise it in order to ensure the deal benefits American workers. They’re lobbying for a “fast track” process to deny senators the right to amend the agreement in order to represent their constituents’ best interests.
We can’t afford to let them rubber stamp another disastrous free trade deal that would lead to the loss of more American jobs.
After careful consideration and consultation with my family, my friends, and the constituents I so proudly represent, I have decided to announce my candidacy for Nevada’s Fourth Congressional District. This is a district that is diverse and vibrant, and I am entering this race because I believe I am uniquely qualified to represent it. As the son of a housekeeper and a former farm worker, I understand the needs of the residents in the Fourth Congressional District, and I will fight every day so they, too, can have a fair shot at the American Dream. I’m running for Congress to keep the American Dream alive and to protect and expand our middle class.
I have had many mentors along the way who have taught me never to shy away from a fight, including our great Nevada U.S. Senator Harry Reid. I’m proud to have worked for him in Las Vegas, and his legacy of service inspires my decision today. I also want to thank Congressman Steven Horsford for his service to our state and setting a good example for the type of leadership that our state needs.
Our state and our nation are facing critical issues that will determine what kindof future we want to build for the next generations. In Carson City and in Washington DC, elected officials are discussing how to: 1) fund public education; 2) ensure that our seniors retire with dignity; 3) pay workers a living wage; 4) provide quality access to health care; 5) protect worker’s rights, women’s rights, voter’s rights, immigrants’ rights; and 6) how to protect our environment, including continuing the fight to keep dangerous nuclear waste from entering our state. I’m deeply engaged in these discussions in Carson City and I remain committed to continue advocating on behalf of the constituents of District 10.
I want to reassure the constituents of District 10 who elected me to represent them that my utmost priority will be to serve and protect their interests during the remainder of this legislative session. There will be plenty of time for campaigning after the session, and right now my focus is on legislating. I’m also pledging not to solicit any campaign funds during the session from lobbyists who are conducting business in Carson City. There is no official rule that compels me to take these steps, but there should be no confusion as to what my priorities are for the next few months. I was elected to represent the residents of Senate District 10 and I plan to fulfill my duties.
After the legislative session, I will embark on an aggressive campaign to win this congressional race. I am completely committed to seeing this race until the end. The only people who can deter me from this quest are the voters and I will campaign every day to earn their support. The voters will have a chance to hear my story, know my record, learn my vision, and make a choice on who is best to lead our state forward.
I sincerely want to thank all of the people who have believed in me and have trusted me over the years and who have motivated me and inspired me to pursue this next endeavor. I will not let you down.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid Announces His Retirement
Today, Senate Democrats’ fearless leader Harry Reid announced he won’t seek reelection in 2016, signaling the end of a more than three decade-long career in congress. In his video announcement Sen. Reid assured his supporters that his decision had nothing to do with an eye injury he sustained on New Year’s Day, or the fact that the 2014 elections changed his title from Majority Leader to Minority Leader. Like the boxer he was as a young man, and the fighter he was throughout his time in the Senate, Reid promised to go out swinging: “My friend Sen. McConnell, don’t be too elated. I’m gonna be here for 22 months, and you know what I’m going to be doing? The same thing I’ve done since I first came to the Senate.”
Reid’s services to Nevadans and Americans are innumerable; he brought his own life story of struggle and hard work to the Senate with him each day. And the mark he left on the capitol will be remembered for years to come. To commemorate his outstanding service, ThinkProgress put together a list of just five (you have to draw the line somewhere) of his landmark achievements in the Senate, which we have adapted below:
Pushed filibuster reform through the Senate. In 2013, Sen. Reid facilitated a change in Senate procedure that prohibited filibusters in the nomination progress, allowing a wave of new judges to be named to important appeals courts.
Facilitated the Passage of the Affordable Care Act. As majority leader in 2009, Sen. Reid was an integral part of the vote counting and whipping process that allowed the President’s landmark law to be passed without one Republican vote.
Engineered Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the Senate. Sen. Reid personally fought for and passed comprehensive, bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2013. Unfortunately the Republican-led House never took up the bill, despite overwhelming popular support, so the President was forced to take action without Congress.
Advocated for protections for LGBT Americans. Sen. Reid has publicly supported marriage equality, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and supported the President taking executive action to ban workplace discrimination against LGBT federal contractors.
