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April 24, 2014

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Las Vegas Senate candidate raises north-south education funding issue

State Senate candidate Kelli Ross said more state education money needs to stay in Clark County instead of being shipped north, while her opponent, Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, would not commit to supporting the taxes he voted to extend in 2011, during a televised debate Tuesday night.

Ross, a Democrat who owned an electrical contracting business, said on “Face to Face with Jon Ralston” that the state needs to stop redistributing Clark County money to other areas of the state.

“So much money gets sent to Northern Nevada and rural Nevada,” she said. “The money needs to stay in Clark County. We’d be able to have smaller class sizes. Kids will be able to have desks. That’s reprehensible.”

Hammond, the Republican candidate, dodged the question about whether Clark County was losing out to other areas of the state, and said he favored giving parents a choice in schools.

Senate District 18 is one of five competitive state Senate races on the ballot this November that will determine which party controls the state’s upper house during the 2013 Legislature. Democrats currently hold a one-seat advantage, and Republicans have to win four out of five of those races to retake control.

Republican voters currently outnumber Democrats in Senate District 18, which is in northern Las Vegas, by about 1,100 voters.

Both Ross, whose husband is Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross, and Hammond faced competitive primaries in June. Ross said she was a conservative in her Democratic primary race. Hammond was the moderate against more conservative Assemblyman Richard McArthur.

While both K-12 schools and higher education have been looking to rejigger their formulas to send more money south, most elected officials and candidates have been circumspect on the issue.

Ross also said she could not name an issue on which she disagreed with unions, who make up most of her endorsements.

“I am the union candidate. But I’m also the candidate for the people, and will do what’s right for them,” she said.

Hammond, a Clark County School District teacher, said he would not be beholden to unions. But he also wouldn’t commit to extend about $600 million in taxes, which he voted to extend for two years at the end of the 2011 Legislative session. Gov. Brian Sandoval has said he will support extending them again, but will need a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.

“I’ve never officially said anything to anybody,” Hammond said in the interview. He wants to see what type of tax projections the state’s Economic Forum, which forecasts tax revenues, makes over the next couple of months.

Hammond said he wanted to roll back how much governments pay workers on public construction projects — the “prevailing wage” issue that conservatives have pushed for the past two legislative sessions.

Ross said she would oppose that. Rolling back those wages “would hurt the middle class more,” she said. Her electrical contractor business was a union shop.

“As a small-business owner, I paid (my workers) a fair wage. I was proud of that,” she said.

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