Republican candidate Ted Cruz said Monday that if elected president, he would fight to transfer federal land in Nevada and elsewhere into the states' hands.
Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, made his comments to the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board, a day before he debates other GOP candidates at The Venetian in a nationally televised event on CNN.
More than 80 percent of Nevada is in federal hands, much of it through agencies that include the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service.
"I think it is completely indefensible that the federal government is America's largest landlord," Cruz said. "... I believe we should transfer as much federal land as possible back to the states and ideally back to the people."
Exceptions that should stay in federal hands include national parks and federal military bases, he said.
"If I am elected president, we have never had a president who is as vigorously committed to transferring as much federal land as humanely possible back to the states and back to the people," said Cruz.
On immigration, Cruz cast himself as a candidate who has taken a different stand.
"I'm the only person on the stage who has never supported amnesty," Cruz said, adding that he supports legal immigration and is the son of a Cuban who immigrated legally to the U.S.
As for undocumented residents, Cruz said: "I do not believe we should grant citizenship to those who are here illegally."
Cruz also said existing laws need to be followed. For example, federal law calls for 700 miles of double-layered fencing on the border with Mexico, and only about 36 miles have been built under President Barack Obama's administration, he said.
"As president, I will build it," Cruz said.
Cruz also said he would cut off federal funding to so-called "sanctuary cities" that limit how much local authorities cooperate with the federal government on immigration matters.
Cruz said he would want to replace the current income tax system with a simple flat tax. Under such a system, a family of four would pay no payroll or federal taxes on the first $36,000 of income. Above that, a simple flat tax rate of 10 percent would kick in.
Businesses would have a simple 16 percent business flat tax rate, with other taxes abolished, including the corporate income tax, payroll tax and taxes tied to the federal Affordable Care Act. That would allow people to file taxes on a "postcard," and allow the abolishment of the Internal Revenue Service, he said. Cruz maintains this would spur economic growth, leading to capital investment and producing nearly 5 million new jobs.
"It all starts with economic growth which then enables you to rebuild the military and keep the country safe," Cruz said, adding that economic growth can provide the federal funding needed to grow the military budget.
Cruz also said he believes the election will be a "religious liberty election," pointing to examples such as a school football coach who was forbidden from silently praying at the 50-yard line and a high school valedictorian who was forbidden to pray at a graduation.
As solicitor general in Texas, Cruz defended and won a U.S. Supreme Court case keeping up a monument containing the Ten Commandments.