Protected the environment of his home state. Sen. Reid memorably blocked an attempt to use Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste site, despite approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and pressure from Republicans. He also championed Nevada’s transition away from coal reliance in advocating the state’s energy bill “NVision” that called on the state’s largest utility to eliminate a percentage of coal generation from its portfolio. Additionally, he worked across the aisle to establish Nevada’s Great Basin National Park, protecting more than 77,000 acres of public land.
BOTTOM LINE: Overcoming a challenging upbringing with hard work to become one of the most formidable forces for change in American politics, Harry Reid’s life story is the embodiment of the American Dream. It’s part of the reason why he has worked so hard to open the door of opportunity for more Americans. His presence on Capitol Hill will be missed, but his legacy will remain. And if his last 30 years in Congress are any indication, we are looking forward to the next 22 months.
By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.
But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spending, one on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.
You might be tempted to shrug this off, since these budgets will not, in fact, become law. Or you might say that this is what all politicians do. But it isn’t. The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty…
U.S. Congressman Tom Price, House Budget Committee chairman and lead author of the House budget blueprint, speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)
Revealing their commitment to ravaging critical safety net programs while accommodating corporations and the ultra-wealthy, the Republican-controlled House unveiled on Tuesday a budget proposal (pdf) that would undermine both Social Security and Medicare, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and prioritize tax cuts for the one percent—all while boosting defense spending.
The U.S. Senate, also majority Republican, is expected to introduce similar legislation on Wednesday.
According to news reports, the initial proposals, authored by House Budget Committee chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Senate Budget Committee chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), seek to balance the federal budget over 10 years, without raising taxes. To achieve those goals, the plans are expected to include $5 trillion in cuts to domestic programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, over the course of the next decade.
It would provide $90 billion in additional war funding—much more than the $51 billion proposed by President Barack Obama—while pushing cuts to renewable energy incentives and climate change programs and repealing parts of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
And, as Sahil Kapur writes for Talking Points Memo, “the budget sets the stage for a showdown next year on Social Security.”
The New York Timesnotes that the proposal “leans heavily on the policy prescriptions that Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin outlined when he was budget chairman”—prescriptions that were blasted at the time as “a path to more adversity.”
Price, like previous Budget Committee chairmen in both parties, is using his proposal to push an aggressive policy agenda that is far broader than a simple focus on spending and deficits. Like the Ryan budgets of previous years, Price sees government as the cause of economic problems in the country and seeks to rein in federal spending — and power — by shifting programs back to state control or eliminating them outright.
For instance, the Budget Committee notes that there are 92 different anti-poverty programs, 17 food aid programs and 22 housing assistance programs. Similar overlaps have been found in federal job-training progams, it says. Price recommends eliminating or reducing many of these programs. The maximum award under Pell grants would be frozen for a decade, helping slow the huge increases in college costs. Regulations required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial services reform law are also being targeted as needlessly burdensome on the financial services industry and slowing economic growth.
The austere budget plan drew immediate criticism from many corners.
“There should be no compromise from the Democratic minority on any of this,” political analyst Charles Pierce wrote at Esquire. “It should be rejected, root and branch, because it is based on an economic philosophy, and an overall view of the relationship between people and their government, that has failed the country and its people savagely in the past and inevitably will do so again.”
In his breakdown of intra-party budget battles, Dave Johnson of the Campaign for America’s Future noted that despite any splits over specifics, the governing majority has one common desire.
“All of these Republican factions want the government cut back,” Johnson wrote. “None of them care about investing in infrastructure, investing in science, investing in education, expanding health care and safety-net programs for people who need it, or otherwise helping the public.”
Carmel Martin, executive vice president for policy at the Center for American Progress joined in calling on Congress to reject the proposal.
“Republicans are talking big with respect to tackling income inequality and wage stagnation, but the House budget proposal does not match their rhetoric,” she said. “Rather than creating jobs with investments in infrastructure and education or strengthening health care and nutrition programs to give families a foothold to climb into the middle class, the House majority has once again prioritized big tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations.”
In USA Today on Monday, journalist Nicole Gaudiano reported that Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who may run for president in 2016, plans to fight the GOP budget plan tooth and nail.
Sanders, she wrote, said he wants to take next year’s budget resolution in a “radically different” direction from the one preferred by House and Senate Republicans, declaring: “I’m going to work as hard as I can with other progressive members of the Senate to do everything we can to make sure this budget is not balanced on the backs of working families and low-income Americans.”
