Democratic Assemblyman Howard Watts III is eyeing his second term in Assembly District 15 where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.
The first-term incumbent is being challenged in the Democratic primary this year by Burke Andersson, who is running on a platform of Universal Basic Income.
The winner of the primary will face Republican Stan Vaughan in the general election in November. Vaughan previously ran unsuccessfully for the Assembly seat in 2016 and 2018, garnering 29.7 and 33.5 percent of the vote, respectively.
Howard Watts III
Incumbent Howard Watts III is a progressive advocate, especially on climate change issues, whose day job is doing public relations consulting for nonprofit and business clients.
Before the coronavirus pandemic turned life upside down, Watts said he wanted to tackle more climate change policies in the next legislative session.
Lawmakers in 2019 passed a bill that requires Nevada’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to reach 50 percent by 2030. Watts said the next challenge is looking at clean energy solutions for transportation, and specifically public transportation.
But Watts said that given the current pandemic, the most important thing for lawmakers to handle next session is dealing with the public health crisis, the economic fallout it’s created and putting policies in place that will better prepare the state to be able to weather a similar emergency in the future.
When it comes to the budget shortfalls created by the economic shutdown, Watts said lawmakers “need to have a comprehensive conversation about revenue, and figure out how we can make some adjustments that can help us recover and provide the level of service that the state needs to and do it an a balanced and board way.”
Watts said lawmakers could consider adjusting property tax caps in the state. Currently, property tax values can’t increase by more than 3 percent each year even as home values have increased at a significantly higher clip.
He also looking at other areas, like mining taxes, or tweaking the state’s sales tax to expand it to some service sectors while also lowering the overall base of that tax. And lawmakers should be willing to look at adjusting the state’s constitutional prohibition on income tax as a way to create a structure that is “a little bit more stable in the future,” Watts added.
“I think that we should be having a holistic conversation and we should be looking at what all of our business tax structures look like,” Watts said.
Burke Andersson said he decided to run this year after being inspired by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
Andersson, who previously ran a film production company in California and has recently worked as a rideshare driver in Las Vegas, said his main priority if elected would be to push for a universal basic income, an idea made popular by Yang during his campaign where the government would provide everyone with a minimum living wage.
Andersson said he believes that the stimulus checks the federal government sent out in an effort to ease the financial burden created by COVID-19 would make it easier for him to gain legislative support for the progressive proposal.
“I don’t think it will be as hard of a fight as it would have been.” Andersson said.
He also believes that a universal basic income would go a long way towards easing the state’s financial problems created by the pandemic because it would give people more spending money that could help keep the economy flowing.
To pay for the pricey proposal, Andersson said he’d want to take money from tax revenues generated by gaming, marijuana and mining, and also wants to implement a “voluntary” state income tax.
Andersson said he would also want to work on more apprenticeship programs in Nevada that would start at the high-school level.
Cotnact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at [email protected] Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.