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NV Controller Ron Knecht’s “2nd Monthly Report” was published last week in the Humboldt Sun. I took exception with much of what he had to say. Below are his report and my rebuttal which was published in the second edition of this week’s Humboldt Sun:
Mr. Knecht’s Report:
The second Controller’s Monthly Report is now on the state web site (www.controller.nv.gov). It addresses state revenues, while the first one reviewed state spending. In sum, its findings are …
Nevada state revenues include taxes, federal and other grants and contracts, plus charges for services that have amply served the public interest. Both total tax revenues and charges for services have increased slightly relative to Nevada’s economy and the incomes of Nevada families and businesses since 2008. Total state revenues have increased at roughly the same rate as state spending, and both spending and taxes have grown significantly faster than our economy, proving again that we have a spending problem, not a revenue deficit.
Every cent taken in taxes is an act of destruction of human and social well-being; so, public spending items should not be adopted unless they clearly provide benefits exceeding the damage done by taxes required to support them. The essence of sound fiscal policy is to deploy only the least destructive tax methods and most beneficial spending measures, and to find the taxing/spending balance point that maximizes net social benefits and public wellbeing.
All taxes are “unfair” because they can’t be charged according to the social costs that people cause, nor the benefits they receive. Fairness being illusory, in taxation and other public policy, we should seek to maximize economic growth and the human well-being that growth fosters. “Ability to pay” criteria, which have a superficial ring of fairness, and “redistribution” policies are particularly destructive to the broad public interest in growth. And claims that taxing one person to subsidize another involves “compassion” are false.
The real tax fairness issue is that public spending’s beneficiaries — public employees and contractors, plus those receiving public payments — have an unfair political advantage over taxpayers and the public, an advantage that produces excessive taxing/spending levels.
So, consider the recent fortunes of taxpayers and public employees. In the last six years, Nevada taxpayers’ average incomes declined by nearly 8 percent (from $39,079 in 2008 to $36,039 in 2010) before rebounding slowly back to prior levels ($39,173 in 2014). State employees took 4.6 percent cuts via furloughs for a couple of years, followed by a combination of furloughs and actual pay reductions still totaling roughly 4.6 percent. At present, they still must take furloughs equal to cuts of about 2.3 percent.
So, state employees in general have borne roughly the same burden from our economic troubles as have taxpayers. Considering the total package — pay, benefits and job security — state employees in Nevada essentially get total compensation at market levels. Local government employees, on the other hand, have taken fewer, if any, pay cuts and many have continued to get increases. In Clark and Washoe counties, their total compensation levels are much higher than market levels prevailing in the private sector.
The accumulated and ever-increasing over-reach of government is greatly responsible for the slow economic growth of recent years and the prospects of the same in the future. So, voters, taxpayers, Nevada state employees and the broad public interest are victims of government excess, while local public employees are to some extent beneficiaries.
All these considerations reinforce the conclusions of Controller’s Monthly Report #1 that to leave our children a better future, we must stop the growth relative to the economy and to Nevadans’ incomes of public spending that drives taxes. We must especially avoid mistakes such as adopting versions of the business margins tax defeated 4-1 by voters last November. We must restructure fiscal processes for real budget constraints and effective cost management, emphasize no- and low-cost reforms in K-12 education and end public employee collective bargaining and prevailing wage rules.
My rebuttal to his partisan ideological propaganda:
I have some serious problems with Mr. Knecht’s “Commentary” in the 3/13-16/2015 Humboldt Sun.
”Every cent taken in taxes is an act of destruction of human and social well-being?” Really? Mr. Knecht doesn’t believe in ANY public commons? He doesn’t believe in public roads? Or public water and systems? Or police and fire fighters? Or public schools and universities? I’m sorry, but all of those do promote “human and social well-being” and they’re all part of OUR public commons created using OUR tax dollars. So exactly what is Mr. Knecht proposing, selling off all of our “public commons” at fire-sale prices to the “deserving” richest among us, all so THEY can charge us by the mile, by the book or test, by the flush or by the flame? What about the police? Is he proposing we should submit to a “Robocop” scenario across the state? Isn’t that why our fore-father’s fled Europe? To flee the tyranny of the rich who oppressed those beneath them?
“All taxes are unfair because they can’t be charged according to the social costs that people cause, nor the benefits they receive?” What does that even mean? That we should bestow OUR public commons to corporate parasites that pay NO taxes just because they might be the bearer of jobs? Isn’t it “corporations” that consume our infrastructure and pollute our lands and waters at the greatest rates, causing destruction of human and social well-being? Isn’t it the corporations that choose NOT to pay a living wage NOR to provide health benefits to their workers, leading to the destruction of human and social well-being? Isn’t it those same workers who now, no longer have an “ability to pay,” again, leading to the destruction of human and social well-being? Is that really what Mr. Knecht’s “fair way to run our country” would look like?
Then there’s his rant about public employees. Every cent of Mr. Knecht’s paycheck is paid with public tax dollars. That makes Mr. Knecht a PUBLIC employee. What makes him believe he’s so infinitely better than police, firefighters, teachers, or even a clerk at a local DMV?
He may talk fondly about our kids/grandkids, but that’s just a ruse, a distraction. He does make his intentions clear: to do everything he can to stifle/gut K-12 education programs that might make our children competitive and productive in an ever changing economy.
I disagree with Mr. Knecht and with that for which he stands. Instead of looking for ways to improve our “human and social well-being,” he’s apparently looking for ways to destroy it. I fear that our “investment” in his paycheck will yield only negative dividends for the everyday Nevadan before all is said and done.
The differences between the four budget proposals recently put forth by President Barack Obama, both Republican-majority houses of the U.S. Congress, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus are “stark,” according to a new analysis—while some provisions in the GOP blueprints “completely miss the mark in responding to what Americans say they want.”
The National Priorities Project (NPP), a non-profit, non-partisan research organization dedicated to making the federal budget process transparent, released Competing Visionson Friday.
The report compares how each budget proposal responds (or not) to the stated policy priorities of the American people, on key issues including jobs, education, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, food assistance, and military spending, as well as proposed strategies for tax reform and deficit reduction.
“Our analysis shows that, in most spending categories, the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the president would do the most to address the priorities voiced by the majority of Americans,” said Jasmine Tucker, research analyst for NPP and author of the report. “In some areas, the House and Senate budget proposals completely miss the mark in responding to what Americans say they want.”
For example, on the issue of taxing the wealthy, according to the NPP analysis:
68 percent of Americans think wealthy households don’t pay enough in taxes.
The Obama budget proposal raises top capital gains tax rate to 28 percent and closes the “trust fund loophole” that allows heirs to avoid taxation, raising $208 billion over 10 years. Places limits on tax deductions for top income earners and implements the Buffett Rule ensuring a minimum tax rate for the wealthy. Places limits on tax deductions for top income earners and ends the “carried interest” loophole that benefits hedge fund managers to raise $17.6 billion over 10 years.
The House budget calls for comprehensive tax reform that would lower tax rates for individuals and families. Closes some special interest tax loopholes but does not specify which ones. Eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax that sets a minimum tax for the wealthy.
The Senate budget contains no proposed changes to the status quo.
The CPC proposal raises tax rates for richest 2 percent (earning more than $250,000 per year) to Clinton-era levels, and taxes capital gains investment earnings at higher rates, yielding $1.4 trillion in additional revenue over 10 years. Places a cap on the value of itemized deductions that mostly benefit the wealthy (raising $566 billion over 10 years) and limits other tax deductions for top income earners.
Similar discrepancies exist on almost every issue.
As Tucker put it: “The differences between the four budget proposals are stark, and all signs indicate a difficult budget battle ahead as lawmakers try to resolve widely different approaches despite clear public opinion in favor of certain policies.”
While 70 percent of Americans oppose cuts to food stamps, the House and Senate budget plans would both cut the program.
While 67 percent say improving the education system in the U.S. should be a top priority for the president and Congress this year, the House and Senate allocate no new funding for education—and in fact the House proposal “freezes the maximum Pell grant award at the same level for the next 10 years, provides financial aid to fewer families, and makes substantial cuts to domestic discretionary spending, including education.”
Overall, the House Republican budget would cut $5 trillion in government spending over the next decade, mostly out of programs that low- and moderate-income Americans need and depend on—and say they support. At the same time, it adds $400 million in defense spending—not in line with public opinion polls—and promises to lower tax rates for wealthy Americans and corporations.
The Senate version follows the same basic outlines.
At a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also noted the divergence between GOP policies and the priorities of the general public.
“[T]he rich get much richer, and the Republicans think they need more help,” he said. “The middle class and working families of this country become poorer, and the Republicans think we need to cut programs they desperately need. Frankly, those may be the priorities of some of my Republican colleagues in this room, but I do not believe that these are the priorities of the American people.”
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